An ExPat Death in the Family

I was out of the loop for the last few days because of the sudden death of a nephew.  He was a missionary in Argentina, and he was killed when he slipped while trying to hop onto a slow-moving freight train to save a few pennies and hurry to an appointment.  I have been consoling my brother and his family and adding what advice I can about the death of a family member far from home.  Not wanting to scare anybody, I must say that such things happen frequently enough that a little information about how expat deaths are handled could be useful, to you or for a friend.

Fortunately for my brother, his son has concerned and capable friends and helpers in Argentina.  They will see to it that the body is prepared for burial and shipping, and that it gets sent home as soon as possible.  If it should happen, God forbid, that a member of your family should die while living overseas, you should hope that they are well connected to a capable support structure.  In fact, if you have family overseas, advise them to consider this possibility now.  My son who is now in Cambodia recently became very ill with a virus and was hospitalized.  Had he died, we would have been completely dependent on his circle of friends, and we’re not even sure that they know how to contact us.

Insurance companies, in settling life insurance claims, prefer original death certificates.  In this case it means that my brother will have to get a copy of the record of death from central Argentina and get a notarized translation from a reputable translator.  This is another reason to make sure that you have channels of communication with someone other than your family member–a point of contact in an emergency.

If your family member dies overseas without this kind of support, contact your Embassy and alert them.  Give them all the particulars.  Ask for their help.  See if they can handle the preparation of the body for shipping.  They are likely to ask for a credit card number from you, and you will be responsible for all costs.  They may simply give you numbers of mortuaries in the area.  You will be grieving.  Maybe a friend can handle some of these calls and details for you.

I’m sorry to share even a portion of our grief with you on a topic that you might not want to consider, but then, my brother never thought he’d be dealing with it now.

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