Fortunately, the chances of you unexpectedly dying young are small. Not zero, just small. It happens to thousands of people, every single day – and we’re not including all those who are in very old age or suffering from a terminal illness. And with tens of millions of global nomads living outside of their home country, it happens to thousands of nomads every single day. Here’s what happens if you die whilst in a foreign country.
Living in a different country does not increase the chances of you unexpectedly dying young, but it does make it more expensive if you do. So for context, we’ve added in an approximation of the costs involved, ranging from one “$” for a minor cost, up to five “$$$$$” for a very large cost. Obviously the costs do vary based on the specific situation and the specific countries involved, but it gives you a pretty good idea.
The first thing that happens is that the death is registered and processed by the government authorities in the country where the death occurred. This usually involves the local police, the local coroner, and in the case of foreign nationals, the relevant embassy is notified.
If they don’t already know, your next of kin will be informed, usually by the embassy of your country. This is likely to be your husband or wife, your parents, your children – or whoever you have put in the “contact in case of emergency” section in your passport. The person(s) involved will then have to sort out all of the legal and administrative procedures to bring your body back to wherever you call home. When you see the words “they” or “them” below, that’s who we’re talking about – your husband, wife, mother, father, child, or nominated next-of-kin. Keep them in mind as you read on.
The next thing for them to do is travel to wherever you were when you died, or wherever your body is being kept, which could be a road trip ($), a train ride ($$), or an intercontinental flight ($$$). They will need to deal with the local police and other government agencies ($), they may need to formally identify you, collect your belongings, obtain a death certificate ($), and complete the legal procedures to take “ownership” of your body ($$). This process is unlikely to be quick, so they will probably need to stay in that country for a week or two ($$$).
Next, they will need to arrange transportation for your body to bring you home ($$$$). The cost of this varies massively based on the transportation needed; driving is by far the cheapest, flying is by far the most expensive. If you are in a particularly remote location, or are a long way away from home, it can get expensive very quickly – it is significantly more expensive to transport a dead body than it is a live one. If there is no direct flight on a full-service airline (low-cost airlines don’t even take pets most of the time, and don’t get involved in transporting dead bodies, so it has to be a full-service airline) and you need to transit/connect in another country along the way, it gets really expensive ($$$$$) and adds a lot more complexity to the logistical situation, with extra permits and legal requirements needed for that additional country along the way ($$$).
Once the transportation is arranged, they will need to clear your body through customs from the country of departure ($$), as well as prepare to clear customs in your home country ($$). Some countries have additional specific requirements for this, such as the USA – the only way to bring a dead body back to the USA is to use a TSA-approved funeral services company ($$$), and other countries have similar requirements. They will also need to transport themselves back to your home country of course ($$$).
Once that’s all done, they’ve successfully brought your body back to your home country, and now have the same situation to deal with as they would have if you had died in your home country – except that your body is at the airport, and still needs to be transported somewhere ($$).
They still have to complete all the required legal processes in your home country ($), arrange a burial or cremation ($$), and host a funeral ($$). And of course if you’ve left any “last wishes”, they either need to pay for those ($ – $$$$$, depending on what you’ve asked for), or decide you’re simply asking too much and not do it.
Overall, the cost of a death overseas is between $10,000 to $20,000 (USD) – although this could be a lot less if there is no flying involved, and a lot more if two or more flights are needed to bring your body back home. It is not cheap. And that’s just the cost of the death itself. That number doesn’t include the cost of transportation and accommodation for your relatives, or the cost of a funeral etc, that’s just the cost of bringing your body back.
In addition to the financial cost, there is also the huge burden of dealing with the bureaucratic legal processes and complexities involved with a death overseas. Dealing with the unexpected death of someone they love is hard at the best of times. Dealing with the legal formalities involved with a death is a nightmare at the best of times. Dealing with the death of someone they love, at the same time as dealing with all the legal drama, in a foreign country, in a foreign language, with police and civil servants of a foreign country, on a different time zone, jet-lagged, not knowing what they need to do next, is off the scale in terms of difficulty.
Other than generally being careful and trying not to die, there is only one thing which you can do as a global nomad to mitigate this situation for them, and that is to get nomad-specific life insurance – which is actually very inexpensive, but for some reason many people think it is expensive. More on that in a moment.
Unlike most life insurance companies which have customers who are based in the same country as the insurance company, nomad-specific insurance companies know that their customers are globally mobile. So instead of getting a “free” discount with a local funeral director as is offered by some domestic life insurance companies, your relatives will get access to a team of multilingual international lawyers and logistics experts who will help with the practicalities of liaising with foreign governments to bring your body back home with minimal stress.
In many ways – and depending on the overall financial situation of your closest family – this practical support is worth more than the financial benefits of having nomad-specific life insurance (although the financial benefits help as well of course).
Presumably, you’ve already decided that all this is a great thing to have, if it was free. It’s not free, but it’s close. Let’s bust the myth that life insurance is expensive, with some real-life prices from LifeInsuranceForNomads.com. Know that it’s slightly less expensive for females compared to males, costs a little more if you’re a smoker, and increases in cost as you get older. Here’s a quick snapshot for $10,000 life insurance cover (USD):
Female, non-smoker, age 20: $4.16 PER YEAR (Yes, four US dollars and sixteen cents, per year, it’s not a typo)
Male, non-smoker, age 30: $8.32 PER YEAR (Still not a typo)
Female, non-smoker, age 40: $14.44 PER YEAR (Again not a typo)
We won’t go on, because you can instantly find out the price for you personally at LifeInsuranceForNomads.com – just click on the “Instant Online Quote” button. You play around with different amounts of cover, and get up to $350,000 worth of life insurance with an online application, and no need for a medical exam.
Obviously if you have children who will be just as financially dependent on you if you unexpectedly die young as they will be if you continue to have a long and happy life, you’ll need a relatively high amount of cover to protect them financially if the worst happens. If you don’t have any financial dependents, you just need to provide cover for the actual cost of dying overseas – and the beauty of nomad-specific life insurance is that the non-financial benefits detailed above (the lawyers and experts who will take care of all the drama involved) are included as an added benefit regardless of the amount of insurance cover you have – so even a relatively small amount of insurance, at a ridiculously cheap price, includes that vital help and support to your loved ones if they ever need it.
If you’ve found this useful and informative, please share it! And stay safe, nomad-er what you’re up to ?