What happens if we die while visiting or living abroad? What do we do if a loved one dies while in México? These are not comfortable thoughts but are important to plan for. This is Part 1 of the End of Life articles, planning for death while living or traveling abroad, particularly in México.
Jon and I recently attended Pamela Thompson’s End of Life talk and found the information to be very helpful. Pam has many years of experience with health care and is the Patient Service Coordinator at Sanmaré Clinic in Puerto Vallarta. She also has a great deal of experience aiding with the process of death at Hospital Joya, sadly a common occurrence during COVID-19.
Pam has helped us make appointments with doctors, dentists, and surgeons, appointments for lab tests, ultrasound, and MRIs, and provided information about eye care and eyeglasses. We've found her services to be priceless. Many foreigners agree.
With Pamela Thompson's permission, I have summarized Pam’s talk and added some points of my own. Part 1 includes steps to take before death. Part 2 will be steps for your spouse or another family member to take after your death. Some of this information is specific to Puerto Vallarta, but most steps below are very important regardless of what country or area you travel to or live in.
1. Register with your home country consulate
U.S. Citizens: United States STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program)
A SERVICE OF THE BUREAU OF CONSULAR AFFAIRS
U.S. Department of State link: https://step.state.gov/
· Set up an account: Allow plenty of time and patience! This is a typical government site—it took me three attempts.
· Register your travel plans and/or address in Mexico
· Register your emergency contact (a designated family member other than your travel partner)
· Register your travel partner or spouse
Jon and I were elated when we finally succeeded and received this STEP Enrollment email. But really, we had only completed Step 1 of this planning process. There’s more work to be done.
2. Secure your important documents in your home safe. Give a designated family member a key or code to the safe so they will be able to manage the required Mexican procedures after your death.
· Codes and passwords for computers, phones, email, etc.
· Real estate escritura (deed) which states beneficiaries. A Mexican will is not necessary unless you have assets besides real estate such as a bank account.
· Instructions for cremation or burial, written and signed by you. (Having a witness sign this document might be wise.)
· Will prepared by an attorney in your home country
· Marriage certificate, if applicable
· Your personal information including a copy of your residency card, Mother’s and Father’s complete names, and where they were born (city, state, country) which will be needed to obtain the death certificate at the Civil Registry· A plan for pet care after your death
3. Whether cremation or burial in México is desired, visit your local funeral home to make plans. In Puerto Vallarta, Pam Thompson recommends Celis Funeral Home to arrange this and prepay. The cost of cremation at Celis is currently $1050 USD (non-refundable). Celis works closely with Pam and Clinic Sanmare to deal with the bureaucracy of death in México. (If death is due to COVID-19, cremation is required within 24 hours.)
4. Preparing a plan for pet care after your death is very important. Write the instructions out and put them in your safe.
5. Let your designated family member know about your plans and desires after death and the location of your safe.
I recommend, from my personal experience with my mother’s estate, that you leave sufficient cash in the safe so that family members can deal with necessary expenses, including tips to Mexicans who assist them with procedures and paperwork after your death.
Part 2 of this End of Life series has been published. Thank you, Pamela Thompson, for your helpful summary, which finally got us motivated to take the above steps. This will help our spouses and other family members after we die in México and give us peace of mind now.
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