Death in Mexico

For All ExPat Permanent and Part Time Residents:

Are you aware of all that is required of you in the event you or a loved one passes away while here? There is so much to know about what steps must be taken, as well as the legal paperwork to have on hand.  The whole process is complicated and must begin within an hour of death, no matter what time it occurs. It is something we all must be prepared for in order to avoid being blindsided by everything you are required to do…. while grieving.

On Feb. 18th, ACTS hosted a presentation by Elena Moreno, who shared a step by step guide of all that is required to do in the event of a death of a foreign resident living in Mexico, posted below.

If you are interested in Hospice Volunteering, we are in the process of arranging and launching a training program. Please contact Editor@ActsBaja.org to sign up.


Death and Dying in Mexico

PRE-PLANNING

A. Create an easily found file/binder with the following:

  1. Instructions in Spanish and English for your family preferably a notarized letter clearly stating your wishes regarding burial and/or funeral and church ceremonies;
  2. A copy of your will(s). If you are a full time resident of Mexico with property and/or bank accounts in Mexico, you should have a Mexican will as well as a will valid in your home country if you have assets in that country;
  3. Copies of your documents: passport, immigration documents, birth certificate, marriage certificate and a copy of the Power of attorney if you have granted power to someone local to act as the executor of your estate. Also information regarding the location of the originals of your documents.
  4.  A set of keys to your home and vehicles, as well as information/copies of vehicle titles and fideicomiso trust deeds.
  5. Information on local Bank accounts and beneficiary (s).
  6. A sum of money in Mexican pesos sufficient to cover basic expenses when you die. Suggested minimum for a cremation and death certificate related expenses: $15,000 pesos.
  7. The location and pin number(s) of your ATM card(s).
  8. A list of names, telephone numbers/and or e-mail addresses of family members and friends you wish to be notified.
  9. A letter specifying who will care for your property and valuables until your next of kin arrives. (Only next of kin or legal representative can make final burial or cremation decisions.)
  10. Leave the name of the local funeral home you would like to be hired to care for your remains.

Additional information for next of kin

  • Relevant passwords for important accounts (computer, phone, banks, credit card, internet, insurance, etc.)
  • Insurance information: health, auto, life.
  • Credit card and banking information.

B. Register your personal information with your embassy in Mexico City:

Contact your embassy. Telephone numbers and e-addresses can be found online or you can dial 040, Telmex information, for the phone number. The following registration process is for U.S. citizens traveling in Mexico as well as those who live here part or full time. Other countries probably have a similar system.

  1. Go online to http://mexico.usembassy.gov
  2. Choose U.S. Citizen Services
  3. Select Security and Travel Information
  4. Look for STEP (Smart Travelers Enrolment Program) and fill out the registration
  5. The registration can be updated as your information changes

You can also register your next of kin contact and passport information with your consular agent in Los Cabos, if your country of origin does not have an office in BCS; Check with your embassy.


THE PROCESS

If the deceased is not a Mexican citizen notify the nearest consulate of the country of origin. The phone number for the US Consulate in Los Cabos is (+52) (624) 143-3566.

Hospital Death:
If someone dies in one of the local hospitals the hospital staff will contact the coroner’s office and agents will come to recover the body. The hospital will provide information on the patient and do the initial reporting on the cause of death. The next of kin will be interviewed and the body taken to the coroner’s office for examination. The hospital can help the next of kin contact a funeral home to final arrangements.

Home death or accident:
If someone dies at home or in an accident, the next of kin or the person discovering the body must contact the local judicial police 612 145 0198 or the Todos Santos municipal police 612 145-1052. If there is an attending physician, he or she might help to contact the authorities and give some background on the cause of death, length of illness, etc.

Notify the Authorities:
Within an hour of reporting the death, authorities will come to the site of the body to verify the death and call the coroner in La Paz. Agents from the Coroner’s office work 24/7 and usually arrive within an hour or two of notification to remove the body and deliver it to the morgue in La Paz for the Medical Examiner to determine the official cause of death. They will ask questions, take photos and need to see passport and immigration documents of the deceased.

Death Report (Acta de Defunción):
The next of kin or legal representative of the deceased will need to go to La Paz to file the death report (Acta de Defunción) at the Center for Justice Complex at the corner of Calle Las Garzas and Donaldo Colosio, tel: 612 123 66 60. Tell the officer at the information desk that you are there to make a death report and claim the body. You will be directed to the second floor.

It will take at least two hours to file the death report so go early. You will need to present original identification documents of the deceased: passport, tourist card or immigration documents, birth certificate.

The next of kin will also need to have their official identification, and if a foreigner, their immigration papers, as well as any document to verify their official relationship to the deceased and clearly demonstrates that they do in fact have the legal authority to make decisions about the care for the body. For example, a spouse would need to provide a marriage certificate or the executor would have to show a power of attorney. If one cannot establish a relationship to the deceased, they do not have a right to make decisions about the body. A legitimate next of kin will have to be contacted.

The Justice Center, the Coroner’s office and Medical Examiner are open 24 hours a day. There are no charges for the death report, the coroner’s services or the Medical Examiner’s report.

Medical Examiner:
It will take several hours to do the Death Report (Acta de Difunción) at the Justice Center. Once the document is finished you will proceed to the coroner’s office for the Medical Examiner’s report and to claim the body. Review all of these documents for spelling and other errors. Mistakes at this stage can create huge complications later on.

Funeral Home:
You will meet with the funeral home to determine what to do with the remains; cremation, burial, return to the states. The funeral home will help you to understand your options and costs. Funeral Homes are also open 24 hours a day. It is helpful to contact the funeral home as soon as possible after the death, often they can expedite the bureaucratic processes or at the least help you to move through the different offices. You can expect to pay from $12,500 to $15,000 pesos for a cremation. A burial is more expensive, costs depend on casket, and other viewing and grave side services. Returning the body to the states is very complicated and expensive. You will need to coordinate the return between a funeral home in Mexico, in the States and with the US Consulate.

Two of the larger funeral homes in La Paz are Funeraria San Jose del Carmen and Funeraria Montecristo. Unfortunately neither director speaks English.

Funeraria San Jose/ Del Carmen:
Address: Suc San Jose: Bravo No. 1005. La Paz BCS
Location #2: Abasolo No. 465. La Paz BCS
Cell: 612 141 3939
Director: Felipe Jara Benoit
email: funerariamorehlap@hotmail.com

Funeraria Montecristo:
Address: Avenida Deportistas Sn Colonia 8 de Octubre, La Paz BCS
Phone: 612 185 0741
Cell: 612 15 2 5959
Lic. Jose Angel Labrada

Office of Public Records:
Once decisions regarding the body have been made a representative of the funeral home will take you to deliver the Report of Death (Acta de Difunción) and Medical Examiner’s report to the closest Office of Public Records to record the death and give the official instructions of what to do with the remains. That Offices of Public Records in La Paz close at 2 pm and do not reopen again until 4 pm. So you will need to be efficient if you want to finish all the paper work early in the day. The funeral home cannot initiate any action until this record of the death is completed since it contains the formal instructions/permits of what is to be done with the body.

Again, be sure to review the document prepared by the Public Registrar for spelling or other errors since the formal Death Certificate will be based on this information. If there are mistakes in this document you might have problems later on with insurance companies, banks or government agencies.

Once this process is complete the funeral home will proceed to care for the body as instructed by the next of kin.

Death Certificate:
At your convenience you can file for the formal Certified Death Certificate at the Public Registrar’s office in La Paz or Todos Santos. In Todos Santos the Registrars office is located in the Delegation office behind the plaza. There you will present the document that was recorded in the office of Public Records in La Paz and the local judge will issue the legal death certificate. The cost is about $12 USD per copy. It is suggested that you request multiple originals since you will have to provide originals of the death certificate to the consulate, government agencies, banks, insurance companies, pension funds, etc.


You should be in touch with the US Consulate in Tijuana and/or the consular office in Cabo.

U.S. Consulate general in Tijuana.
From Mexico dial 001 (619) 692-2154, from the U.S., call (619) 692-2154.

American Consular Agency in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
Las Tiendas de Palmilla L-B221
Km. 27.5 Carretera Transpeninsular
San José del Cabo, BCS 23406
TELEPHONE (+52) (624) 143-3566
FAX (+52) (624) 143-6750
EMAIL conagencyloscabos@state.gov

More information:
U.S. Embassy in Mexico: Death of a U.S. Citizen