Many expats have asked me what to do when an expat dies in Mexico. It’s a subject that no one likes to talk about, but at some time you will be faced with the death of a family member or friend and need to know what to do.
A good friend of mine passed away in Mexico and as heartbroken as the family was, they still had to deal with the reality of what to do. They were devastated and unable to wrap their heads around all the details that a situation like this entails. Finally, they decided to bring his body back to his home country.
Here is some information you should know when an expat family member or friend passes away:
Who can help?
When the person who died was a foreign citizen, contact his/her country’s consulate immediately. It will help you contact the embassy or high commission nearest to where the death occurred.
Registering the death
The death must be registered in the country where the person died, in this case Mexico.
Local documents are usually issued in the local language, Spanish. You’ll need to get an approved translator to translate these into English or the language where the person is originally from before they’re legally recognized in his/her home country, and the Apostilled if both countries are members of the Hague Convention. The local consulate will have a list of recommended people.
Consular registration isn’t as detailed as a normal death certificate. You’ll still be able to tell other organizations about the death using an approved translation of a foreign certificate, but some people might like to have a local record of family history made.
To register an overseas death in Mexico, you’ll need to furnish these documents:
- The original local Death Certificate issued by a doctor, a Death Certificate issued by the Ministerio Publico after the doctor’s certificate, plus an official translation. Try to get more than one copy. In our experience, we had to show the Death Certificate to every authority and the document was not always returned to us, which required a trip back to the Ministerio Publico for more copies.
- A notarized photocopy of the photo page of the passport of the person who died.
- The deceased’s original full foreign birth, naturalization or registration certificate, if you are unable to provide their passport.
- The deceased’s immigration card (temporary residence or permanent residence visa).
- Written permission from the person’s next of kin or the executor of their estate (if you’re not next of kin or the executor).
Make sure that you include the name and contact details of the translator you used. The cost is approximately $500 pesos a page. Please be aware that not all overseas death certificates show a medical cause of death, and neither does the consular death registration certificate. This is something the coroner (or procurator fiscal in Mexico) will need to know when the body arrives (if you’re bringing it home). If the person died from their illness it’s unlikely there will be a post mortem, but ask a local funeral director about how things usually work in your area.
Repatriation and travel insurance
Bringing a relative or friend home from another country is called repatriation and this is often covered by travel insurance policies. Depending on the terms and conditions of the policy, families may be able to choose between repatriation, local burial where the death occurred or cremation and repatriation of the urn containing the cremated remains.
In an emergency, call the number on your policy document as soon as possible to explain what has happened. They will check to be sure that you’re covered and find a repatriation specialist to arrange the repatriation or, if you prefer, to arrange the burial or cremation in Mexico or another country.
If you would rather have the burial or cremation abroad there may be some limits to what’s possible, depending on your policy. Please also bear in mind that if a decision is taken to have a cremation abroad, there cannot be any further investigation into the cause of death at home.
If there’s no travel insurance, ask your local embassy or consulate for advice. Consulates and embassies cannot pay burial, cremation or repatriation costs.
Planning the funeral
International repatriation from one country to another involves local officials and paperwork both where the person died, and at the final destination. You’ll need to wait for the person’s body to arrive home before finalizing the funeral plans, in case flights are delayed or officials open an investigation into the cause of death. Your local funeral director can advise you about the regulations that apply.
Leaving Mexico, permission is needed to move the person who died from one country to another. At arrival, proper authorities should be notified. A funeral director can apply to the coroner or procurator fiscal for this consent, and arrange any additional documents. At the destination, your funeral director will show all the documents to the coroner or procurator fiscal in that area. They will decide if further inquiries into the cause of death are needed and when the funeral can go ahead.
If you’re not using a funeral director, there are several repatriation companies that can transport the body and take care of any paperwork. You’ll need to pay for this, and costs will depend on the distance travelled and how much preparation or paperwork is needed.
If this is something that keeps you up at night, have all this information written down in a handy notebook in case of an emergency or print/bookmark this blog.