Experts estimate that around one million Americans now live in Mexico. A large proportion of these people are retirees, which means that American families must often deal with the funeral arrangements when a loved one dies overseas. Learn more about the complications that a death overseas can cause, and find out what you may need to do if an American loved one dies in Mexico.
Death certificates in Mexico
When a United States citizen dies in Mexico, the local authorities will issue a death certificate. Only a qualified doctor can issue a preliminary death certificate in Mexico. The issuing doctor would normally be your loved one's family physician, but if he or she did not register with a doctor, any qualified doctor in the area can help with the details.
The doctor will record the cause of death and issue a preliminary death record. From here, a local Civil registry judge must then issue the final death certificate, called the Acta de Defuncion. The authorities will normally pass this certificate to the United States Embassy or Consular Agent. The Embassy or Agent will then notify the next of kin and prepare a Report of Death.
The Report of Death
You will need a copy of the Report of Death from the Embassy or Agent. This document will allow you to legally certify that your loved one has died overseas. You can then arrange legal proceedings to deal with your loved one's estate and repatriate the body back to the United States. The Embassy or Agent cannot arrange funeral services for you, but they can help you find a local funeral home that will help.
It isn't always easy to navigate the steps required to get the Report of Death, especially if your loved one did not have the right visa. Retirees in Mexico should obtain a copy of the Residente Temporal – No Immigrante visa. After four years, retirees may then apply for a permanent visa. Unfortunately, some retirees fail to apply for the appropriate visa. If your loved one did not have the right visa before his or her death, it may take longer (and you may need to pay a fine) to claim the body. Your attorney can advise you further.
Embalming is not compulsory under Mexican law if you aim to bury or cremate a body within 48 hours. However, if you aim to repatriate the remains, you must arrange for a local funeral home to embalm the body.
You are liable for all the costs related to shipping your loved one's remains back to the United States. An Embassy or Consular Agent will sometimes help you deal with any legal steps, but you must otherwise make all the arrangements yourself.
It is likely to cost several thousand dollars to ship the body home. You must pay for the Mexican funeral home to collect the body, prepare it for shipping, complete all the necessary documentation and then transport the body to the airline. From there, you will also need to pay the airline's fees. Once the body is back on American soil, you must then pay a local funeral home to collect the body. You must then consider the costs of a funeral on American soil.
If you don't speak Spanish, this process could become time-consuming and stressful. Several American funeral homes are able to manage the entire task for you, including the arrangements in Mexico. Of course, it is often helpful for the next of kin to travel to the country to identify the body and make arrangements from there. In any case, an American funeral home can often offer valuable support and advice.
If a loved one dies in Mexico, you will need carry out various steps to return the body to the United States. Contact a funeral home, such as Hitzeman Funeral Home, Ltd, to see if they can offer assistance or advice.