Death of a U.S. Citizen
Death is a difficult experience for one's family and friends no matter where it takes place. When death occurs overseas the experience can be even harder, especially if the procedures involved are not clearly understood.
American Citizen Services (ACS) is ready to assist family and friends in the event of the death of an American Citizen in Thailand. Our services include:
- Finding and notifying the Next-of-Kin of the deceased
- Acting as a liaison with Thai 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 Next-of-Kin
- Issuing a "Report of Death of American Citizen Abroad".
Notification of Next-of-Kin
The Thai authorities inform the Embassy upon the death of an American Citizen anywhere in Thailand. We then find the Next-of-Kin of the deceased and contact that person as soon as possible. There are several important things that the Next-of-Kin must do in conjunction with the ACS office. These include:
- Returning a signed and notarized "Affidavit of Next-of-Kin"
- Choosing method of disposition of remains
- Arranging payment of mortuary and related expenses in Thailand
- 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 Embassy must have a signed, notarized copy of a document called an “Affidavit of Next-of-Kin.” This form is critical because it shows us who is entitled to make the decisions regarding the deceased. Families should first fax or scan and email us a completed copy, and then mail the original.
Next-of-Kin are established in the following order:
Additionally, Next-of-Kin should fill out and sign a "Letter of Instruction" and fax or scan and email us a copy. This letter will tell us exactly how to handle the deceased's body. You can find blank copies of the affidavit (PDF 38KB) Our fax number is 011-66-2-205-4103 (02-205-4103 from inside of Thailand). Our email is email@example.com
Disposition and Repatriation of Remains
When an American Citizen dies in Thailand, the body is usually preserved until an autopsy can be performed and instructions are received from us or the Next-of-Kin regarding disposition of remains. There are normally two options regarding the disposition of remains:
- Cremation in Thailand and shipment for internment in the U.S. or other location
- Embalming in Thailand and shipment to U.S. or other location for internment or burial
We work with a funeral home here in Bangkok to ensure that the wishes of the Next-of-Kin are carried out as quickly and professionally as possible. HOWEVER, IN MOST CASES EMBALMING AND MORTUARY SERVICES IN THAILAND FALL FAR SHORT OF THE STANDARD EXPECTED IN THE UNITED STATES. A FUNERAL DIRECTOR IN THE U.S. SHOULD BE CONSULTED TO DETERMINE THE ADVISABILITY OF VIEWING THE REMAINS AND OF CONDUCTING AN OPEN CASKET FUNERAL.
Autopsies are normally performed if the deceased has died outside of a hospital or if the cause of death cannot be determined. Autopsies are performed within twenty-fours after the Thai forensic authorities receive the remains. Full autopsy reports are not available for up to three months after the completion of the examination. Autopsies are normally performed if the deceased has died outside of a hospital or if the cause of death cannot be determined. If an autopsy is not required by Thai authorities, it can often be conducted at the request and expense of the next-of-kin. Autopsies are performed within twenty-fours after the Thai forensic authorities receive the remains. Please note that full autopsy results are not available for up to three months after the completion of the examination, and that the autopsy results will likely fall far short of the standard expected in the United States.
Because of many factors, it is best not to make unchangeable plans and dates for funeral ceremonies in the United States until we can provide a firm timetable for return of remains. It takes time to perform an autopsy, to embalm or cremate the body, to prepare remains for shipment, and to prepare all the necessary documents.
Normally, it will be at least 7 to 10 days from the date of death to arrival of remains in the United States, longer if the remains are to be cremated and mailed to the U.S.
The deceased's family or legal representative must pay all funeral home expenses and shipping costs of the remains and any personal effects. Families without a personal representative present in Thailand normally set up what is called an Overseas Citizens Services Trust with the Department of State. We use the money in this account to pay expenses on behalf of the deceased. We can coordinate all aspects of mortuary services under this arrangement.
Costs listed below are estimates, based on deaths with no unusual circumstances and should be considered for guidance purposes only.
- To have remains returned to the U.S. for burial, the cost for embalming and air shipment is approximately $5000.
- The cost for cremation and air shipment of ashes is approximately $1500.
By law, the Department of State cannot carry out instructions on the disposition of the remains until we have received the required funds. There are several methods for sending money to the Department of State to set up an Overseas Citizens Services Trust. See instructions on how to Sending Money to U.S. Citizens Overseas.
There will normally be an interval of at least seven days between receipt of funds and shipment of the remains.
After all the mortuary and shipping expenses have been received and paid, we will conduct an itemized accounting of final costs and refund any balance in the trust by a United States Treasury check.
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. This may not be necessary if the deceased has a friend or family member present in Thailand 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 the United States Postal Service at the Embassy. 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, in English, 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.
This report can be issued only after the Thai authorities complete their documentation of the death. This process can take several weeks to be completed. Several original copies of the Consular Report of Death Abroad report will be sent to the Next-of-Kin. Families may order additional certified copies from the Department of State for a fee.
Families will thus receive up to three sets of documents from the Embassy:
- Several original copies of "Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad" (free)
- An original Thai Death Certificate with a translated English copy (at the family's expense)
- An original Autopsy Report with a translated English copy (at the family's expense, takes 3-4 months to complete)
For more information you may also refer to the Department of State website.
American Citizen Services (ACS)
U.S. Embassy Bangkok
95 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Telephone from outside of Thailand: 011-66-2-205-4049
Telephone from inside of Thailand: 02-205-4049
Fax: (66) 2-205-4103
U.S. Consulate Chiang Mai
387 Witchayanond Road, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
Telephone from outside of Thailand: 011-66-53-107-700 ext. 7704 or 7738
Telephone from inside of Thailand: 053-107-700 ext. 7704 or 7738
Fax: (66) 53-252-633