Death of a U.S. Citizen in the UK

We Are Here To Help

We know that the death of a friend or loved one is a difficult time so we are here to help. We can:

  • Help with forwarding personal effects.
  • Work with any funeral homes you select to ensure proper shipment documentation.
  • Act as a liaison in arranging the dispositions of remains.

Please note, the family or legal representative must pay all funeral home charges and shipping costs for the remains and personal effects.


How to report the death of a U.S. citizen in the UK

The death of a U.S. citizen overseas (resident or visitor) should be reported to the local embassy or a consulate so that a U.S. Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad can be issued. This document is necessary to settle legal and estate matters in the United States. We can issue up to 20 copies free of charge. Keep reading for information about how to report the death and request Report of Death certification.

To report the death of a U.S. citizen abroad and request up to 20 copies of the U.S. Report of Death of a U.S. citizen abroad, please complete this form (PDF 57KB) to request the Report of Death and return it to this office (address below) with the deceased’s U.S. passport and the British death certificate. The passport and the death certificate will be returned to you.

Embassy of the United States of America
American Citizens Services
33 Nine Elms Lane
London
SW11 7US

 

To report the death of a U.S. citizen abroad, request up to 20 copies of the U.S. Report of Death of a U.S. citizen abroad, please complete this form (PDF, 57KB) to request the Report of Death and email it to acsbelfast@state.gov together with any questions you have.

To report the death of a U.S. citizen abroad, request up to 20 copies of the U.S. Report of Death of a U.S. citizen abroad, please complete this form (PDF 57KB) to request the Report of Death and email it to edinburgh-info@state.gov together with any questions you have.


Guidance

Please read all this information to help you understand the options available, including approximate costs. If you have questions after reviewing this information, you can contact our Special Consular Services team. If you print this webpage, all of this information will be included.

The family or legal representative must pay all funeral home charges and shipping costs for the remains and personal effects.

Autopsies

An autopsy is mandatory in England and Wales when the death is sudden and the cause is unknown or there is reasonable cause to suspect that the deceased died a violent or unnatural death.

Cremation

Approximately 75% of deaths in England and Wales are followed by cremation. It has become the norm due to a shortage of burial plots which can make burial very expensive.

The service for cremation is the same as for a burial, other than the committal sentences. The service may take place in a church or chapel followed by a short committal service at a crematorium chapel, or the whole service can be conducted in the crematorium chapel. A crematorium service usually lasts around 20 minutes. A longer service can be arranged, which may incur an additional fee.

The Code of Cremation Practice requires that the cremation shall, wherever possible, take place on the same day as the cremation service. The coffin is always cremated with the body. The Code of Practice requires that nothing is removed from the coffin after it has been received from the chapel, and it must be placed in the cremator exactly as received.

The information below is updated tri-annually. The next update is scheduled for April 2022.

Please keep reading for information about burials, embalming, caskets, exportation (including ashes), costs, exhumation and autopsies.

Maximum Period Before Burial

British law does not place a time limit within which burial or funeral arrangements must take place. Remains are held free of charge at a public mortuary pending receipt of next-of-kin’s instructions. This can prove useful in cases where locating next-of-kin is difficult.

Embalming

There is neither a time limit within which remains must be embalmed, nor a requirement for embalming of remains for export from the United Kingdom or import into the United States.

For remains that are to be sent to the United States, please contact the receiving funeral home to resolve any doubts about embalming, particularly if relatives wish to view the remains. Please advise the funeral home or the Embassy if the body should not be embalmed for religious or other reasons.

In cases of HIV/AIDS-related deaths, or other highly contagious diseases, embalming may not always be possible. In those instances, the body must be properly sanitized for shipment.

Cremation

There is no time limit within which remains must be cremated. See above for detailed information about cremation.

Caskets and containers

Coffins/caskets and air trays are available that are suitable for cremation, local burial, or international shipment of remains.

Exportation of Human Remains

Whole remains must be contained in a zinc-lined, hermetically sealed coffin/casket or CadSeal which is a metal containment film. To facilitate the export of whole remains from the UK to the U.S., the Embassy prepares a Consular Mortuary Certificate to accompany the remains. It provides the flight details and consignee and incorporates the following documents:

i) a certified copy of the local death certificate, or the Coroner’s interim certificate when an inquest is pending;
ii) an affidavit from the funeral director stating that the remains have been properly prepared and packed for shipment;
iii) an embalming or sanitization certificate, if appropriate; and
iv) the Coroner’s “Out of England” certificate permitting the removal of the remains from the Coroner’s jurisdiction.

Exportation of Human Cremains/Ashes

Cremated remains may be exported if they are accompanied by a certified copy of the local death certificate, the cremation certificate and a statement from the crematorium or the funeral home confirming the urn contains only the ashes of the deceased. We recommend that airline passengers carrying cremated remains to the United States declare the nature of the package to UK and U.S customs, and use a non-metallic urn to allow screening. Unaccompanied cremains must be sent by air freight.

Costs

Charges shown are the average price for disposition of human remains and are based on an exchange rate of $1.30 = £1.

(a)  Local Burial

Fees include collection and transportation of remains, funeral home charges, administrative fees, cost of private burial plot near London and a brief service with no mourners present. This can only be an approximate figure as the cost of burial plots varies immensely and there are often different prices for borough residents and non-residents. Burial costs in England and Wales are extremely expensive due to limited space available at cemeteries, particularly in central London. Approximate costs range from $5,000 to $22,000.

(b) Cremation and local disposal of ashes

Fees include collection and transportation of remains, doctor’s certificates, crematorium fee, administrative fees, a brief service with no mourners present, and scattering of ashes. $3700

(c) Cremation and air shipment of ashes

As (b) above but also includes the collection of the ashes from the crematorium, packaging and forwarding to the consignee by air freight for collection from the airport. $4700

(d) Preparation and shipment of whole remains

(i)  Preparation of remains for shipment, including local collection of remains, embalming, provision and preparation of a lightweight coffin in accordance with established U.S. and international standards for shipment, administration of flight arrangements, preparation of all documentation, notification of consignee and delivery to the airport. $3,300

 (ii) Sample air freight charges (average 140 kilos weight) are based on the highest quotes provided by the four funeral homes regularly used by the Embassy so the next-of-kin are aware of the maximum they will be expected to pay.  Some funeral homes have agreements for reduced freight rates with some airlines, and those deals may be reflected in these examples.  Here are the examples of the rates to various destinations in the United States:

London to Atlanta:                             $1256
London to Chicago:                           $1295
London to Houston:                           $1288
London to Los Angeles:                     $971
London to Miami:                               $906
London to New York                          $906

The London-based funeral homes that the Embassy works with may have agreements with particular airlines. As a result, transportation costs can sometimes be less than the amounts listed above.  All of those funeral homes accept major credit cards except for American Express and Diners Club.

For deaths outside of London, an additional mileage fee is charged by most London companies to cover transport costs.

Exhumation

Applications for exhumation must be made to the British Ministry of Justice. Exhumed remains and their original casket/coffin must be contained in an outer casket/coffin for shipment. Exhumations may be carried out only before the opening of the cemetery to the public, i.e. normally at dawn, Monday to Friday. The cemetery charges a fee to open the grave. If the death occurred a long time ago or the deceased died of an infectious disease the environmental health office must also attend.

The following general information is provided to assist families in making initial decisions. Indicated costs are estimates, based on deaths with no unusual circumstances, and should be considered as guides only. These estimates also relate only to costs incurred in Scotland (inclusive of shipping). U.S. funeral home costs would be handled separately.

Both cremation and burial are popular in Scotland. Crematoria are widely available. The service for cremation is the same as that for burial, apart from the form of committal sentences. The service may take place in a church or chapel followed by a short committal service at the graveside or in the crematorium chapel. Alternatively, the whole service may be conducted in the crematorium chapel. Services can be as long or as short as the family wishes, by prior arrangement. Service requests may be made through the funeral director.

The cremation will follow immediately after the service, where possible. The Code of Cremation Practice requires that the cremation shall, wherever possible, take place on the same day as the cremation service. Without exception, the coffin will be cremated with the body. The Code of Practice prohibits the removal of anything from the coffin after it has been received from the chapel; it must be placed in the cremator exactly as received.

Maximum Period Before Burial

Scottish law does not place a time limit within which burial or funeral arrangements must be made. Remains are held free of charge at a public mortuary pending receipt of the next of kin’s instructions.

Embalming

There is no time limit within which remains must be embalmed, nor a requirement for embalming remains for export from Scotland or for import into the United States.

Next of kin are encouraged to consult their receiving funeral home to resolve any concerns about embalming, particularly if relatives wish to view the remains. Next of kin normally advise the funeral home or the Consulate General, if, for religious or other reasons, the body should not be embalmed.

In cases of HIV/AIDS-related deaths, or other highly contagious diseases, embalming may not always be possible. In those instances, the body must be properly sanitized for shipment.

Cremation

There is no time limit within which remains must be cremated.

Caskets and Containers: Coffins and caskets that are suitable for cremation, local burial, or international shipment of remains are available.

Exportation of Human Remains

Whole remains must be contained in a zinc-lined, hermetically sealed coffin/casket. To facilitate the export of whole remains from Scotland to the United States, the Consulate General prepares a Consular Mortuary Certificate which includes flight details and consignee and incorporates the following documents:

  • a certified copy of the local death certificate or the Procurator Fiscal’s interim certificate when an inquest is pending;
  • an affidavit from the funeral director stating that the remains have been properly prepared and packed for shipment;
  • an embalming or sanitization certificate;
  • a Freedom from Infection Certificate; and
  • a Procurator Fiscal’s “Furth of Scotland” certificate permitting the removal of the remains from the Fiscal’s jurisdiction, if appropriate.

Exportation of Human Cremains/Ashes: Cremated remains may be exported if they are accompanied by certified copy of the local death certificate, the cremation certificate, and a statement from the crematorium or the funeral home confirming the urn contains only the ashes of the deceased. Airline passengers carrying cremated remains to the United States should declare the nature of the package to UK and U.S. customs, and use a non-metallic urn to allow screening. Unaccompanied cremains must be sent by airfreight.

Exhumation

Applications for exhumation must be made to the Sheriff’s Office. The next of kin’s solicitor petitions the Sheriff to grant a license to exhume. Exhumed remains and the original casket/coffin must be contained in an outer casket/coffin for shipment. Exhumations may be carried out only before the opening of the cemetery to the public (i.e. normally at dawn, Monday to Friday). The cemetery charges a fee to open the grave. If the death occurred a number of years ago or the deceased died of an infectious disease, the environmental health office would also be involved in the exhumation.

Autopsies

An autopsy is mandatory in Scotland when there is reasonable cause to suspect that the deceased died a violent or unnatural death, or a sudden death of which the cause is unknown. Autopsies cannot be carried out at weekends in Scotland. In some cases this can delay the release of the body which may affect families wishing to hold a funeral service quickly for religious reasons or because they wish to leave Scotland.

Costs

Cost estimates are listed in U.S. dollars based on a May 25, 2017 rate of $1.30 = 1 British Pound Sterling. Exchange rates are subject to change.

  • Local Burial: $7,358
    Fees include collection and transportation of remains, funeral home charges, administrative fees, cost of burial plot near Edinburgh, and a brief service with few mourners present. The cost of burial plots varies immensely and can differ significantly by location. Burial costs in Scotland are high due to limited cemetery space.
  • Cremation and local disposal of ashes: $5,440
    Fees include collection and transportation of remains, doctor’s certificates, crematorium fee, administrative fees, a brief service with few mourners present, and scattering of ashes.
  • Cremation and air shipment of ashes: $6,188
    As (b) above, but also includes the collection of the ashes from the crematorium, packaging and forwarding to the consignee by air freight for collection from the airport. Many courier/airfreight companies are becoming increasingly reluctant to accept transport of ashes. It is possible for the ashes to be taken back on a flight to the U.S. as part of the hand-luggage of a family member or friend, along with the relevant documentation.
  • Preparation and shipment of whole remains: $6,430 plus shipment costs
    • Preparation of remains for shipment, including local collection of remains, embalming, provision and preparation of a lightweight coffin in accordance with established U.S. and international standards for shipment, administration of flight arrangements, preparation of all documentation, notification of consignee and delivery to the airport.
    • Sample airfreight charges (average 140 kilos weight = 308.6 pounds) are based on the highest quotes provided by the three funeral homes regularly used by the Consulate General. The quotes are provided so next of kin are aware of the maximum they may be expected to pay. However, the Consulate General has requested that the funeral homes on our list provide any available reduced air freight rates to a particular destination whenever possible. Keep in mind that these are estimates only:Edinburgh to Atlanta: $1,540
      Edinburgh to Chicago: $1,540
      Edinburgh to Denver: $1,605
      Edinburgh to Houston: $1,560
      Edinburgh to Los Angeles: $1,605
      Edinburgh to Miami: $1,540
      Edinburgh to Minneapolis: $1,495
      Edinburgh to New York: $1,515
      Edinburgh to Phoenix: $1,605
      Edinburgh to San Francisco: $1,605
      Edinburgh to Seattle: $1,605

We do not have a legal department and we cannot intervene or give advice in the private legal matters, including wills, probate and estate matters.

Probate is the court’s authority given to a person or multiple people to administer a deceased person’s estate. For guidance on probate in England and Wales, you can visit the UK government’s website. You can also call the probate and inheritance tax helpline operated by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Click here for details. 

If you require legal advice, you can find lists of some law firms on our website. Another source of information and lower cost legal assistance in the UK is Citizens Advice (a free, confidential service).

In the United States, laws governing wills, probate and estate matters vary from state to state. If your loved one passed away in the United States, you can visit usa.gov to find the U.S. Probate or Surrogate’s Court in the county where the death occurred.


Funeral homes and transportation

Embalming/Shipment and Cremation

Albin International Repatriation Limited
George Alfred Dyer House, 51 Neptune Street, London SE16 7JP
020 7313 6920 (if you are in the United States, dial 011 44 207 313 6920)
info@albininternational.com

Levertons & Sons
212 Eversholt Street, London NW1 1BD
0207 387 6075 (if you are in the United States, dial 011 44 207 387 6075)
info@levertons.co.uk

Mears Repatriation
Unit 14, Concorde Business Centre, Wireless Road, London Biggin Hill Airport TN16 3YN
0203 455 0305 (if you are in the United States, dial 011 44 203 455 0305)
info@mears.london

Rowland Brothers International
299/305 Whitehorse Road, West Croydon, Surrey CR0 2HR
0208 684 2324 (if you are in the United States, dial 011 44 208 684 2324)
info@rowlandbrothersinternational.co.uk

Porteous Funeral Directors
553 Lanark Road, Juniper Green, Edinburgh EH14 5DE
0131 453 4535 (if you are in the United States, dial 011 44 131 453 4535)
info@porteousfunerals.com

William Purves Funeral Directors Ltd
106 Whitehouse Loan, Edinburgh EH9 1RD
0131 447 5858 (if you are in the United States, dial 011 44 131 447 5858)
info@williampurves.co.uk

W T Dunbar & Sons
178-182 Morningside Road, Edinburgh EH10 4PU
0131 447 8675 (if you are in the United States, dial 011 44 131 447 8675)
dunbar.morningside@fairwayspartnership.co.uk

Important information about transportation of remains in the case of confirmed or suspected Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not require an autopsy before the remains of a person who died overseas are returned to the United States. However, depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, some countries may require an autopsy. There likely will need to be an official identification of the body.

Currently, COVID-19 is a quarantinable communicable disease in the United States. This means that 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 by calling the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 or by emailing dgmqpolicyoffice@cdc.gov. Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information. If you are working with a funeral home in the UK, please contact them for further guidance.

You can seek support from the local embassy or consulate, travel insurance provider, tour operator, faith-based and aid organizations, and the deceased’s employer.