Death of a U.S. Citizen

The Bureau of Consular Affairs will locate and inform the next-of-kin of the U.S. citizen’s death and provides information on how to make arrangements for local burial or return of the remains to the United States. The disposition of remains is subject to U.S. law, local laws of the country where the individual died, U.S. and foreign customs requirements, and the foreign country facilities, which are often vastly different from those in the United States.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs assists the next-of-kin to convey instructions to the appropriate offices within the foreign country, and provides information to the family on how to transmit the necessary private funds to cover the costs overseas. The Department of State has no funds to assist in the return of remains or ashes of U.S. citizens who die abroad. Upon issuance of a local death certificate, the nearest embassy or consulate may prepare a Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad. Copies of that report are provided to the next-of-kin or legal representative and may be used in U.S. courts to settle estate matters.

A U.S. consular officer overseas has statutory responsibility for the personal estate of a U.S. citizen who dies abroad if the deceased has no legal representative or next-of-kin in the country where the death occurred, subject to local law.  In that situation the consular officer takes possession of personal effects, such as jewelry, personal documents and papers, and clothing.

The officer prepares an inventory of the personal effects and then carries out instructions from the legal representative or next-of-kin concerning the effects.  For more information on the Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad, and other services that a consular officer can help you with when a loved one passes away overseas, see the links below.

Additional Resources

The U.S. Embassy in Kigali can assist family and friends in the event of the death of an American Citizen in Rwanda.  Please note that the death of an American Citizen, whether resident or tourist, should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, so that a Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad can be issued.  This document is necessary to settle legal and estate matters in the United States.

The U.S. Embassy in Kigali can help in:

  • Finding and notifying the next-of-kin of the deceased;
  • Acting as a liaison with Rwandan police, hospital, and mortuary authorities;
  • Arranging for the disposition and repatriation of remains;
  • Coordinating administrative and financial requirements;
  • Assisting in the collection and return of personal effects to the next-of-kin; and
  • Issuing a Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad.

Notification of Next-of-Kin

Once the U.S. Embassy receives the death notification, the Consular officer identifies the next-of-kin of the deceased and contacts that person as soon as possible.  There are several important things that the next-of-kin must do in conjunction with the Consular section.  These include:

  • Returning a signed and notarized “Affidavit of next-of-kin” (PDF 184KB);
  • Choosing method of disposition of remains;
  • Arranging payment of mortuary and related expenses in Rwanda; and
  • Arranging return of any personal possessions of the deceased.

Affidavit of Next-of-Kin and Letter of Instruction

To act on the family’s behalf, the U.S. Embassy Kigali must have a signed, notarized copy of a document called an “Affidavit of next-of-kin. (PDF 184BK)”  This form is critical because it shows who is entitled to make the decisions regarding the deceased.  Families should first fax or email a copy, and then mail the original.

Disposition and Repatriation of Remains 

When an American Citizen dies in Rwanda, the U.S. Embassy Kigali will work with a funeral home to ensure that the wishes of the next-of-kin are carried out as quickly and professionally as possible.

Return of Personal Effects

The Embassy can, in most circumstances, take charge of personal effects and possessions of the deceased if instructed to do so by the next-of-kin until other arrangements can be made.  This may not be necessary if the deceased has a friend or family member present in Rwanda at the time of death.

We will conduct a thorough inventory of any personal effects and send a copy to the next-of-kin.  We can send the family any items they wish to have returned at their expense through local mail.  Most families decide to donate items of little sentimental or monetary value (clothing, suitcases, kitchenware, etc.) to a local charity in order to avoid the large expense involved in returning these items to the United States.  The Embassy will gladly arrange for this charitable donation on the family’s behalf.

In cases where the estate of the deceased exceeds $1000, the Embassy will require more detailed legal documents, such as Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration, prior to releasing money or effects to the next-of-kin.

Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad

The Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad is an official report that provides the essential facts concerning the death of a U.S. Citizen.  It functions in much the same way as a death certificate issued in the United States and can be used to settle bank accounts, insurance policies and other estate matters.  Please note that this report can only be issued once the Rwandan authorities complete the death certificate.

Families will receive up to three sets of documents from the Embassy:

  • 20 copies of Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad (free); families may order additional certified copies from the Department of State for a fee.
  • A certified copy of the Rwandan Death Certificate; and
  • An original Autopsy Report at the family’s expense.

For more information please visit the Department of State website.