Dealing with death from a distance

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Dealing with death from a distance is commonplace, with families now spread out across the globe. The distance can create serious complications when dealing with urgent matters after someone dies. 

We consider the challenges that can arise and how to plan and prepare your loved ones for the future.

Who would you need to act on behalf of?

Think about your family situation and relationships. Consider who you may need to act on behalf one day and your proximity to them. If you have parents, there is likelihood – and maybe an expectation – that these responsibilities will fall to you one day.

If your family live close by, in theory you may be able to quickly get to them or their home.  Just because you are physically close however does not make it any easier. It does not equate to people being better organised, prepared or equipped to deal with the loss.

We live busy and complex lives; it is often only ourselves that knows the true details that make up our life. This is where creating a practical end of life plan or home emergency file can be a real help to others. You can have all your important documents and details quickly available and easily accessible in an emergency.

The length of time it takes to unravel a life is usually underestimated. It is not unreasonable for the key practical tasks required after a death to take over a year to deal with. The reality is that it will be many years before all the practical aspects of a person’s life are resolved.


Further difficulties could arise if the deceased lived a reasonable distance away from you. You may be able to drive to them but factor in how long this would take you. If you don’t have your own transport, you may need to make this journey on public transport.

Do not underestimate how hard this can be. I know people who have been bereaved and within a few short hours, are having to navigate busy transport terminals to get to their loved ones.

If you had to urgently travel in an emergency, would you have the finances readily available? How easily could you drop everything if you needed to quickly hop on a flight or travel across the country? You will likely have your own important commitments to consider such as childcare, caring responsibilities and work. It is not only the cost of this unexpected travel, but you may need to cover the costs of hotels, food plus other related expenses at short notice too.

International considerations

Retiring abroad is very popular. Until recently, the world had felt like a much smaller place. International travel was relatively cheap and easy to arrange at short notice.

The recent pandemic has demonstrated that this perceived closeness and ease of travel can be brought to a halt almost overnight. Travel bans can last for indefinite periods of time. This has kept families apart for much longer than anticipated and often in very difficult circumstances. Covid has made many people rethink their life plans and triggered the need to plan for the future.

If you or your family live abroad you will need to consider the different international rules, legislation and cultural practises around dealing with death and estates. You will need to seek specific legal advice to help you understand the applicable laws and processes. This must be completed prior to dealing with any end of life matters such as arranging funerals and dealing with the persons estate.

The practical tasks can be complex and will take time. The deceased’s property may need to be emptied and sold. Furniture and belongings will need to be dealt with. Family members, pets and personal possessions may need transporting back to your home country. There will be many obstacles to overcome – not to mention potential language barriers.

Siblings and family conflict

If you have siblings or relatives that live close by, this can be a huge support. If you live further away and are concerned about extra pressure these relatives may be facing, you can always offer to divide up the various processes required. You may agree that they should focus on the physical tasks such as emptying the property whilst you lead on the life admin tasks that can be completed remotely such as telephone calls to companies and services.

If there is any family conflict or you are estranged, this can make the process even more stressful. If you have not spoken with family for a long time and suddenly you are thrown together to clear out a home, this will undoubtedly escalate tensions. If agreement on key decisions cannot easily reached between all parties, this can prolong the length of time it takes to deal with the death.

If there are serious family complications, you may require legal intervention before any of the practical arrangements can take place. Factor in the additional time, extra financial costs and emotional strain this can have on you whilst grieving.

Plan for the future

Practical end of life planning for yourself or family members can help you prepare for dealing with death from a distance. It will not close the geographical gap, nor will it make the process any easier. It will however provide peace of mind that the challenges have been considered and planned for as much as possible.

If after reading this post you can foresee potential difficulties for you or your loved ones, use this as motivation to get your affairs organised. Seek legal or financial advice if you anticipate any future family conflict.

Organise, store and share your key documents, future wishes and final decisions by creating your own end of life plan. Then get on with enjoying life, knowing that help will be there for your loved ones when they need it.

Why not share this post on social media? Encourage someone else to consider their future and start their Sunset Plan today.

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