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 reporting a death to us, please tell us, if possible the deceased person’s name, date and place of birth, passport number, last known residence and the date, place and circumstances of death. If known, please also provide us with the name, address, and telephone number(s) of the next-of-kin and/or any relatives. We also find it helpful to know whether you and/or any family members have been in contact with German police authorities.
When we hear of the death of an American citizen, we will determine as quickly as possible how to reach the deceased’s next-of-kin. 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.
Deaths of American Citizens Residing in Germany
When an American citizen residing in Germany passes away, the German authorities will immediately seek to ascertain whether the next-of-kin is also a German resident. If the next-of-kin resides in Germany, the German authorities will inform that person of the death and offer their assistance. The German authorities will also seek to locate other family members and/or close friends living in Germany to inform them of the death. If the deceased’s next-of-kin lives in the United States and there are no relatives or friends in Germany who agree to notify the next-of-kin, the German authorities will contact the Consulate and pass along all relevant information. The Consulate, will in turn, contact the next-of-kin at the earliest possible time to notify him/her of the death and offer information about making arrangements for the disposition of the deceased’s remains. German probate courts are responsible for overseeing the disposition of any estate and/or personal effects of deceased American citizens who were residents of Germany.
Deaths of American Citizen Travelers
If the deceased American citizen is traveling alone, the Consulate will gather all information on the circumstances of the death and ensure that the personal effects are safeguarded until the next-of-kin can be reached. If a relative or friend is traveling with the deceased American, the Consulate will inquire whether the next-of-kin is willing to provide this person with a power of attorney, thereby facilitating the quick return of the remains and any personal effects to the United States. If the Consulate is unable to identify the next-of-kin or other appropriate legal representative, we will take charge of the personal effects of the deceased and compile an inventory.
Disposition of Remains
It is unfortunate at this sad time that we must immediately call your attention to the urgent need of making necessary arrangements relating to the disposition of the deceased’s remains.
German law requires disposition of remains (either burial or cremation) within 96 hours unless the remains are to be shipped outside the country. 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. The following paragraphs explain the disposition options available in Germany.
Burial in Germany
Should you decide to have the burial take place in Germany, the consular officer and local officials will take every possible care to follow your wishes as to ceremony and site of burial.
Return of Remains to the United States
Should you decide to have the remains returned to the U.S. for burial, the costs will be greater due to the additional cost of airfreight and embalming. The total cost for preparation and air shipment to the United States could amount up to EUR 10,000. The cost for cremation and air shipment of ashes is approximately EUR 3,800.
For deceased American 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.
We should point out 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.
CDC requirements for importing human remains depend upon if the body has been embalmed, cremated, or if the person died from a quarantinable communicable disease.
At this time, COVID-19 is a quarantinable communicable disease in the United States and the remains must meet the standards for importation found in 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 71.55 and may be cleared, released, and authorized for entry into the United States only under the following conditions:
- The remains are cremated; OR
- The remains are properly embalmed and placed in a hermetically sealed casket; OR
- The remains are accompanied by a permit issued by the CDC Director. The CDC permit (if applicable) must accompany the human remains at all times during shipment.
- Permits for the importation of the remains of a person known or suspected to have died from a quarantinable communicable disease may be obtained through the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine by calling the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 or emailing email@example.com.
Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information.
Click here to find information on the rules and regulations of the Transportation Security Agency.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, transportation of remains from Germany to the United States faces exceptional difficulties. 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, however very few airlines are able to transport a casket at this time due to the limited number of flights and space on planes. Urns, regardless of the cause of death, may be returned to the United States, but again, airline capacities are currently limited. Next of kin facing difficulty in the return of urns may wish to work with the appointed German funeral home to keep the urn until the transportation situation improves.
Click here for a list of funeral homes in your consular district with English speaking capabilities. We cannot accept any responsibility for the services provided or for the fees or prices charged.
Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad
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 designated person up to 20 copies of the Report of Death of an American 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.
As the Report of Death can only be issued after the German authorities complete their documentation of the death, it usually takes approximately two weeks to issue the Report. Certified copies will be sent to the next-of-kin 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 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 the link below for detailed information.