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Does travel insurance cover a death in the family?

If a family member dies while you’re on holiday or before you depart, travel insurance could help cover the cost of cancelling your trip or returning home early.

Here’s what you need to know about your travel insurance if a family bereavement means a trip is cancelled or cut short.

If a family member dies while you’re on holiday or before you depart, travel insurance could help cover the cost of cancelling your trip or returning home early.

Here’s what you need to know about your travel insurance if a family bereavement means a trip is cancelled or cut short.

Written by
Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
Last Updated
26 MAY 2023
6 min read
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Does travel insurance cover cancellation due to a death in the family before the trip?

It’s rarely at the top of the list of priorities when you lose someone, but it’s useful to know that most travel insurance policies include cancellation cover should the worst happen just as you were due to go away.

Cancellation cover is a standard feature of travel insurance. It’s designed to reimburse the cost of your holiday if you have to cancel because of circumstances beyond your control.

Reasons you may need to do this include illness or injury, being called to jury service, or a death in the family.

If you need to cancel your trip after the death of someone close to you, look for the details of what’s covered by your travel policy (in a section called key features). The death, or serious illness, of a ‘close relative’, someone you were travelling with, or a close business colleague might count as a valid reason for cancellation.

You may also be covered if you cancel because a relative or friend living abroad who you’d planned to stay with during your trip has passed away.

A sudden death is just one of the reasons it’s so important to take out travel insurance as soon as you book your trip. Always make sure your cancellation cover is high enough to meet the full cost of your trip (including flights, accommodation and tours you’ve pre-booked).

Customers with pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, your travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. Whatever happens, don’t lie to an insurance provider, because this could mean your claim is rejected. When you declare any medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show you quotes from insurance providers who will cover them, with no exclusions.

If your condition is more serious, MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone. You can call them on 0800 138 7777.

When might a death in the family not be covered by insurance?

Check your policy wording carefully, as there are some circumstances in which you won’t be covered for a death in the family:

If you knew about a pre-existing condition

The cover provided for bereavement won’t pay out if your relative died from a condition (including a pre-existing medical condition) or circumstances that were known to you before you bought the policy or when you booked your trip, if that condition was likely to lead to you having to cut short or cancel your trip. This applies to those travelling with you, non-travelling family members or any family you were planning on staying with abroad.

If they are not a close relative

The definition of what constitutes a ‘close’ relation differs among providers. Some policies will include cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and in-laws, while others won’t. Some providers may specify that partners must have been living at the same address as you for a set period – for example, six months – to qualify.

It’s also worth noting that most policies won’t cover the bereavement if the death was a result of suicide.

What if a bereavement happens while I’m on holiday?

If a family member dies during your trip – whether they’re travelling with you or remain at home – you should be able to claim.

If a family member dies while holidaying with you

If a member of your family who is with you on your trip dies, then repatriation cover may be able to support you.

Travel insurance will usually cover the cost of bringing home the body or ashes, and will pay up to an amount set out in the policy for funeral expenses for a burial or cremation abroad.

You might not be covered for the death of a travel companion or family member on your trip who didn’t get the recommended vaccinations for the area you’re travelling to.

Coping with a death abroad can be an understandably confusing and distressing situation. Our guide to repatriation might help if you face this situation.

You can also get more help from GOV.UK for dealing with a death abroad.

If a family member dies back home while you’re on holiday

If a relative back home dies while you’re away and you need to cut short your trip, you’ll typically be covered for:

  • Travel and accommodation expenses you’ve paid for and aren’t recoverable from the supplier
  • The cost of excursions and tours you’ve paid for and can’t get your money back on
  • Reasonable additional travel costs to get back to the UK.

If you make a claim, your insurance provider is likely to ask for evidence that might include:

  • Receipts, tickets and invoices that show your travel costs and expenses
  • The death certificate – some providers will accept certified copies while others will need originals.

If you need to rebook tickets to come home, it’s always a good idea to talk to your provider beforehand. Some will want to make any travel arrangements themselves on your behalf.

What happens if I die while I am on holiday?

If you die while you’re away, your insurance provider should be contacted as soon as possible. Your family will also need to contact the British embassy or consulate in the country you were visiting. They can offer help and advice on what to do during this distressing time.

Insurance providers typically have 24-hour helplines to give your family assistance. Just remember you’ll need to have declared all pre-existing conditions for them to be able to claim.
A good travel insurance policy can help your family cover any expenses such as legal fees and the repatriation costs of returning you to the UK.

It’s a good idea to share a copy of your insurance policy with your loved ones before you go – just in case the worst happens. This will make it easier for them to contact your insurance provider and put the necessary arrangements in place.

Did you know?

When a British national dies abroad, their death must be registered and a local death certificate issued in the country where they died. The local death certificate and an official translation (if not in English) can normally be used to register the death back in the UK.

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Frequently asked questions

Am I covered if a family member becomes terminally ill?

If a family member becomes terminally ill and your travels plans are disrupted, you might be covered if the illness isn’t due to a pre-existing condition.

Check your terms and conditions or speak to your insurance provider to be sure.

Is my family covered if one of us falls ill or is injured during our holiday?

Yes, they should be. Repatriation is typically included as standard with most travel insurance policies.

If medically necessary, it will cover the costs of flying you or your family member home after illness or injury – not just in the case of a death abroad.

Am I covered if a family member dies before the trip?

If there’s a death in the family, travel insurance should cover non-refundable costs for cancelling or delaying your trip.

However, you’ll only be able to claim for an ‘unexpected death’. You won’t be covered if it was due to a pre-existing condition your family member had before you took out your travel policy.

The family member must also fall under your insurance provider’s definition of a ‘close relative’.

Who is considered a close relative for insurance purposes?

The definition of a close relative can vary between insurance providers, so it’s always best to check.

Some policies may only include a spouse, partner or children. Other providers may consider the following ‘close relatives’:

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Spouse or partner
  • Children (including step and foster children)
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • In-laws.

Kate Hughes - Insurance and finance expert

As an award-winning journalist, author and broadcast commentator, Kate has been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years. She’s the former Money Editor for The Independent. Her work has appeared across the UK broadsheets as well as a number of international titles. Kate brings her financial expertise to inform her readers on ways to save money. She’s also written a book. ‘Going Zero: One Family’s Journey to Zero Waste and a Greener Lifestyle’ is available now.

Learn more about Kate