An end-of-life planning discussion at the Cuenca Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday drew a crowd of 250 English-speaking expats. They had plenty of questions.
Senior care expert Wendy Jane Carrel moderated a panel discussion with Cuenca attorney Grace Velastegui and funeral home director Simon Toral, focusing on preparations, paperwork and legal issues facing foreign residents when they die.
The take-away for most in attendance? Advance planning saves a lot of time and grief.
Carrel said that having a trusted family doctor is critical when a loved one dies. “Do not call 911 immediately. Call the doctor and have him write the cause of death and then arrange for transportation of the body. This is how an autopsy, which is otherwise mandatory in Ecuador, can perhaps be avoided,” she said.
She also explained that the U.S. Embassy and Consulate have special requirements regarding the shipment of ashes or remains back to the U.S.
Velastegui discussed Ecuadorian law relating to death, reviewing the procedures and documents required by the government. She explained that if legal documents have not been drawn up in advance stating the wishes of the deseased, three blood relatives are required to authorize a cremation, and that a spouse is not considered a blood relative under Ecuadorian law.
She also pointed out differences between civil law, practiced in Ecuador, and common law, practiced in North America and Great Britain, as it relates to end-of-life issues, including estate planning.
Toral explained the services of funeral homes as well as the costs for pre-paid plans. He also discussed the process and costs of shipping human remains to another country.
The second half of the seminar was devoted to questions from the audience.
Carrel, who was a senior center director and assisted care administrator in California, has spent two years researching end-of-life and senior care options in Ecuador, Mexico and Chile. In a March column in CuencaHighLife she provided detailed information about dealing with the death of a family member or friend. To read the column, click here.