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Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad

Death is a difficult experience for family and friends of the deceased, but deaths occurring overseas often make the experience even more difficult. The consular section attempts to ease this difficulty by providing explanations of procedures and giving the family the information to make funeral arrangements. American Citizen Services can:

  • Notify the next of kin
  • Act as a liaison between Lao police, hospital and mortuary authorities
  • Arrange for the disposition and repatriation of the remains
  • Coordinate administrative and financial requirements
  • Assist in the collection and return of personal effects to the Next-of-Kin
  • Issue a ‘Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad’

For more information, please visit the State Department’s website.

Notification of the Next-of-Kin

After the Lao authorizes have notified the Embassy of the death of an American citizen, American Citizen Services will contact the next-of-kin. The next-of-kin is established in the following order

  1. Spouse
  2. Children
  3. Parents
  4. Siblings
  5. Grandparents

Once notified, the next-of-kin must:

  • Sign and notarize an Affidavit of Next-of-Kin.  This critically important form gives the embassy legal permission to act on the behalf of the next-of-kin.
  • Complete and sign a Letter of Instruction giving instructions to American Citizen Services in regards to the family’s wishes for the body.
  • Choose a method of disposition of the remains (more details below).
  • Arrange payment of mortuary and related expenses.
  • Arrange return of any personal possessions of the deceased.

Disposition and Repatriation of Remains

Due to rudimentary storage and embalming facilities in Laos, a body can be kept in the morgue for approximately two to three days. If a relative is in Laos to purchase embalming fluid and pay a doctor to administer it, the body may be kept for up to seven days before burial. The preferred option is to transport the body to Thailand as soon as possible, where a proficient embalmer and funeral home is available. In all cases, American Citizen Services encourages families to contact an American funeral director as soon as possible to seek professional advice and coordinate with a funeral home in Thailand. Although both Lao Aviation and Thai International Airlines will transport remains from Vientiane to Bangkok, it may be difficult to process the necessary documentation in a timely manner. Normally, funeral homes in Bangkok will transport the body by land from Vientiane to Bangkok. The body is then flown to the U.S. from Bangkok. It will generally take 7-10 days after the notification of death to return the body to the United States, depending of the cause and location of the death.

If preserving the body for transport to Bangkok is not possible, cremation or burial in Laos is the best option. There are Catholic and Protestant cemeteries in Vientiane and numerous crematoriums in Thailand and Laos. Cremated remains can be returned to the United States.

You will find below the Disposition of Remains Report for Laos. This consular document describes funeral and repatriation procedures in Laos.

Financial Arrangements

The deceased’s family or legal representative must pay all expense related to the disposition and transportation of remains and personal effects. Families without a personal representative in Laos must set up an Overseas Citizen’s Services Trust with the Department of State.  American Citizen Services uses the money in this account to pay for expenses related to the wishes of the deceased’s family. Estimated Costs are:

  • Burial in Laos $500-900
  • Cremation in Laos: $600-1000
  • Shipment of body to Thailand, embalming and preparation for burial and air-shipment to US: $5000-7000
  • Morgue fees: $50/day

By law, the Department of State cannot carry out instructions on the disposition of remains until we have received the required funds. Follow the link for instructions on setting up an Overseas Citizen’s Services Trust. After the mortuary and shipment fees have been paid, American Citizen Services will create an itemized account of the final costs, and will refund any additional money with a United States Treasury check.

Return of Personal Effects

The embassy can, in most circumstances, take charge of the deceased’s personal effects, if instructed to do so by the next-of-kin. We will conduct an inventory of the effects and send it to the next-of-kin. We can ship any items the family would like returned via the US Postal Service at the embassy. Items of little monetary or sentimental value, such as clothing, kitchenware and luggage, can be donated to a local charity by the embassy if the next-of-kin wishes us to do so.

In cases where the estate of the deceased is more than $1000, the Embassy requires more detailed legal documents, such as Letters of Testamentary and Letters of Administration before 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. The report can only be issued after the Lao authorities have completed their documentation of the death, and may take several weeks to issue. American Citizen Services provides the next-of-kin with twenty free copies of the report. If necessary, families may pay for more reports.

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