End of Life Plan for Expats in Mérida Mexico

End of Life Plan for Expats

It’s hard and maybe even impossible to think about your demise and eventual death. But no one is immortal. Planning for what will happen when you die while you still have your mental and physical health is paramount. End of Life Plan for Expats in Mérida Mexico is probably the MOST important thing you can do. No doubt, it is also one of the most overlooked. Preparing for this inevitable event will not only make the process easier, but it will also help your loved ones and family as well.

On my initial research trip to Mérida, I asked a few locals what they would do if they got unexpectedly became sick or died while in Mérida. Unfortunately, the majority of them said, “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.” This response made me think about what I would do. Honestly, I had the same exact answer. It’s one thing to get sick and even die in our home country. But what happens when we get really sick or even die in a foreign country?

This article was updated in May of 2023.

Why an End of Life Plan for Expats in Mérida Mexico?

When you are in your home country, the process can be seamless. Death in a foreign country can actually put a strain on everyone involved from neighbors, family, and loved ones to the Mexican authorities.

What is the solution?

In order to alleviate stress, considerable grief, and to save time, education about the process is key. Once you’ve conducted your due diligence, then you can put a plan into place to create a plan of action.

An end of life plan is just as important for young adults as it is for older adults. Accidents happen all the time. Notably, this is a subject that many of us prefer to avoid.

glasses, photos, and a journal on top of an old map

An end of life plan is a good idea (and necessary)

  • Planning ahead provides peace of mind.
  • The system of laws in Mexico is very different.
  • Rules governing the disposal of remains are not the same as other countries.
  • An advance health care directive is not valid in Mexico.
  • Consider being buried or cremated in Mexico vs. the expense of shipping your body home.
  • The shipment of remains outside of Mexico involves not only a high cost but red tape.
  • If you are sure you want to be shipped back to your home country, consider buying repatriation of remains insurance.

An advance health care directive is not valid in Mexico

Unfortunately, this is true. I had all of my documentation updated prior to leaving the U.S. When I arrived in Merida, the only thing I needed to do was to have it translated, notarized, and filed. Then I learned that this is NOT the case after all. I have heard of exceptions, of course. However, the exceptions are exceptions and not the rule.

Yes, that’s right . . .

Speaking to a Mexican attorney that can prepare documents for you based on Mexican, state, and local laws are imperative. You can incorporate your preferences into these documents.

To alleviate any confusion, always ask for a copy in English as well.

I highly recommend reviewing information on the Five Wishes website (https://fivewishes.org/). This will also provide important topics and considerations that you may not have even thought about. It’s also important to note that there is no guarantee that ANY of your requests will be honored by doctors, hospitals, or other medical care service providers.

It came as a huge surprise . . .

It is up to the interpretation of the professional who is in charge of your medical care on a case by case basis. This is the same as in your home country. I was shocked when I discovered this.

two hands grasped in front of a sunset

The system of laws is different in Mexico

Not surprisingly, rules governing the disposition of human remains in Mexico are not the same as in other countries. As you may have guessed, the Mexican culture is very unique. Mexican procedures will be unfamiliar and possibly even complex, in some cases. Both time and bureaucratic requirements to negotiate after death can be daunting.

For the best outcome, there is a legal document called a Declaración Jurada (similar to a living will). This document outlines burial and/or cremation instructions. It is also the instrument that will, almost always, ensure your plan is followed. Notably, this document must be created before your demise.

Notaries or notarios prepare this document for a fee. You may also want other documents prepared at the same time such as a Power of Attorney and will. Remember, your home country document is not legal in Mexico. During certain times of the year, discounts are offered for the preparation of some of these documents.

Shipment of Remains is Complicated

It can be a complicated process to ship your remains out of Mexico to your home country. Each country will have its own requirements. I recommend reviewing the facts on your home country consulate website to keep up to date with current information. Different rules and restrictions may apply to such things as embalming, caskets, and cremation. Transporting caskets vs. cremated remains can also be different.

Important Questions About End of Life Plan in Mérida Mexico

For more information, you can visit the consulates website and link.

Is there someone you trust who can act on your behalf?

If you are alone, do you have at least 3-4 local friends or neighbors you can share your preferences with? Speak to them about what you want and how you would like your wishes carried out. Be sure they have emergency phone numbers for next of kin, your doctor, hospital, and funeral company, and contact information. Your next of kin may not be available or even in the country. Plan ahead to alleviate stress. You may also want to delegate a trusted attorney or notario.

Can your primary physician be called to declare the cause of death?

Unless an autopsy is needed in the event of suspected foul play, it is recommended to call your physician. This is the only way to avoid an autopsy.  Make sure your trusted person will call your physician to declare the cause of death and write it on the death certificate. This is also the best way to ensure your end of life wishes are carried out.

Remember, do not call 911, an ambulance, the fire department, or the police. Call the doctor for the death certificate called a Certificado de Defunción then call the funeral home.

Ask for at least three copies of the death certificate to deliver as follows:

  • Local Civil Registry (Registro Civil)
  • Ministry of Public Health
  • INEGI (the National Statistics Office)

Have you selected a funeral company?

This may seem quite morbid but actually is extremely practical. Preparing and planning take a lot of pressure and anxiety off of those you designate to help you when you pass. Using a funeral service is necessary to transport your body and handle your remains.

Mérida is a large city with a large number of expatriates. Some funeral homes may have doctors available. These doctors can attend the death if your doctor is on vacation or not available. But, the culture of Mexicans is one of relationships. Most doctors prefer a relationship with you before they will appear and sign a death certificate.

red rose on top of a black tombstone

Also, some funeral homes offer notarized Letters of Intention and can give you a card to carry in your wallet or purse. The card contains your name and other details along with their contact information.


If foul play is suspected, an autopsy will be required.  The police and other entities will be involved if this is the case.

Do you want to donate your organs?

Due to the fact that Mérida is a medical tourism destination, medical programs may welcome the donation of your body for science. The programs are constantly changing so I recommend contacting the medical universities for more information. This will need to be noted in your living will or your Mexican driver’s license to be legal.

How will the services be paid for?

Who will pay for the funeral services, attending doctor, death certificate, and other related expenses? Some funeral homes will let you pre-pay for their services.

Keep in mind, prices do change from time to time. Be sure to price burial items such as a coffin or cremation too. These may be items to add to your cost of living budget.

Don’t add more stress on those handling your affairs without an end of life plan.
Leave between $20,000 and $40,000 pesos for expenses, telling your
designated person how to access the money.


Is cremation an option for you?

Space in local cemeteries is at a premium. Most spaces have been designated and paid for by families for many years. Sometimes, there is even a waiting period. Quite a few expats opt for cremation because loved ones may want to preserve your ashes.

Creamation is the option that provides the least amount of hassle and expense. Inquire at your funeral home of choice to know the exact details and pricing. Ask if this is something you can pay for in advance.

End of Life Plan for Expats

Cremation services

  • Notification to the U.S. consulate
  • Original death certificate
  • Transportation of the body to the funeral home
  • Cremation permit from the Mexican government
  • Transportation of the body to the crematorium
  • Original certificate of cremation

Some churches in Mexico offer space for cremated remains for a specified number of years.

What happens if you die without any documentation or representation?

More than likely, your body will be transported to a morgue or medical forensic service. Depending upon where you die, some of these locations have refrigeration and some do not. Others may have space to handle your body while others are full.

Take this into consideration: 

The consulate of your home country will be informed and then your body may be autopsied. The consulate will be responsible for contacting your next of kin. If no one claims your body, it will be placed in a communal grave. Each state in Mexico has different regulations and traditions.

Consider burial in Mérida Mexico

If cremation or shipping your body back to your home country are not options, you may consider being buried in Mexico. This could be an easier and less expensive option.

But . . . . . . . . space in local cemeteries may not be available. Space is at a premium with plots to purchase for a specific amount of time, usually six years.

After the time is up, the remains are to be removed and buried elsewhere. Advance arrangements must be made for the relocation or they may be moved to a communal grave. It is common that some families bury their loved ones one on top of another, sometimes 6 to 10 people deep.

End of Life Plan for Expats

For Americans, register with S.T.E.P.

Just as you’ve notified friends and families of your whereabouts, register with S.T.E.P or Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Designed for Americans, S.T.E.P. advises you of security risks and assists with connecting you to friends and family in the event of an emergency.


You may also wish to register emergency information with local expat communities or other applicable entities.

Repatriation of remains insurance

It is always extremely unfortunate when death occurs. Death while on vacation or living in a foreign country can be traumatic and devastating. The costs and logistics of preparing your remains for transport back to your home country can be stressful.

Repatriation insurance may be an option for transport back to your home country after death. If this is something of interest to you, I highly recommend conducting your own research and speak to your local insurance agent. Being expats Mérida Mexico, an end of life plan will definitely be of benefit to those you love.

End of Life Plan for Expats


Final Thoughts on End of Life Plan for Expats in Mérida Mexico

Make no mistake about it . . .

The day and time will come when we will all move on to the next phase of our journey. Mexico has a great attitude towards death and dying. Actually, I can’t think of another place where I would rather take my last breath.

Three easy steps will help you begin

  1. Designate someone locally to make medical decisions in the event incapacitation. Prepare your Mexican living will.
  2. Choose burial or cremation and shipment back to your home country.
  3. Contact the appropriate professionals such as your physician, the funeral home, and decide if you want to donate your body to a medical university.

Include the five Ds of your end of life plan

  1. Discuss your desires with loved ones
  2. Decide what you want
  3. Document your wishes
  4. Disseminate documentation to applicable entities and people
  5. Display your wishes in an easily visible location