'What happends if you die abroad..?' Not exactly a fun topic, but I came across this article by Simon Vaillancourt from FreedomSurfer.com and I realised that nobody seems to ever think about that - let alone discuss the topic. We all hope it won't happen to us, but it might. And since The Travelling Freelancer is about everything which comes after '5 steps to quit your job and live your dream life' I decided it's an important topic. So with Simon's permission, here we go...
Dying abroad, the guide
Nomads tend to be an optimistic bunch and the possibility of dying abroad is not something most think about. It is, however, a possibility and being well prepared is very important. You want to make things as easy as possible for your family in case the worse was to happen. In this article, I explain how
Thousands of travelers die outside their home countries every year. Statistically, around 60% of those deaths have natural causes. Accident, crime and suicide make up the rest. While dying is always a complicated business, dying abroad often results in a bureaucratic nightmare due to the multitude of jurisdictions involved and a lack of familiarity with local customs. It can also (in most cases actually) result in a hefty bill for your loved ones (or travel insurance company). The importance of preparedness is crucial and this leads us to the next point, how to prepare.
How to prepare
First of all, you need travel insurance (or expat health insurance). You also need to make sure that your policy covers the repatriation of mortal remains. I have written an health insurance guide, you can read it here. Why is insurance so important? Because depending on the circumstances of your death, the cost of “processing” your mortal remains and repatriating your body home can easily cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of USD. A bill like that is not the legacy most people want to leave to their loved ones.
Secondly, you need to write down the details of your insurance policy and give them to your loved ones. Being insured will be worth squat if you die and no one knows who your insurer is / what your policy number is. This could also be useful in case you are incapacitated (for example, if you lose your memory or are in a coma). You should also give your loved ones a scan of the information page of your passport, a list of the banks you have accounts at and if applicable, the contact details of your local friends (in the country where you are traveling).
Thirdly, you should familiarize yourself and your loved ones with the bureaucratic process of dying abroad. While I will not go into details as the process differs from country to country, it usually works like this: when you die someone will report your death to the local authorities (for example, the hotel manager). The local authorities will then contact your embassy and report your death. The embassy will contact the police department in your hometown who will then contact and inform your loved ones of your passing. It will be your loved ones responsibility to contact your travel insurance company and arrange for the payment of all medical / repatriation fees. They will also be responsible for settling any outstanding charges you may have with the hotel you were staying at, car rental company etc. While some insurance company handle everything, most do not. This means that your loved ones will also have to contact the police department where your death was recorded and arrange everything themselves. This can be a major pain in the ass so having some form of SOP in place can definitely help.
Lastly, you should ensure that you have a will (testament) and that it is up to date. You should also ensure that you have properly structured your bank accounts (only available to FreedomSurfer.com Insiders Club members) and other assets for succession. This is especially important if you have assets in multiple countries.