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 Kenya.  Our services include:

  • Finding and notifying the Next-of-Kin of the deceased
  • Acting as a liaison with Kenyan 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

Once we receive the death notification, 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:

  • Complete and return to us the questionnaire by emailing us a scanned copy.  This questionnaire tells us exactly how to handle the deceased’s body.
  • Returning a signed and notarized “Affidavit of Next-of-Kin”.
  • Choosing method of disposition of remains
  • Arranging payment of mortuary and related expenses in Kenya
  • 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:

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

Disposition and Repatriation of Remains 

When an American Citizen dies in Kenya, 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:

  • Embalming is permitted in Kenya.  This should only take place as soon after death as possible, but may not take place until the doctor has signed the Registration of death certificate.
  • Cremation is permitted in Kenya.  The family or their agent must instruct the mortician who arranges for legally required documentation.

We work with a funeral home here in Nairobi to ensure that the wishes of the Next-of-Kin are carried out as quickly and professionally as possible. For reference, we have a list of funeral homes in Kenya (PDF 75KB)

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 Kenya 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 Kenyan authorities complete their documentation of the death and takes several weeks to be completed.  A minimum of 20 certified copies 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:

  • 20 copies of “Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad” (free)
  • A certified copy of the Kenyan Death Certificate
  • An original Autopsy Report (at the family’s expense)

For more information you may also refer to the Department of State website.

For more information on the Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad, and other services that a consular officer can help you with when a loved one passes away overseas, see the links below.

Additional Resources