Fulltime RVer – Death while on the road

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris
It’s not something we like to spend a lot of time thinking about. It’s when we finally “hang up the keys” for the last time. At this point, death is inevitable for all of us. But if you’re a fulltime RVer, or spend a lot of time on the road, here’s a question: What happens if you die away from your home base? We’ll look at both the immediate situation, and the longer-term issues.

For our purposes, we’re going to assume that our dearly departed was not under hospice care, and so the death was unexpected. That means the survivor will need to get a “legal pronouncement of death.” For example, if you find your loved one has died while you’re parked overnight in an RV park, you’ll need to call 9-1-1.

The response from authorities will likely include police and paramedics. Unless the deceased had filled out and signed a “do not resuscitate” document, it’s likely paramedics will start emergency procedures. If they’re not authorized to make a death pronouncement, then likely the deceased will be transported to a hospital, all the while resuscitation efforts are carried on, until someone can make an official death pronouncement. Meantime, law enforcement may be doing an investigation to rule out “foul play” in the death.

It goes without saying this will all be extremely stressful for the traveling partner, if there is one. Normal thinking will be out the window, so expect you won’t be able to remember phone numbers. Do you have the phone numbers of those who you can call on for support and understanding programmed into your phone’s contact list?

That’s the immediate. The next step in the process is where things can get tricky, and by doing some advance planning, life for those who continue living is going to be a whole lot easier.

Just what happens to the loved one’s body? For those on the road, this is a significant question. What’s your view of how you want your “remains” handled? Are you willing to have your body cremated, or are you emphatic that burial is the only route? For those who want their body left intact and buried somewhere, say “back home,” advance planning will be a must.

We say this, as transporting a physical body, even within the United States, can be a complicated process. Yes, you probably heard about the widow who transported her husband’s dead body in their motorhome back home for burial. Trouble is, there is no clear-cut cross-country rule on that subject. Transporting of bodies within a state is up to state regulation. Some states allow individuals to transport bodies; others allow only licensed funeral industry employees to undertake the task. If you need to transport a loved one’s body across several state lines, after they’re dead is not likely the time that you’ll want to be on the phone trying to hash out the details.

Federal law has its own requirements for flying a deceased person home within the United States. The process has to be handled by a “known shipper,” meaning you’ll need to get a funeral home involved at both the sending and receiving ends of the process. Costs typically associated with flying a body home run $1,000 to $3,000. In addition to that you’ll also end up paying the receiving mortuary company fees, said to run anywhere from $800 to $2,500. That’s just the cost of the shipping – not any other services normally associated with a funeral and burial.

Bottom line: If your only wish is to be buried after death, you’re well advised to make arrangements in advance, including coverage that will handle both the costs and the details of having your remains transported.

On the other hand, if cremation is an alternative you’re open to, then expenses – and details – become much easier to cope with. Once the body of your loved one has been released by the authorities, it’s a matter of having a crematorium pick it up, and later turn the remains over to you. They’ll need to give you a “cremation certificate” which will allow you to carry the remains across the country.

What if you don’t want to transport the remains yourself? Cremains can officially be transported by the Postal Service. They require a container within a container – and those can simply be cardboard boxes. You’ll need to include a copy of the cremation certificate. No, Uncle Sal won’t travel by Priority Mail – it has to be done by registered mail with a return receipt. Other options include taking the remains with you via commercial flight as luggage. If you’ll take the remains as carry-on luggage, whatever they’re in MUST pass the normal luggage screening procedures, passing through an X-ray machine. If you have the cremains in an urn, it must not be anything that won’t allow a scanner to see through it, or the urn will be rejected. TSA folks will not open the container to inspect it, even if you ask them to.

How will you pay? Some folks opt to have a “pre-need” funeral policy, where they’ve already laid their money down, leaving no hassles for their loved ones when the time comes. It is CRITICAL that you make sure that the policy is transferable to any location where you may travel. One popular plan is handled by Neptune. We called the company and asked – what if I have your plan, and die away from home? Should be a simple enough question, right? It’s been three weeks and repeated requests, and still, no answer. Whatever company’s pre-need policy you consider, GET IT IN WRITING.

Others have put their money into a “pre-need funeral trust.” Your money is ready when the need arises, and earns interest in the meantime. Generally they’re “portable,” meaning, they’ll go wherever the need is. However, once you’ve plunked your money into a trust, you can’t change your mind and get your money back – they are irrevocable.

Finally, you could simply set up a savings account where you set aside money for your needs. Make sure your family and loved ones know about the arrangement, and can access the funds when they’re needed. Since banking laws vary, have a heart-to-heart discussion with the financial institution and explain what your needs are so that you can be guided so that the money is available when you finally “hang up the keys.”

##RVT829 ##RVDT1407

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Kathy
2 months ago

We buried three parents in a six-month time period and, at that time, vowed to not dump this responsibility on our children. So, we purchased a cremation plan thru Neptune and I’m sorry to hear they did not return your call. I feel as confident as I can be that it is good and reliable plan. We will be cremated at the nearest crematory upon identification of our body by our children. Neptune is a very large organization and the rep that came to our house seemed legit and very helpful. We carry an id card from Neptune directly behind our driver’s license in our wallets as we were advised the authorities would look for our license for id. Our cremation boxes sit on a shelf in a closet in our permanent home and our children know their location. We feel we’ve done all we could to alleviate the pressures our kids will face upon our deaths.

Doug
2 months ago

One more issue, especially for solo RVers – PETS.

Make advance arrangements for their care in the event of your untimely demise.

Charles Powell
2 months ago

Bottom line: If your only wish is to be buried after death, you’re well advised to make arrangements in advance, including coverage that will handle both the costs and the details of having your remains transported.” Just how in the world do you do that?? Does anyone know when and where they will die?

Ron T
2 months ago

We addressed this issue two years ago. At a local funeral home/crematorium we purchased a pre-paid policy that covers our cremation. Since it’s essentially an insurance policy and my wife was an agent, we had a frank, open and fun discussion with the business’s in-house sales agent. We carry cards that contain the necessary info to contact the provider and they will contact a local crematorium wherever we happen to be to do the cremation and return the cremains to home. The policy earns interest so our kids can throw a party if they want, but there will be no services. In theory, my wife can drive the MH home, but if she doesn’t want to I’m sure she can make other arrangements.

Lorna Bartlett
2 months ago

We have signed up with Science Care-upon death we call an 800 number and arrangements are made locally wherever we are. When they are done with your body(they decide what their need is) your remains are cremated. You can choose to have them returned to loved ones or not. Hoping it’s a good choice 👍

Karen
2 months ago
Reply to  Lorna Bartlett

Thank you, Lorna. I wasn’t aware of this program. I’m going to look into it.

DPHooper
2 months ago

Good information, but….
What about the survivor, if there is one…
Can they get RV back to home, do they have someone who can do it, if not?

Mike
2 months ago

I highly recommend FMCA membership which includes FMCAssist coverage for this type of situation – https://www.fmca.com/fmca-assist

Ralph Williamson
2 months ago

Hooking up and getting the rig back home would be an issue for my wife. That would’ve been a good issue for this article to address.

notfunny
2 months ago

Good point! My Wife would be lost getting the RIG home, if something happened to me.

Martin A
2 months ago
Reply to  notfunny

Mine too, she wont even drive the suburban we tow with.

Herb
2 months ago

If you are a member of FMCA, getting your rig home is included with your membership.

Notfunny
2 months ago

Continued Comments:

I think allot of people are literally scared to death about this subject.

That is why pre- planning is the key. Have a conversation with your loved ones and discuss it. As Russ and Tina say, we are all going to DIE!

You have to be very careful about making arrangements too! If you DIE while on the road, you have to remember, there are many FLY BY NIGHT companies that will take advantage of you, if given the opportunity. They know that this is an Emotional time and will pretend to CARE about your feelings. Unfortunately, they only care about your wallet!

This is a very good article!

FTC Funeral Rule: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule#:~:text=The%20Funeral%20Rule%2C%20enforced%20by,death%20occurs%20or%20in%20advance.

If the link doesn’t work, GOOGLE: FTC Funeral Rule!

You all take Care.

Karen
2 months ago
Reply to  Notfunny

Thank you, Notfunny. This information is very helpful.

Notfunny
2 months ago

It is very important to think about these things!
My Wife and I both have burial plots in our home state. It was a good investment, since the cost of everything keeps going up.

I have instructed my Wife to have me cremated. She on the other hand does not want to go this route and wants a traditional funeral, which will be extremely expensive.

People should also know that there is a LAW on the Books by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that dictates to the Funeral Homes and all those business’ that are in this type of business. They are required to give you a Written Estimate for Services to be performed and rendered. You have the RIGHT to pick whatever services you want, to avoid being overcharged. In my case, I am a cheap skate and believe in the KISS principle (KEEP IT SIMPLE “”””) Put me in an URN and throw me in the Hole! It doesn’t much matter anymore at that point. I ran out of comment space, so more to follow!

Last edited 2 months ago by Notfunny
doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Notfunny

KISS – Keep it SUBLIMELY Simple

my nicer way than the original insult.

Nancy Chandler
8 months ago

This is the info I wad looking for. This morning a gentleman died at the koa where we were staying. One thing not mentioned in the article was what happens to the RV/motorhome. I don’t drive it. Can you hire drivers or would most agree that calling the closest RV sales place be the best idea. I need to start a plan.

Joey Roberts
1 year ago

Good article! My sister in law passed away while camping at a horse show. It was a nightmare just trying to have her body brought home, even though it was in-state. My brother went the “cremation route”.

Jed
2 years ago

We have discussed this issue and plan to cremate whenever and wherever one of us passes away. Good Sam Travel Assist will get the rig home in the event it is me or I am incapacitated at the same time. You never mentioned the requirements of re-entering the country. I assume Canada Customs or US Customs will have to be engaged as well

Lorin
2 years ago

We have Travel Assist too. The thought of transporting everything back “home” just seemed like a nightmare. It’s a different company that supplies the Travel Assist than Roadside Assist. It is just sold by Good Sam so I don’t think I’d worry about them not showing up with your deceased loved one on the side of the road.

al aslakson
2 years ago

We’re leaning toward “whole body donation” – our remains will be consigned to a company or institution who can use it. Many go to medical colleges for training purposes, many are “parted out” and used in transplants, etc. All at zero cost to the survivors. If there are any “leftovers”, they are usually cremated and survivors can get the ashes back. It’s not for everyone, obviously, but if you’re in to recycling . . . .

Pam C
2 years ago

We’ve told our children that if one of us passes while full timing, cremation will be done wherever we are and the ashes will be brought home for services and funeral. It’s too expensive to transport a body.

JB
2 years ago

I thought about this for awhile then went to a MASA presentation,which after more thought,joined paying the full price.I know this sounds like a sales pitch,but if there is any doubt look up MASA.They will airlift, or use a wheeled ambulance, from anywhere in the world if the needs arise.And your belongings will be taken care of,as well as you.All you have to do is tell them where you want your belongings,including an RV,and your body to be sent,and they will see to it.Check them out,they are bona fide.

Carl
2 years ago

Thank you for covering an important issue that most of us want to ignore. My wife and I have now discussed our plans should this happpen.

Eileen
2 years ago

Thanks for addressing an important, but usually neglected, topic for RVers to consider. As a solo full-timer, I really should do some research, make a plan, and put it in place. Thanks again.

Jillie
2 years ago

I really don’t want to offend any one here but in all seriousness what happens if the post office looses the body? The cremains? I mean that can really get stressful. I have thought about this myself and didn’t realize that if I die on the beach of the Florida Keys do I want to be shipped back to Michigan? Maybe. But then I hope to be retired and in my 80’s and not traveling as much. Unless I am like my mother. 85 and still hopping planes at record speed. I hate to say I have thought about this as well.