What happens if I pass away while in Mexico? 

I have been receiving an overwhelming number of questions on this topic, so here is some clarity on the process for a foreigner who passes in Mexico.

While this article leans a little more towards Americans the process is similar for other nationalities and though it is a delicate subject it is one that needs to be discussed directly and clearly. The American Consulate´s Procedure is:

The Office of Consular Affairs will locate and inform the next of kin of the death of the United States Citizen and will provide information regarding how to arrange for the local burial or return of the remains to the United States. The disposition of the remains is subject to the law of the United States, and to the local laws of the country where the citizen died, as well as to the customs requirements of the United States and abroad. Remains that are not claimed within the legal time limit and that remain unclaimed will be sent to a mass grave for burial.

The United States State Department has not allocated the financial resources to help return the remains or ashes of US citizens who die abroad to the family members; thus, the expenses must be paid by the relatives. Costs and processes required are the Medical Death Certificate, State-issued Death Certificate, notification of Consular agency from the country of origin, embalming permits, travel permits for the deceased and or the ashes (urn). Consular officials can also pay local debts (such as hospital and hotel bills) from funds available in the estate, or from funds received from the legal representative, and can help send the effects to the person entitled to receive them. Powers of the Consulate:

  • Locate and notify family members.
  • Provide legal information for the release of remains.
  • Issue report of the death of American citizens abroad.
  • Consular mortuary certificate. Indispensable for the transfer of the body to the US (must be processed by the legal representative or funeral home).
  • Assist in sending personal effects to the US.

A legal representative for personal wealth can be:

  • an executor appointed in a will.
  • an administrator appointed in estate procedures.
  • an executor’s agent or administrator, qualified by power of attorney.
  • a surviving spouse, an adult child, a father, mother, brother, sister, or closest living relative.


Return of remains to the United States and foreign law requires the following documents before remains can be shipped from one country to another:

1. Mortuary certificate: The consular officer will prepare the consular mortuary certificate, which guarantees the sending of the remains and facilitates US customs clearance

2. It is in English and confirms the information on the cause of death.

For this the following documentation is required:

  1. Death certificate issued by the civil registry Mexico.
  2. Embalming Certificate.
  3. Detailed information on transport to be used.
  4. Information on the destination of the remains.

3. Affidavit of the local funeral director: For this, the funeral director declares that the coffin contains only the remains of the deceased and the necessary clothing and packaging materials. It may indicate that the remains have been embalmed or otherwise prepared.

4. Transit permit issued by the health authorities which will accompany the remains.

Human remains can be shipped from Acapulco, Mexico City, León, and Zihuatanejo airports, and Morelia airport offers the service occasionally. After the local death certificate is issued, the nearest Embassy or Consulate can prepare a Consular Report of the Death of an American Citizen Abroad (RODAC). Copies of that report are provided to the closest family members or legal representatives. As we can see here there is a laundry list of things that MUST be done before the probate process can be started for the liquidation of debt, employees, transfer of liquid and real assets as well as the allocation of physical personal property. A little known but extremely important fact is that all inheritance processes must go through a “probate trial” resulting in the need of legal representation in court, regardless of the existence of a will or the lack thereof. While this all may sound like a staggering amount of responsibility to leave to your loved ones, there are services like AfterLife™ Medical Advocacy Services available nationally in Mexico.

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