What to Do When Someone Dies While Overseas

When a loved one passes away, it’s always distressing for friends and family. When it happens overseas, it can be even more difficult due to the administrative and logistical complications involved. When we travel abroad, we leave behind many of Australia’s support systems, medical facilities, and emergency service capabilities.

Around 1,000 Australians pass away while overseas each year. While the process of bringing your loved one home once this happens can be complicated, there are systems in place to help you. The Australian Government and funeral homes who specialise in repatriation do what they can to help friends and family overseas.

Where to Get Help

If your loved one dies abroad, you may be informed of their death by the Australian Embassy, consulate or high commission in that country. If you learn about their death through a traveling companion, tour operator, journalist or other means, you should contact Australia’s 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre. They can provide advice on what to do.

Australia’s consular missions around the world help next of kin when a loved one dies abroad. However, there are many things you will have to manage yourself. A loved one passing away overseas can involve complications in organising the funeral, repatriation and other administrative arrangements and formalities. These processes can seem unfamiliar and unnecessarily demanding during this stressful and upsetting time, when your main priority is to bring your loved one home.

How Can Consular Services Help?

Under international law, the nearest Australian mission (embassy, consulate or high commission) should always be notified of the death of an Australian citizen. Once you contact the Australian mission in the country where your loved one died, they can help you:

  • Understand the laws and administrative processes in that country
  • Obtain a list of local lawyers and funeral directors that can help
  • Provide translation services, if necessary
  • Liaise with funeral directors so they understand Australian quarantine regulations
  • Determine the estimated cost of local burial, cremation or repatriation
  • Find out how to transfer funds from Australia to meet any costs
  • Manage any media enquiries.

Australian embassies, high commissions and consulates must work within the legal and administrative processes that apply in the country and cannot help you with any costs or intervene in any legal issues surrounding the circumstances of the death.


Repatriating a loved one will require the services of a funeral home in the country where your loved one passed away and one at home, or the services of a repatriation specialist in Australia. Repatriation services can alleviate much of the stress and administrative burden when a loved one dies overseas. The costs involved in repatriation can be steep. However, many travel insurance policies cover the costs and administration involved in an overseas funeral or repatriation.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance that covers costs incurred from a death overseas can significantly reduce the stress on loved ones. Insurance companies can provide advice and take care of most of the arrangements and costs associated with the death of a loved one while abroad.

Unfortunately, many Australians travel without adequate insurance cover. If an Australian passes away overseas and is not covered by travel insurance, it becomes their family’s responsibility to meet the costs involved, such as returning the deceased to Australia.

Compassionate Funeral Directors in Western Australia

Hetherington Funerals can help you make funeral arrangements in Australia and liaise with overseas funeral directors to coordinate the repatriation of your loved one. For more information or advice, please contact us on (08) 9459 2846, submit an enquiry on our contact page or look at our funeral services here.