Death of a U.S. Citizen

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 trips abroad. One of the most important tasks a U.S. consular officer has is to provide assistance to the families of U.S. citizens who have died abroad.

When an American citizen dies abroad a consular officer will:

  • confirm the death, identity and U.S. citizenship of the deceased
  • notify the next-of-kin if they do not already know about the death
  • provide information concerning the disposition of the remains and personal effects of the deceased, and guidance on forwarding funds to cover costs
  • serve as the provisional conservator of the estate until a legal in-country representative is appointed
  • prepare documents for the disposition of the remains in accordance with the wishes of the next-of-kin or legal representative, and oversee the performance of the disposition of the remains and of the personal effects of the deceased
  • send signed copies of the Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad to the next-of-kin or legal representative, for use in settling estate matters in the U.S.

In the event of an American citizen’s death in Cambodia, the ACS section of the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh will provide assistance to the deceased’s family and friends. A consular officer will contact the next-of-kin and provide guidance concerning the local disposition of remains or repatriation of remains to the U.S. The disposition of remains is subject to local laws, customs, and facilities, which are often vastly different from those in the US. For detailed information please click here.

The cost of preparing and returning a citizen’s remains to the U.S. is high and must be paid by the family. The Department of State has no funds to assist in the return of remains. Upon completion of all formalities, the assigned consular officer will prepare an official consular Report of Death Abroad, based upon the Cambodian death certificate, and send it to the next-of-kin or legal representative for use in U.S. courts to settle estate matters. For additional details about the Consular Report of Death Abroad, including information about how to obtain a copy, please visit

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. In this case, the consular officer will take possession of the deceased’s personal effects, prepare an inventory of all items, and carry out any instructions given by members of the deceased’s family concerning the effects.

If you are in the U.S. when you learn of an American’s death overseas, you may also contact the Overseas Citizens Services 24-hour hotline at: (202) 647-5225.