Deceased Out of Country

Should a death occur in a foreign country, the U.S. Consulate should be contacted immediately, they can assist in arranging transportation or for local disposition. Translations of the death certificate and other documents can usually be obtained through the Consulate. We recommend local cremation of the body and shipment of the cremated remains back home. If shipment of the body back home is desired, then the Consulate can advise you on the particular laws of the foreign country. Embalming the body is recommended due to the possibility of lengthy travel; however embalming is not a common practice in many foreign countries. And many of their alternate options very likely will not make an open casket viewing possible. You may want to consider purchasing short term insurance for travel abroad that can cover not only health coverage but also the transportation of remains in case of death.

More information regarding the Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad and the US consulate.

Each year, over 6,000 Americans die abroad. Most of them are Americans who live overseas, but, each year, a few thousand Americans die while on short visits abroad. One of the most important tasks of U.S. consular officers abroad is to confirm the death, identity and U.S. citizenship of the deceased, and then provide assistance to the families of U.S. citizens who die abroad. When an American dies abroad, the Bureau of Consular Affairs must locate and inform the next-of-kin. Sometimes discovering the next-of-kin is difficult. If the American’s name is known, the Bureau’s Office of Passport Services will search for his or her passport application.

Upon notification of the next of kin, the consulate will provide information about disposition of the remains and the effects of the deceased, and provides guidance on forwarding funds to cover costs (all costs associated with the arrangements are the responsibility of the deceased’s estate or family).

Other services provided through the consulate:

  • Serve as provisional conservator of the estate, absent a legal representative in country
  • Prepare documents for disposition of the remains in accordance with instructions from the next-of-kin or legal representative, and oversee the performance of disposition of the remains and of the personal effects of the deceased. A U.S. consular officer overseas has statutory responsibility for the personal estate of an American who dies abroad if the deceased has no legal representative in the country where the death occurred. The consular officer takes possession of personal effects, such as, but not limited to: a) convertible assets b) jewelry c) apparel d) personal documents and papers.

The officer prepares an inventory and then carries out instructions from members of the deceased’s family concerning the effects. Upon completion of all formalities, the consular officer abroad prepares an official Foreign Service Report of Death, based upon the local death certificate, and sends it to the next-of-kin or legal representative for use in U.S. courts to settle estate matters.