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What Happens to an American's Remains if They Die in Thailand?

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing a topic that most folks probably don't want to really think about but it is an important one because Expats here in the Kingdom, especially in my experience American Expats here in the Kingdom, do pass away and in the event of their passing things have to be dealt with; arrangements need to be made. 

There is another video on this channel which specifically discusses Thai Wills. There are actually a couple of videos which discuss Thai Wills in rather great detail. That would be a good place to start if you are watching this video. Maybe open another tab in your browser, go ahead and go to the search function in our channel and just go ahead and type in "Will" and you will get essentially a couple of videos on Wills specifically. That would be a good place to start because this gets into Wills in sort of a tangential sense. But basically what we are going to be talking about here is dealing with one's remains subsequent to passing here in the Kingdom. 

There was a pamphlet I got from the US Embassy here in Bangkok, Thailand. It is from the American Citizen Services Section. We will go ahead and throw it up on here so you can see it. Why You Should Have a Will. I am going to go ahead and read a section in here which I thought was quite good for this for its explanation and I thought it was very well written as well. "Do you want to be cremated, buried or sent home to the United States?" and I am quoting here. "When you pass away, do you wish to be cremated or buried? in Thailand or the United States or elsewhere? Who will pay for the funeral arrangements? In our experience, decisions on funeral arrangements are among the most difficult emotionally fraught and frustrating for friends and family. Death overseas adds another layer of complexity. Frequently the deceased's remains are held in a hospital morgue in Thailand pending directions from the next of kin or the decision-maker designated in the will. That is important: I will get back to that in a moment. The individual may be asked to pay storage fees or costs associated with final medical care before their loved ones remains are released. They must then arrange for cremation or burial and it gets more complex and expensive as they contemplate repatriating the remains to the United States. US Embassy and Consulate General can provide information and help to coordinate with local hospitals and police," I will get to that in a moment "but has no funds to assist with funeral arrangements or repatriation of remains. You can help your family or other designee by indicating your wishes and setting aside sufficient funds to cover any necessary arrangements. More importantly make sure they can access those funds by providing them with a Power of Attorney."  Power of Attorney, not going to be particularly useful per se after someone is gone. I am not trying to take issue with the way that this pamphlet was written but Power of Attorney is a term of art, and in fact it is beyond a term of art. It is actually a specific instrument that generally only can be used when someone is alive. A Will is going to be more useful with respect to dealing with one's remains, personal possessions etc. subsequent to one's passing. 

But a couple of things I want to go back to while we are talking about this. So “decision maker, next of kin designated in the will”. Most people think of a Will as simply being an instrument for conveying one's property after one's passing but in fact many Wills have large segments devoted to instructions for what to do with one's remains as well as designating someone to be the decision maker with respect to those remains and I have often seen where that decision maker is designated as someone here in Thailand while the main codicils of the Will pertaining to the material aspects of the estate; funds, property, items of interest, that may go to some other person entirely but the decision maker may ultimately be someone who is on the ground here in the Kingdom. I have seen that happen a lot. 

Another thing that I think that is interesting. They bring up the US Consulate and Embassy can help to coordinate with local hospitals and Police. That is true. I have seen that firsthand. I have seen Consular Staff assist families subsequent to the passing of a family member here in the Kingdom and quite frankly they are very good at it. That being said, as they note, their functions only run so far. Coordination is one thing. They have no funds to assist those and the family of those who have passed away here in the Kingdom so for this reason it is a good idea to not only set aside sufficient financial resources to deal with one's wishes but also seriously consider drafting a Will to ensure one's wishes are carried out pursuant to the provisions in that Will and within the Will you can use the funds from the Will to go ahead and pay for those wishes to be carried out.