Few people plan to die, especially not when they are overseas away from their homes and families. Sadly, from time to time, this occurs and the person’s family is left to sort out the pieces. For U.S. citizens, the Bureau of Consular Affairs helps assist with the process, though they do not provide funds to cover the costs. Many people purchase repatriation insurance to handle this and repatriation is often included in supplemental health insurance travel plans.
Working with the Bureau of Consular Affairs
The primary assistance provided by the Bureau of Consular Affairs is to coordinate between any insurance you have, the family, and local authorities to recover the body. They notify the family and any next-of-kin that is currently in the country. They will also take possession of any personal effects, documents, jewelry, and papers that the person may have with them at the time. The Bureau will inventory those items and then carry out any instructions for the next-of-kin for returning those items to the family.
Estate Issues for U.S. Citizens
Once the body is returned and the funeral is complete, there may still be issues that need to be untangled by the estate. There may be overseas hospital and hotel debts that must be settled by the estate and these are often handled by a provisional conservator either by using funds from the estate or by using funds provided by the family. In some cases, the Bureau will appoint a conservator who can use the assets found on the deceased person to pay those debts. The U.S. government will not pay for any of these expenses, including shipping expenses.
In order to determine who receives the personal effects, the Bureau will work to determine who is the legal representative for the estate or who is next-of-kin. Often, they simply need an affidavit stating that the person they are talking to is the surviving spouse or next-of-kin. In other cases, they may have to wait until an estate is opened and a personal representative is appointed by the courts before releasing personal effects.
Overseas Property in an Estate
Many individuals live overseas some or all of the year and have property including vacation homes, automobiles, and over investments overseas. You’ll want to take this into consideration when you make or update your estate plan and address the specific property and the countries it’s in as part of your plan. Because estate laws vary from country to country, you’ll need to research the laws of the country your property is located in to make sure your estate plan accurately handles any transfer and taxation issues that may arise.
At Dunn Law Firm, we want to make sure your estate plan is comprehensive and includes all the details necessary to protect your assets, including foreign assets, and distribute them to your family and loved ones. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 to set up a free consultation today.