Estates & Wills & Trusts

Know what to do in the event of death outside Canada

By Tony Poland, Associate Editor

Knowing what to do when someone dies while travelling outside Canada can alleviate a significant amount of stress, Cornwall wills and estates lawyer Michele Allinotte tells

A sudden death can be devastating enough and dealing with the next steps in a foreign country can add further anxiety, says Allinotte, principal of Allinotte Law Office Professional Corporation.

“Death is always difficult,” she says. “It’s something that people don't want to think about, but sadly it does sometimes happen when travelling.”

Allinotte says the first thing she suggests clients do before travelling abroad is to register with the Canadian government and provide the appropriate contact information. That way, if there is an emergency, family members can be contacted. The government will also notify the traveller if there's an emergency at home or to provide travel advisories.

She says anyone leaving Canada for long durations should contact a lawyer located in their intended destination to inquire about powers of attorney in case of medical emergencies.

“If you regularly travel to another country, and stay there for extended periods, you probably should have an emergency file and know who to contact," Allinotte says. "You need to make sure that if you get sick, someone can make decisions for you. You should have this information at the ready."

Anyone leaving the country should also take stock to make sure their affairs are in order, so if the unthinkable happens, the hardship is minimized, she advises.

“When someone dies you can be left feeling pretty vulnerable,” Allinotte says “When someone dies in another country, and you don't know the language, that can be even more difficult. In a crisis, you're not going to remember everything.”

She recommends checking insurance policies before travelling to determine what’s covered. The traveller may want to add things such as a prepaid funeral, which may have additional coverage for handling the cost of transporting the deceased home.

If death occurs abroad, Allinotte says the first thing to do is “figure out who's going to make decisions for the family,” whether it is the next of kin or a trustee previously appointed by the deceased.

“You need to identify who is going to be the point person,” she says, adding the next step is to contact the Canadian government in that jurisdiction.

“The main thing you need to think about right away is what's happening with the body," Allinotte says. "What do I need to do to get the remains home? The Canadian consulate will be able to walk you through that, and they'll be able to give you contact information for the authorities you need to speak to in the immediate aftermath.”

She says different countries have their own rules and customs, and getting a friend or loved one home after they have died can be an ordeal.

“You're going be so thankful to have Foreign Affairs help you,” Allinotte says.

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