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

Disposition of Remains

The following information provides information on the laws of disposition of human remains in the Republic of Lithuania.

Lithuanian law does not place a limit on the time between death and burial. Ordinarily, interment takes place within three days of death.

If the death was accidental, or did not occur in a hospital, in order to determine the cause of death an autopsy may be performed upon the request of relatives or legal authorities at the morgue (State Forensic Medicine Service), Didlaukio 86E, Vilnius, tel:(+370 5) 278 9048. Normally, an autopsy can be performed within four hours.  The morgue prepares a medical death record.  If needed, on the basis of the medical record the Lithuanian Certificate of Death may be issued by the Civil Registrar Office at Kalinausko 21, tel: (+370 5) 212 2633.  In Vilnius, similar autopsy and embalming facilities are provided at State Pathology Center, P. Baublio 5, Vilnius, tel: (+370 5) 272 0668.  Corresponding facilities exist in other cities as well.  All are operated by civil authorities.

Fees include collection and transportation of remains, wooden casket, funeral home charges, administrative fees, burial costs and other services.  Local burial costs roughly $1800.

Cremation is available in Lithuania; there is one crematorium in the country Metalistu 3, Kedainiai, tel: (+370 347) 55560. It is also possible to transport bodies for cremation to Latvia or Poland.

Mortuary firms provide assistance in preparation for burial and cremation, caskets, facilities for public viewing, containers for shipping, hearses and other transportation to cemeteries.

Mortuary fees for preparation of the body, coffin, and transportation to the crematorium are approximately $1,200.  The cremation itself, in Kedainiai, Lithuania, costs about $500.

The documentation needed is a Cremation Certificate showing that the cremated remains are that of the deceased person and a death certificate. Some airlines do not allow cremated remains to be placed in checked luggage. Also, the airlines will not under any circumstance open an urn or container with cremated remains in it. Therefore, the cremated remains MUST be transported in a temporary container that can pass through TSA x-ray machines. This should be a container constructed of wood, plastic, cardboard or any non-lead based ceramic.

Options available to a family depend upon local law and practice in the foreign country. Certain documents are required by U.S. and foreign law before remains can be sent from one country to another. These requirements may vary depending on the circumstances of the death. Final preparation for shipment of remains is performed by mortuary firms, including preparation of the shipping container and delivery to the airport.  Human remains transported out of Lithuania must be within a coffin encased within a sealed metal container and placed in a wooden packing case adequate for overseas transport.  The coffins, metal containers, and shipping cases are all available locally.  They are prepared according to international regulations and meet the requirements for shipment out of country.  The total cost of mortuary preparation of travel coffins and the body, and air shipment to the U.S. is approximately $7000.  There will be additional costs if remains need to be transported within country prior to their departure from the capital.

To export human remains, the following documents are required:

  1. Official Death Certificate (translated).
  2. Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen (if the deceased was U.S. Citizen).
  3. Consular Mortuary Certificate. A U.S. consular mortuary certificate is required to ensure orderly shipment of remains and to facilitate U.S. Customs clearance. The certificate is in English and confirms essential information concerning the cause of death. The U.S. consular officer will prepare the certificate and ensure that the Lithuanian death certificate, affidavit of the foreign funeral director, together with the consular mortuary certificate, accompany the remains to the United States.
  4. Affidavit of Foreign Funeral Director. The U.S. consular officer will ensure that the required affidavit is executed by the local funeral director. This affidavit attests to the fact that the casket contains only the remains of the deceased and the necessary clothing and packing materials. The affidavit may also state that the remains have been embalmed or otherwise prepared.

Exhumation is only possible with a prosecutor’s order or with permission from the State Public Health Service in the place of burial.

Updated May 2018