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What Happens if I Preplan a Cremation But Die Overseas?

Daniela Fortino
Daniela Fortino
March 24th 2023 - 10 minute read
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What happens if a person preplans a cremation but dies during travel outside Canada? This guide explains what you need to know.

Preplanning end-of-life arrangements let's you share your preferences so that your final wishes are clear and can be easily honoured. But people who enjoy travel later in life are sometimes concerned about what happens if they die outside Canada. This guide covers everything you need to know  about an out-of-country death and the repatriation of remains from a preplanning perspective.

Dying abroad

When a death occurs abroad, most families want their loved one's remains returned home for funeral arrangements. The process for transporting a deceased person's remains from the place of death back to their home country is called "repatriation."

Repatriation can be lengthy and costly, especially if the death is unexpected. Having a repatriation contingency plan when travelling can help streamline the process, relieving families of the emotional and financial burden of bringing their deceased loved one back home. Learn more about the repatriation process and preplanning options below.

What happens when a person dies overseas?

Handling a death abroad can vary greatly between and within different countries. However, the general steps for repatriation to Canada are as follows:

  • Identify the individual responsible for handling repatriation. This is typically the next of kin or executor of the will.
  • Report the death to the appropriate authorities such as emergency services, a local coroner, an attending doctor, etc. Appropriate Canadian government authorities should also be notified (e.g., CRA).
  • Notify the deceased person's insurance provider (if applicable) to minimize delays and complications.
  • Contact a funeral home in the location where the death took place. The provider will guide a family through the next steps and available arrangement options.
  • Obtain necessary death paperwork from the country where the death occurred. Documentation varies, but an official death certificate is required, and the death must also be registered according to local laws.
  • Choose end-of-life arrangements.  Final arrangements can occur abroad or back home, at the discretion of the next of kin or as outlined according to the deceased person's will.
  • Repatriate the deceased person's remains (if applicable). This typically occurs within two to three weeks after death and requires the involvement of at least two qualified funeral homes: one in the country of death and one in Canada.    

The repatriation process is discussed in detail in this article: How to Ship a Loved One's Body Home.

Preplanning and overseas death FAQ

We have provided answers to the most common questions about preplanning as it pertains to death overseas below.

How much does repatriation cost, and what insurance coverages are there to consider?

Repatriation can be expensive. Fees include the cost of transportation, which can vary dramatically depending on location and method. It also includes the cost of goods and services such as body preparation, embalming, casket purchase, staff fees from both countries, etc. As such, the process can cost $15,000 to $20,000 CAD on average for international shipment.

Having the deceased person cremated in the place of death and returned to Canada will significantly reduce repatriation costs. There are minimal restrictions when shipping cremated remains, less intervention is required, fewer services and resources are needed to perform cremation when compared to burial, and ashes are smaller in volume and weight, making them less expensive to ship than a body. Families also have the option to travel with the ashes by placing them in luggage or a carry-on bag. Learn more about travelling with cremated remains in this article: Can I Fly with Cremated Remains?

Another way to minimize repatriation costs is by purchasing repatriation coverage or insurance when travelling. For example, companies like TruStage offer repatriation protection plans that cover arrangements and incidentals for a death occurring abroad. This is discussed below.

Coverage may also be included in travel or health insurance, but is often less comprehensive and inclusive than repatriation-specific plans. For example, it is common for travel or health insurance to cover all or a portion of transportation costs. By contrast, TruStage's Journey Home plan covers transportation fees and the cost of goods and services  such as body preparation, obtaining death certificates, etc.

Will my children and estate be burdened with additional expenses if I die overseas?


Without insurance coverage, the next of kin is required to cover all costs of bringing their deceased loved one home.

If the deceased person had coverage for end-of-life arrangements, the money is transferred to the beneficiary. It may be used to pay a portion of the repatriation fees, but it is unlikely to cover all expenses. Similarly, repatriation plans with partial coverage will also leave additional expenses to next of kin. Plans like Journey Home (TruStage) are ideal because they take care of everything from start to finish.

Can I still use my chosen company for my arrangements if I die overseas?

This depends mainly on the method of disposition and local laws and restrictions. For example, if someone opts for cremation, it will typically take place in the country where the death occurs, and the cremated remains will be shipped to the deceased person's family. The chosen funeral provider in Canada will often assist in making these arrangements (if necessary), but it will not perform the cremation. However, if post-cremation services such as a memorial service or ash interment are scheduled with a funeral home, they will likely take place as usual once the cremated remains have been delivered to the family.

If the individual dies in a location where cremation is unavailable, alternative arrangements will be made. This can include transporting the remains back home or sending them to a nearby country to be cremated. The local funeral service provider or the Canadian consulate that serves the area can likely provide guidance on this task and help answer any questions specific to the location and within its jurisdiction.

If the next of kin opts to have the body transported back home for burial, visitation may take place at the chosen funeral home in Canada. This is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Will I lose my preplanning investment if I die abroad?

Generally, you and your family will not lose a preplanning investment if you die abroad. This can vary slightly on the type of insurance plan. With TruStage, for example, the beneficiary will claim the investment if the funeral provider does not use it. This may differ if the investment is in trust.

More information about preplanning contracts and investments can be found here. See the "Questions" section at the bottom of this guide to find out how to contact us if you need more information or have questions.

Will my preplanning package still be used if I die overseas?

This varies depending on logistics. For example, many prepaid insurance plans have money allocated to cover specific goods and services. However, when someone dies abroad, the funeral provider is unlikely to provide the arrangements as discussed in the contract (e.g., cremation taking place in the country where the death occurred instead of their home country). Therefore, the preplanning package is not sed. The beneficiary will instead claim the funds.

How do I add repatriation contingency and instructions to my end-of-life arrangements?

Repatriation contingency and instructions can typically be added to end-of-life arrangements at any point. Some protection plans, like Journey Home, can be purchased independently, but combining the coverage with existing prearrangements can be beneficial.

What questions should I ask my preplanning consultant?

When adding a repatriation contingency to prearrangements, it is crucial to understand the costs that may arise and what is being covered by the plan. For example, a plan may only cover transportation fees, and although this accounts for a large portion of repatriation costs, there are other costs to consider. There may be a morgue holding fee, staff fees in both counties, government fees for documentation, etc.

Even more extensive plans may have gaps. For example, a plan may cover all or most individual repatriation costs but offer little to no spousal support. However, if your spouse is the appointed decision maker, they may need to remain in the country while making arrangements, accruing additional costs for accommodations, food, etc.

Knowing if the prearrangement is paid with insurance or via a trust account is also helpful because all or some of the investment may be lost when dying overseas or moving to a different province or country. This may be disclosed in the contract, but it is vital to ask if you are unsure.

It is also essential to know your consumer rights. If you decide a provider is not a good fit, you can switch to a company that will better accommodate your needs.

Repatriation options with Eirene

Eirene offers coverage through TruStage's Journey Home. The plan covers arrangements and incidentals associated with repatriation, relieving families of the emotional and financial burden involved in bringing you back home.

Journey Home is available anywhere in the world if your death occurs more than 100 km from your home or in another country. Additional coverage can also be extended to your travelling companion.

Travel protection can be purchased through Eirene and either bought on its own or added to an existing plan with one lump sum payment or monthly payments. Coverage includes:

  • Locating and engaging local licensed funeral providers to handle preparations for repatriation
  • Recovery and transportation to the local provider
  • Repatriation/transportation of the deceased back to their home
  • Handle any required documentation within and outside of Canada

Learn more about Journey Home and other prepaid arrangement services here.

How does Eirene work with Journey Home?

Much of the repatriation efforts are handled by TruStage (Journey Home). Eirene's involvement is dependent on logistics.

If a person dies abroad and the country does not allow cremations, their body will be sent to our facilities to complete the cremation. We would also return the cremated remains and important documentation to their loved ones. However, Eirene will have minimal to no involvement in the transportation process.

If a person dies in a country that allows cremation, Journey Home will work with a local provider to coordinate cremation and ship the ashes back to Canada.

However, some jurisdictions require a funeral home to receive cremated remains. In that case, the ashes would be sent to one of Eirene's facilities, and our staff would deliver the remains to their loved ones.

Questions?

Our team is available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have. Call us at (888) 712-5337 or email support@eirene.ca.

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