Your travel insurance may not cover you if you die

Does your travel insurance cover you if you die while traveling?

Carol Ann Quibell
Carol Ann Quibell

Many people are under the misguided impression that when purchasing medical insurance for their travels they will be covered in the event of a death and all the details will be taken care of.

“Not so,” said Barb Houser of Purple Shield in Cranbrook, B.C. “Medical travel insurance includes taking care of things when people get sick or are injured. But if they were to pass away, family or travel companions are usually left on their own.”

There won’t be any help available when dealing with authorities, taking care of details such as contacting the Canadian embassy, finding a funeral home or looking after all of the bills associated with the death. After everything has been done and the exorbitant bills are submitted to the insurer for reimbursement, travellers may find they are not covered.

“The insurance always covers something, but there are strings attached,” added Houser.

Having prior medical conditions or an exclusion could affect the claim. Some travel medical insurance only covers death if the person has been in an accident. At one of the worst times in their lives the surviving family member can be on their own, and the situation may be even more pronounced if it takes place in a foreign country where a person does not speak the language. Even though travelling into the U.S. may seem very comfortable, it is still a foreign country and snowbirds should be aware of the obstacles they will be facing if their travel partner should pass away. So what’s the answer?

Wouldn’t it be a relief to make one call if a death occurs and have someone take over absolutely everything, no matter where in the world you are? Traditionally there has been a gap between travel insurance and pre-planned funeral arrangements. That’s where having a Worldwide Travel Insurance Plan becomes beneficial.

So how does having a Worldwide Travel Insurance policy work?

When making pre-arrangements for a funeral, include travel insurance that will take care of all the details in the event of a death. This type of insurance covers the person anywhere in the world if death occurs 100 kilometres or more away from the legal primary residence in Canada. It takes one toll-free phone call made by the family or funeral director and the process to bring the deceased home is taken care of. Full protection is offered immediately and the coverage lasts a lifetime. It doesn’t have to be expensive, can be paid in installments and takes the worry away from everyone involved.

What exactly does this type of travel insurance cover?

  1. Handling of all necessary documents, including consular services if outside of Canada.
  2. Locating and arranging transportation to a local funeral establishment near the place of death, which will then prepare the deceased for transport back to Canada.
  3. Transportation for one travelling companion to return home with the deceased.
  4. If the deceased was travelling alone, the plan provides transportation and reasonable travel expense for one next of kin to travel to the location of the sending funeral establishment and back home with the deceased.

Should you arrange your funeral plans in advance?

“A person doesn’t have to have arranged for a full-on funeral or anything expensive prior to purchasing the insurance, but they must have some kind of funeral plan in place—even if it’s just a minimum policy of $1,000 towards the final cost,” said Houser.

She encourages her clients to at least arrange for a minimal cremation policy and attach the travel insurance to it. All the funeral homes across Canada use FamilySide Inc. for the Worldwide Travel Insurance Plan, and since it’s completely transferable from one funeral home to another anywhere in Canada there’s no concern if a person should decide to move. It’s best to contact your local funeral home for more information.

The next time you decide to travel south for the winter in search of warmer weather, give some thought to having a policy in place to take care of the details in the event of your death. Once it’s planned, you will never have to give it another thought for years to come—and surviving family members won’t have to contend with the overwhelming details that can leave them devastated.

The above piece was first published in my RV Living column with RVwest.

Happy travels,

Carol Ann

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