Death of a U.S. Citizen

Death is a time of crisis for one’s family and friends no matter where it takes place. If death occurs overseas the experience can be even more traumatic, especially if the procedures involved are not clearly understood.

The American Citizen Services Unit (ACS) can assist family and friends in the event of a death of a U.S. citizen in Chile. We can act as a liaison in arranging the disposition of remains and help with forwarding the personal effects to the next-of-kin. ACS can provide names of local funeral homes familiar with local and international shipping requirements. When there is no family member or close friend in Chile, ACS can maintain close communication with the funeral home selected by the family to ensure that the family’s wishes are carried out accordingly and to ensure the proper documentation for transportation of the remains to the United States or final destination. The family or legal representative must pay for the full costs of burial services including the transportation of the remains to the final resting place.

When the Embassy learns of the death of a U.S. citizen in Chile, we will act as quickly as possible to determine the next-of-kin of the deceased and contact that person immediately. If the next-of-kin cannot be determined, we will work with Chilean authorities, the Department of State’s Passport Office, and any other resources available to locate and contact the next-of-kin.

The information below describes how Embassy Santiago can assist family or friends of a deceased U.S. citizen.

Any death of a U.S. citizen in Chile should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Santiago at (56-2) 2330-3716 or (56-2) 2330-3000 after hours, and if necessary to the Chilean Police at 133 or 134. Even if no assistance is needed, and regardless of whether the person was visiting or residing in Chile or holds dual residency, the death should be reported to the Embassy.

When reporting a death to us, if possible, please tell us the deceased person’s name, date and place of birth, passport number, date and place of death, cause of death, and the location of the remains. We also need the full name and phone number of the next of kin if available.

The Embassy prepares an official Consular Report of Death Abroad when the death of a U.S. citizen occurs in Chile. The Consular Report of Death Abroad is based upon the local death certificate and evidence of U.S. citizenship of the deceased. It is generally required in U.S. legal proceedings and to settle estate matters when a U.S. citizen dies outside the United States. The Embassy will provide the family or legal representative with 20 copies of the Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad. If you select to return your loved one to the United States, we will also issue a Consular Mortuary Certificate to allow transport.

In order to prepare the Consular Report of Death Abroad, ACS needs the following:

  • The legalized Chilean Death Certificate (Certificado de Defunción), showing cause of death
  • The Information for the Report of Death form completed by the next-of-kin to provide the information ACS needs to prepare the Consular Report of Death Abroad. Please fill out this form (15KB)
  • The deceased’s U.S. passport.
  • Any necessary transport forms, legalized – Certificado de Traslado Internacional or Certificado de Traslado Internacional de Cenizas.

Some U.S. insurance companies, other agencies, and courts in the U.S. request information about our legal authority to issue such reports. That authority is contained in 22 U.S. Code 4196 and 22 Code of Federal Regulations 72.1.

In non-emergency situations, please schedule an appointment in advance to deliver documents noted above and request a Consular Report of Death Abroad. Schedule your appointment on-line.  Select the category “Request notarial and other services not listed above.”

If in the future you find you need additional copies of the Consular Report of Death Abroad, they can be obtained for a fee. Please send a signed and notarized written request including all pertinent facts of the deceased along with a copy of the requester’s valid photo identification to the following office below. For more details on how to make a request, please visit the State Department’s Consular Report of Death page here.

U.S. Department of State
Passport Vital Records Office
44132 Mercure Cir., P.O. Box 1213
Sterling, VA 20166-1213

Chilean law requires that remains be cremated, interred, or preserved within 48 hours. Therefore, it is important that the family make difficult decisions as quickly as possible.

You have four options regarding the disposition of your loved one’s remains. You may have the remains buried in Chile or preserved and transported to another location, such as the United States. You also have the choice of cremation, and can transport the ashes out of Chile if desired.

Costs for all options will vary depending on the origin and destination of transport and the quality of casket desired. The varying exchange rate of the U.S. Dollar and the Chilean Peso will also affect these costs. Please note that all costs listed here are estimates, and are subject to change.

Preservation in Chile, Disposition in the U.S.

Traditional embalming is not allowed in Chile per Chilean Law.  Preservation of the remains up to 30 days is possible.  Should you decide to have the remains returned to the U.S. for burial, the costs would be substantial, due to the high cost of air freight and preservation. The total cost for preparation and air shipment to the U.S. is approximately $5,000 to $10,000 USD, not including costs for transport within Chile. Preparation and air shipment are carried out in accordance with the laws of and facilities available in Chile. Your loved one’s remains will need to be received in the U.S. by a licensed funeral home. You will need to make arrangements for receipt with the funeral home of your choice. We recommend that you consult with your funeral director to determine what will happen once your loved one arrives in the United States.

Burial in Chile

Should you decide to have your loved one buried in Chile, the total cost for preparation and burial is approximately $1,000 to $2,500 USD, not including costs for transport within Chile.  Refrigerated storage facilities may be limited in remote areas. Burial would usually take place within 48 hours after death.

Cremation in Chile

The cost for cremation in Chile is approximately $2,000 to $4,000 USD, not including costs for transport within Chile.

Cremation in Chile, Disposition in the US

The cost for preparation, cremation, and air shipment of ashes to the U.S. is approximately $2,500 to $4,500 USD, not including costs for transport within Chile. This amount also does not cover transport to the United States, since that depends on whether a person takes the cremated remains or a courier service is used.

Regardless of which option you choose, you will need the services of a funeral home. A funeral home will help obtain the necessary documents from the various government agencies and arrange for the preparation and transport of your loved one. Funeral homes are unable to begin work until payment is made.

Visit the TSA website for information on traveling with crematory remains.

Communicating Your Decision on Disposition of Remains

Once you, the next of kin, have made a decision, you must send us a Letter of Instruction (PDF 16 KB) to help us ensure that your wishes are carried out completely. Please scan and send via email to Santiagousa@state.gov.

We encourage you to investigate whether your loved one may have had an insurance plan that covers death abroad and/or repatriation. Sometimes people have such plans through employers, private insurance companies, organized travel groups, travel agencies, or even credit card companies. This insurance may cover the costs of the mortuary services in Chile and transport back to the United States or final destination.

The Chilean Death Certificate (Certificado de Defunción Chileno) is issued as soon as possible after the death, and must be obtained within three days. The Embassy requires the death certificate listing the cause of death. The funeral home representative will go to the Civil Registry Office (Registro Civil) in the municipality where the death occurred to obtain the certificate. For hours and locations of offices please visit http://www.registrocivil.cl/home.html.  The representative will need the passport or other type of identification of the deceased and the autopsy certification/doctor’s certificate. There is no fee for the original and the certificate can be released to anybody, not just family members.

For your loved one to be buried in Chile, Permission for a Burial (Pase de Sepultación) is required. The funeral home representative can obtain this document at the same Civil Registry Office, along with the Chilean Death Certificate.

If you want to transport your loved one’s remains to the United States, either the mortal remains or ashes, you will need a Certificate to Transport Remains (Certificado de Traslado Internacional) or Certificate to Transport Ashes (Certificado de Traslado Internacional de Cenizas). The funeral home representative can obtain this document at the same Civil Registry Office, along with the Chilean Death Certificate.

The certificates need to be Apostillized before the corresponding Chilean Authority. Please see the following link for more information. The funeral home representative can also handle this.

 

While you are free to contact any funeral home you wish, and while we cannot endorse any private business, we are aware of several funeral homes which operate nationwide and which have provided adequate services in the past:

Carrasco Hermanos Servicios Funerarios
Point of contact: Guillermo Muñoz
Address: Independencia 1619, Santiago, Chile
Phone number: 56-2-2737-7049
Website (http://www.funerariacarrasco.cl/)

De la Fuente Oyaneder Funerales
Point of contact: Gabriel de la Fuente
Address: Santa Anselma 070, La Cisterna, Santiago, Chile
Phone number: 56-2-2559-4729. Mobile: 569-9-619-3681
Email: Gabriel@delafuentefunerales.cl
Website (http://www.delafuentefunerales.cl/)

Funerales Cubillos
Persona de contacto: Juan Eugenio Cubillos Quezada       Cel- +56 9 6270-7606
Dirección: 5 Oriente 451, Vina del Mar, Chile
Correo electrónico: juancubillos7@hotmail.com

Funeraria del Hogar de Cristo
Point of contact: none
Phone number: 600 626 6500
Website (http://www.fhc.cl/)

DISCLAIMER: The U.S. Embassy, Santiago, Chile, assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the above private businesses. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the funeral directors, morticians, and other service providers.

Additionally, here is a list of funeral homes (PDF 322 KB) across Chile, which we have not necessarily had any experience with.

Many factors can affect how much time will be needed to prepare your loved one’s remains for return to the United States or burial in Chile. Because of these variables, it is best not to make final plans for ceremonies until the funeral home you are working with provides a firm timetable.

Here are some estimates of the time various steps of the process may take. We roughly estimate that the entire process may take approximately one week.

  • You can generally expect at least 48 hours from the time of death until cremation or preservation can begin.
  • The police may withhold permission to cremate or preserve for as long as necessary if they believe the death requires investigation.
  • The medical examiner may require additional time, medical documents, or investigations to determine a cause of death.
  • Preservation or cremation may take several days depending on the location of the remains and the schedule of the mortuary service.
  • Transportation by land to Santiago airport can take up to 48 hours.
  • Cremated remains properly prepared may be transported by the next-of-kin on a commercial flight.  See the TSA Website for information on traveling with cremated remains.
  • Preserved remains must be transported as cargo, and require processing by the airline. The arrangements for shipping may take as long as three days.
  • Preserved remains must be turned over to a licensed mortician at the airport in the U.S.
  • In some cases, there may be a wait for space for preserved remains on an outgoing flight.
  • The paperwork necessary from the Embassy can typically be issued within one business day once we have the proper documentation from the Chilean authorities.

Transmitting Funds

The Embassy cannot authorize any preparation of remains until the proper funds are on deposit. Therefore, it is imperative that the necessary funds and instructions be provided as soon as possible after a death occurs.

  • Direct Transfer to the Mortuary Service
    If family or friends in the U.S. will be paying the costs, the quickest means of transmission is to make payment directly to the mortuary service provider. Some providers will accept credit cards and/or Western Union transfers.
  • Sending Funds to the Embassy
    In limited cases, the Embassy may be able to accept a fund transfer and disburse it on your behalf. Please consult with the person assisting you first. Here is more information about sending funds through the U.S. Department of State to the Embassy.

The death of a loved one is a terrible blow.  Many times, family and friends find it helpful to speak with someone about their feelings, and to gain advice on how to deal emotionally with the death.  Fee-based counseling in English is available in Chile. See our list of physicians (PDF 195 KB) for psychologists.