Death of a friend or loved one overseas
Facing the death of a friend or loved one is difficult under any circumstances,
let alone when it occurs in a foreign country. Since the majority of Americans
living in Costa Rica are middle-aged or seniors, it is advisable that they know
what procedures to follow if their spouse or a friend passes away.
First, you should contact the U.S. Embassy to report the death of
an American citizen. The American Citizen Services section of the U.S.
Embassy may be reached at 519-2000, extension 2452. If necessary, they
will contact family members, hold valuables for the family, act as a liaison
to help the family make funeral and/or cremation arrangements, and help
with repatriation of the body (this cost is covered by the government if the
deceased was an active member of the military, if so desired). They will also
issue a Certificate of Death Abroad, an official copy of which is sent to the
State Department in Washington, D.C. This document may be important for
both insurance, tax and probate purposes. Note: If your spouse or a friend
passes away anywhere else except in a hospital, the body has to undergo an
autopsy. A police report will also have to be made. You will have to get a
death certificate from a doctor before the body can be sent to a funeral home.
Without a death certificate the body will be taken to the judicial morgue, no
matter the circumstances under which the person died. Then you’ll have to
go though a bureaucratic process to get it released. If your relative dies in
the hospital, you do not have to worry about this. You can find out additional
information by calling the U.S. Embassy at 2220-3050.
Cremation is not that common in Costa Rica. Jardines de Recuerdo
pioneered cremation in Costa Rica with its sponsored regulation Reglamento
de Cremación de Cadáveres y Restos Humanos on Nov. 25, 1986. The funeral
firm brought the first cremation oven to the country in 1985. Over the years,
most of the cremations done by Jardines de Recuerdo have been performed
for foreigners. However, slowly the trend has been catching on among Costa
Ricans. Currently, cremations are estimated to be about 15 percent of deaths
in Costa Rica, compared to the United States, 25.5 percent, and
Canada’s 42.7 percent.
Article 5 of the regulation states that all bodies to be cremated need
to undergo an autopsy and that a permit must be issued by health officials.
Both procedures are now easily accomplished and done at the crematorium
in most cases.
Jardines de Recuerdo is currently the only funeral company in Costa Rica
offering cremation. The funeral charge of cremation is around $2,100 today in
Costa Rica.(about US$1,600 for cremation and $500. for autopsy). Transporting
a body from anywhere in Costa Rica to San José for cremation costs about 500
colones per kilometer. There are no choices of urns at the funeral parlor, they only
have one model, but some interesting alternatives exist in the market. There
are no services currently offering the spreading of ashes in Costa Rica. The urn
provided by Jardines de Recuerdo is hermetically sealed and the company can
provide a special authorization to transport remains out of the country.
Here is the contact information for Jardines de Recuerdo. Jardines de
htm). Montesacro (2233-1129) also does cremations and burials.
By the way, you can prepay either cremation or burial at today’s rates
for these services.
Here is a person’s recent experience with the cremation of a member of the
family: “A relative passed away late on a Monday night, the autopsy was completed
around noon on Tuesday, and the funeral home refrigerated the remains until
they could schedule the cremation at their facility on Saturday morning. “I was
present and viewed my relative’s remains immediately prior to the cremation,
which took place next to the chapel. I also viewed the crematory unit and it was
void of any previous remains. I needed to do this for my peace of mind.”
“The funeral home obtained all permits, including the Consular Mortuary
Certificate from the U.S. Embassy. If you are returning the ashes to the United
States for burial, you need to allow time for this to meet airline regulations.”
Here is an another person’s experiences. “My mother in law passed
away in San Ramon last Sept. La Jardín in Alajuela came and picked her up,
did the cremation, we picked her up a few days later. She was in a nice box
with her name and birth and death dates and it cost about $1600. We took
their paperwork to the US Embassy, got a report of death of a citizen in a
foreign country, and a permit to take her remains back to the states. This
costs nothing. We were not charged nor did they do an autopsy, she died
in a private home, and her doctor filled out the death certificate. It was a
relatively easy process.”