Death of a U.S. Citizen

Austrian Procedural Formalities in the Event of the Death of a U.S. Citizen

 

What To Do First

The very first step would be to contact an Austrian Funeral Home “Bestattung.” An easy way to find an appropriate Funeral Home “Bestattung” would be with the assistance of the Austrian telephone directory http://www.herold.at. Please enter “Bestattung” and the city/town. Austrian Funeral Homes are either operated by the local government or privately.

In Vienna you may wish to contact:

Government Owned Funeral Home:

Bestattung Wien – Funeral Home
Simmeringer Hauptstraße 339
1110 Vienna
Tel.: (01) 50195-0
Fax: (01) 501 95-28509
E-mail: office@bestattungwien.at
Homepage: http://www.bestattungwien.at

Private Owned Funeral Home:

Bestattung Himmelblau GmbH
Laxenburger Strasse 24, 1100 Wien
Hietzinger Kai 5, 1130 Vienna
Währinger Gürtel 7, 1180 Vienna
Tel.: (01) 361 5000
Fax: (01) 361 5000 99
E-mail: wien@bestattung-himmelblau.at
Homepage: www.bestattung-himmelblau.at

What To Do Next

    • If the deceased was resident in Austria and local burial is desired 

The first requirement is the issuance of a coroner’s certificate. In Vienna, this document is known as the “Todesbescheinigung” and in the other Austrian provinces the “Totenbeschaubefund.” Based on this document and the passport of the deceased, the official Austrian certificate of death is issued by the Registrar’s Office (Standesamt) in whose district the death occurred. Only after the official Austrian death certificate is obtained, may arrangements for disposition of the remains be made. Please contact the American Embassy, Consular Section, tel.: 313 39-7535, regarding the issuance of a Consular Report of Death.

    • If the deceased was traveling in Austria and not a local resident and repatriation or disposition of remains is required 

If shipment of remains is desired, the American Embassy, Consular Section, tel.: 313 39-7535, stands ready to assist in every possible way.
An Austrian funeral director/mortician near the location of the remains should be informed as soon as possible so that preparation of the remains may be initiated. The mortician will advise on the deposit required for preparation and shipment. In this case too, the name and address of the funeral home in the United States where the remains are to be shipped must be provided to the Austrian mortician. The preparation of remains must be carried out in an Institute of Forensic Medicine or in a hospital. It must be emphasized that “preparation of remains” in Austria normally means preservation of the remains as required for air transport and does not necessarily mean that the remains will be suitable for viewing as Americans have come to expect. The costs of preservation vary from approximately $ 3000 to approximately $ 4000. The total cost for preparation and shipment of remains to the United States is approximately $ 7500; cremation and shipment of the urn to the United States is approximately $ 3500 (which varies from province to province).

 What To Expect

Under Austrian law, the cremated remains may not be released to a private person (except in the province of Salzburg), including the next of kin, but must either be buried locally or shipped to a cemetery, funeral home or a private person in the United States for disposition in accordance with local U.S. law. As mentioned before, the Embassy, Consular Section, can assist in returning the cremated remains to the U.S.

The preparation of remains in Austria takes from three to five working days. The whole procedure, until the remains arrive in the United States, may take from 7 to 10 working days.

It must be emphasized that Austrian morticians will not begin the process of preparation and disposition (except for local pauper’s burial at Austrian municipal expense), without payment in advance. Therefore it is essential that sufficient funds be available in Austria or obtained immediately. If next of kin or friends in Austria do not have funds readily available, one practical means of transferring funds is via Western Union http://www.westernunion.com or credit card.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs will locate and inform the next-of-kin of the U.S. citizen’s death and provides information on how to make arrangements for local burial or return of the remains to the United States. The disposition of remains is subject to U.S. law, local laws of the country where the individual died, U.S. and foreign customs requirements, and the foreign country facilities, which are often vastly different from those in the United States.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs assists the next-of-kin to convey instructions to the appropriate offices within the foreign country, and provides information to the family on how to transmit the necessary private funds to cover the costs overseas. The Department of State has no funds to assist in the return of remains or ashes of U.S. citizens who die abroad. Upon issuance of a local death certificate, the nearest embassy or consulate may prepare a Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad. Copies of that report are provided to the next-of-kin or legal representative and may be used in U.S. courts to settle estate matters.

A U.S. consular officer overseas has statutory responsibility for the personal estate of a U.S. citizen who dies abroad if the deceased has no legal representative or next-of-kin in the country where the death occurred, subject to local law.  In that situation the consular officer takes possession of personal effects, such as jewelry, personal documents and papers, and clothing.

The officer prepares an inventory of the personal effects and then carries out instructions from the legal representative or next-of-kin concerning the effects.  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