Death of a U.S. Citizen

Death is a time of crisis for one’s family and friends no matter where it takes place. If a death occurs overseas, the experience can be even more traumatic, especially if the procedures involved are not clearly understood.

When we hear of the death of a U.S. citizen, we will endeavor to reach the deceased’s next-of-kin as quickly as possible. We make it a priority to provide the next-of-kin with all available details surrounding their loved one’s death. Please understand that when a death occurs over a weekend, most German offices, including certain police authorities, are closed. Therefore, in some cases, it might take until the next business day for us to provide the next-of-kin with additional information.

When reporting a death to us, please tell us, if possible, the following information:

  • The deceased person’s name,
  • Their date and place of birth,
  • Their U.S. passport number,
  • Their last known residence,
  • The date, place, and circumstances of death,
  • The contact information of the next-of-kin and/or any relatives (if known),
  • Whether you and/or any family members have been in contact with German police authorities.

Consular Assistance with the Death of U.S. Citizen:

Please note: In the case of the death in Germany of a U.S. citizen affiliated with the U.S. military, contact the casualty assistance office as soon as possible. For more information click here.

When a U.S. citizen in Germany passes away, the German authorities will immediately seek to inform any next-of-kin in Germany of that person’s death and offer their assistance.  If the deceased’s next-of-kin lives in the United States and there are no relatives or friends in Germany , the German authorities will contact the embassy or consulate for assistance in notifying the next-of-kin . The embassy or consulate will, in turn, contact the next-of-kin at the earliest possible time to notify them of the death and offer information about making arrangements for the disposition of the deceased’s remains.

The U.S. embassy or consulate in the consular district in which the person died is responsible for preparing the Consular Report of Death of a U.S. citizen civilian abroad.  This document is accepted in the United States as the legal equivalent of a state death certificate.

German probate courts are responsible for overseeing the disposition of any estate and/or personal effects of deceased  U.S. citizens.

Click here and go to your consular district to find a list of funeral homes with English speaking capabilities. Please note that funeral homes in Germany expect advance payment. Family members may request that the funeral home provide a written estimate of expenses before transferring the payment. The fastest and least expensive way to pay funeral fees is usually to wire the funds directly to the German funeral home via Western Union or to complete an international bank transfer. We cannot accept any responsibility for the services provided or for the fees or prices charged.

For deceased U.S. citizen tourists, the next-of-kin should consider checking to see if the deceased purchased a travel insurance policy. If such a policy exists, please contact the insurance company before making any arrangements. In these cases, the insurance company may pay for most or all of the costs to ship the remains and personal effects.

It should be noted that preparation and air shipment are carried out in accordance with the laws of and facilities available in Germany, and in some cases, the services fall short of those expected in the United States.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for guidance on repatriation of human remains to the United States.

Please note that COVID-19 is a quarantinable communicable disease in the United States and that the remains of a person who died/or is supected to have died from such disease must meet certain conditions for entry into the United States.

  •  Per German regulations, embalming should not be performed for persons who die of a quarantinable communicable disease, including COVID-19. As the CDC guidelines only permit the return of embalmed remains in a hermetically sealed casket, transportation of remains of COVID-19 deceased is not permitted at this time. Embalming can still be performed on natural deaths.

Urns, regardless of the cause of death, may be returned to the United States. Click here to find information on the rules and regulations of the Transportation Security Agency for the transport of cremated remains.

In order to assist you with legal matters that may arise as a result of the death, we will forward to the next-of-kin or legal representative the Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad. This document is in English and is normally based upon the German death certificate. It can generally be used in U.S. courts to help settle estate matters.

In some cases, the German authorities require an autopsy to be preformed in order to complete the documentation of the death.  This process can sometimes last several months. The Report of Death can only be issued after the German authorities complete their documentation of the death and the embassy or consulate has received the necessary documentation from the next-of-kin.  Certified copies of the Report of Death will be sent to the next-of-kin or legal representative and the original will be sent to the Department of State for permanent filing.

Up to 20 copies of the Report of Death, issued at the time of death, will be provided by the embassy or consulate free of charge. If additional copies are needed in the future, they can be obtained for a fee from the Department of State. Please see this link for more information.

Last Updated: October 21, 2020