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Dying in Panama


Bonnie

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The following is an excerpt from an email written by the head of Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy in Panama to a relative of an expat who lived in Boquete but died in an unspecified hospital in David. I believe this is standard information. It should give everyone an idea of the costs and considerations involved with death here and serve as a reminder that everyone should make next of kin or relatives back home aware of bank accounts, the location of important documents, etc. This is related to one of several cases I am aware of where the family was not informed of any of this and were left with overwhelming problems. In this particular case, there is a hospital bill that must be paid before a certificate of death can be issued, and the family doesn't have the funds to pay the hospital bill and have no idea what kind of funds the deceased might have had or where they might be. It is the death certificate that triggers everything else, so it is a real dilemma. Meanwhile, the body rests in the morgue.

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In order to make  arrangements, the local authorities require that the next of  kin submit evidence of their relationship with the deceased  to retrieve the remains.  You will need to submit proof  of your relationship to your [the deceased] (birth certificate, photo ID, etc.) to the appropriate  Panamanian authorities and the local funeral home.  If your representative is not a direct relative of your [deceased], you will also need to execute a notarized Power of Attorney with Apostille stamp, giving that person authority to represent you before the Panamanian authorities.  This may be a personal friend or individual known to you, a Panamanian attorney, or the funeral home may provide this service.

In order for us to continue providing you with our services , please complete the attached Affidavit of Surviving Next of Kin.  This document is your declaration to us that you are acting as the survivor in the case of [the deceased].  When completed, please scan and email to us at Panama-ACS@state.gov.  Please mail the original to the U.S. Embassy Panama, Consular Section/ACS, 9100 Panama City Pl, Washington, D.C. 20521-9100.  Please also e-mail us a copy of your photo ID and a copy of your birth certificate.

The next step is to select a funeral home from the list the embassy maintains or one that you are aware of by your own personal knowledge or from other friends you may have in Panama.  You will need to call them and make the arrangements of your choice.  Generally, they will accept payment for the services by credit card over the phone.  If that will not work for you, you can work with the U.S. Embassy in Panama to effect payment for the services as explained below.  A list of funeral homes that have provided services in the past to the families of U.S. Citizens can be found at  http://panama.usembassy.gov/death_of_a_us_citizen.html.  In case you are unable to access the link, I will paste information about the local Funeral Homes at the bottom of this message.

The total cost for preparation and air shipment to the United States is approximately $4,500 from Panama City.  This includes a metal casket meeting international regulations.  The cost for preparation and burial in Panama City, Panama is approximately $1,500.The cost for cremation and disposition of ashes in Panama City, Panama is approximately $800.  The cost for preparation, cremation and air shipment of ashes to the U.S. is approximately $2,500.  This includes a plastic urn.

Please note that these costs are only estimates.  Please, also consider that preparation and air shipment are carried out in accordance with the laws of and the facilities available in Panama.  In some cases, these services fall short of those expected in the United States.  We recommend that you ask your hometown funeral director to determine the advisability of viewing the remains.

In order to prepare the Consular Report of Death Abroad (which you can use to settle any legal matters pertaining to your brother in the U.S.) we will first need a scanned copy or photo of the death certificate from the hospital sent via email to this email address.  In order to help us prepare this report, please complete the attached form and sent it back to us via email as well.  If there are items for which you don’t have the information, you can leave those blank.  We would also need a copy of your birth certificate.  With all of this, we will prepare 20  copies of the report of death and send the documents to the physical address you indicate.  There is no cost for this service.

Again, on behalf of the United States Government we extend our sincere condolences to you and your family in your time of bereavement.  Please do not hesitate to contact me at this e-mail address or by telephone at 011-507-317-5881.

 

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The best advice is to NOT DIE.

However, there are things a responsible person does in advance, just in case the unexpected happens.  One is to let family members out of country know the location of bank accounts and important documents. Thanks for the post, Bonnie.

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I made one of my nieces the beneficiary on my bank accounts, so if I die, all she has to do is come here and get the money out of the bank.  She will then transfer it to my U.S. bank where my U.S. attorney will handle it from there. 

I don't understand how a relative could prove kinship to you.  I can't think of any document that would prove a niece, nephew, cousin, or anybody but a child or sibling is related to you.  Also, who grants the Power of Attorney, and what powers does the person have specifically?  Authority to release the body?  This isn't clear.

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Judy, be sure to check on that beneficiary statement now and then. I have one designating my son as beneficiary of my Panamanian bank account, and the bank has lost it twice.

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15 hours ago, JudyS said:

 

I don't understand how a relative could prove kinship to you.  I can't think of any document that would prove a niece, nephew, cousin, or anybody but a child or sibling is related to you. 

Proving kinship is done all the time. For example, our friend Irene Haines who died in Panama without a will but clearly wanted her sister to inherit everything. The sister had to submit birth certificates for both her and Irene showing the same parents. She also had to submit a divorce certificate for Irene to show there was no spouse. Then there is the advertisement asking for other related parties to come forward.

It's not foolproof but it's the best system we have. Remember when Howard Hughes died and all of a sudden, lots of relatives came out of the bushes.

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On 6/17/2017 at 7:04 PM, Bonnie said:

The following is an excerpt from an email written by the head of Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy in Panama to a relative of an expat who lived in Boquete but died in an unspecified hospital in David. I believe this is standard information. It should give everyone an idea of the costs and considerations involved with death here and serve as a reminder that everyone should make next of kin or relatives back home aware of bank accounts, the location of important documents, etc. This is related to one of several cases I am aware of where the family was not informed of any of this and were left with overwhelming problems. In this particular case, there is a hospital bill that must be paid before a certificate of death can be issued, and the family doesn't have the funds to pay the hospital bill and have no idea what kind of funds the deceased might have had or where they might be. It is the death certificate that triggers everything else, so it is a real dilemma. Meanwhile, the body rests in the morgue.

Bonnie,

We've received an inquiry (actually a complaint) about two different but related issues in the initial posting in this topic: (a) reference to an email address, and (b) a link to the embassy website.

Re the email address issue: look at the penultimate (next to last) paragraph of the Consulate message. The words say "...to this email address...", but what address? Is it the Panama-ACS@state.gov used early on in their message? 

On the bum hotlink: in their third paragraph is a hotlink that results in the standard Internet "404" error message to the effect that the referenced web page does not exist. I don't know if that error is because of a bad copy and paste in the original posting here on CL or their website is failing. 

Your assistance in cleaning up some clerical matters is requested.

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20 minutes ago, Moderator_02 said:

Bonnie,

We've received an inquiry (actually a complaint) about two different but related issues in the initial posting in this topic: (a) reference to an email address, and (b) a link to the embassy website.

Re the email address issue: look at the penultimate (next to last) paragraph of the Consulate message. The words say "...to this email address...", but what address? Is it the Panama-ACS@state.gov used early on in their message? 

On the bum hotlink: in their third paragraph is a hotlink that results in the standard Internet "404" error message to the effect that the referenced web page does not exist. I don't know if that error is because of a bad copy and paste in the original posting here on CL or their website is failing. 

Your assistance in cleaning up some clerical matters is requested.

In answer to your first question, yes. the e-mail address of the citizen services unit is Panama-ACS@state.gov.

The info on what to do when an American citizen dies can be found on the website at https://pa.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/death-of-a-u-s-citizen/?_ga=2.226827098.653981129.1497795486-411439239.1497549921

Questions like this can easily be resolved via Google or by going directly to the U.S. Embassy Panama and using its Search function.

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15 hours ago, Keith Woolford said:

As a beneficiary of the account, would the family member have to wait until probate, if there's no will, or will the bank turn over the account upon presentation of a death certificate?

They do not have to wait for probate.  The money is given directly to the beneficiary.  That's what the bank told me.  I am sure it would require presenting a death certificate.

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3 hours ago, Penny said:

Proving kinship is done all the time. For example, our friend Irene Haines who died in Panama without a will but clearly wanted her sister to inherit everything. The sister had to submit birth certificates for both her and Irene showing the same parents. She also had to submit a divorce certificate for Irene to show there was no spouse. Then there is the advertisement asking for other related parties to come forward.

It's not foolproof but it's the best system we have. Remember when Howard Hughes died and all of a sudden, lots of relatives came out of the bushes.

I asked about nieces, nephews, and cousins.  Of course a sibling's birth certificate would show the same parents (unless the sibling was adopted), but how would the others prove kinship, especially if they had different names?

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1 hour ago, Keith Woolford said:

..which can't be had until the medical bills are paid  ..but if the money to do that is in the deceased's account..

Catch 22 ?

Absolutely. There are a number of Catch-22 issues. The morgue at the hospital won't release the body to the funeral home until the medical bill is paid. The funeral home won't acquire the death certificate and make arrangements for disposal of the body until it is paid. And without knowing if the deceased had a bank account and, if so, where it is, the relative can't try to access funds to pay the hospital and the funeral home. And, unless the relative is a designated beneficiary, he won't be able to access the funds anyway until after probate. That's why I thought it was important to post this. There's a lot that goes into being prepared.

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From what our lawyer tells us, Probate here can lag for as long as 8 years.  Having end of life affairs all taken care of to include property issues is a very important thing.  If either Bill or I passed away neither of us left would want to haggle down here for years getting property issues straight IF the survivor decided to return to the USA. It's worth the legal fees now to get that stuff taken care of.

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On 6/19/2017 at 3:41 AM, Bonnie said:

Good question. I intend to ask my bank and will report back.

I wrote my bank asking if my understanding was correct that funds are available at once to a beneficiary. I received the following response:

It is correct.   The designation of beneficiary at the Banks is good for personal accounts.  The funds will be available right away and what the beneficiaries will received is a cashier check.   No probate, only the death certificate is required and ID of the beneficiaries.

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We have scheduled the Hospice presentation "Being Prepared" (for dying) in late August or early September. This program always fills up and, since Panama law is always changing and morphing, everyone should attend even if they've attended in the past.

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4 hours ago, Penny said:

We have scheduled the Hospice presentation "Being Prepared" (for dying) in late August or early September. 

Penny, do you know if the next one will be the full presentation? I've attended two but they have both been the abbreviated version. Excellent information at both, but would like to get the whole enchilada.

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11 hours ago, Jim and Judi said:

Penny, do you know if the next one will be the full presentation? I've attended two but they have both been the abbreviated version. Excellent information at both, but would like to get the whole enchilada.

It's as complete as Hospice can do in 75 minutes (mas o menos). You can write to Betty Landis, one of the presenters at boquetehealth@gmail.com

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