Death of a U.S. Citizen

The American Citizen Services Unit (ACS) at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv can assist family and friends in the event of the death of a U.S. citizen in Ukraine.  The ACS unit can act as liaison in arranging the disposition of remains and help with forwarding personal effects.  The family or legal representative must pay all funeral home charges, shipping costs for the remains and personal effects (if applicable).  The ACS unit will work with the funeral home selected by the family to ensure proper documentation for shipment of remains to the United States.

Even if no assistance is needed in making funeral arrangements, the death of a U.S. citizen, whether resident or tourist in Ukraine, should be reported to the ACS unit so that a Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad (CRDA) can be issued.  This document is necessary to settle legal and estate matters in the United States. For information on how to obtain a CRDA, click here.

Reporting the Death of a U.S. Citizen

The death of a U.S. citizen in Ukraine should be reported immediately to local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.  During working hours, please call the American Citizen Services Unit at +38-044-521-5566.  After hours, please call the Embassy Duty Officer at +38-044-521-5000. When reporting a death, please be prepared to give us as much information as possible, including the individual’s name, date and place of birth, passport number, date and place of death, cause of death, and location of the remains.  We also need the name and phone number of the Next of Kin, if available.  Please give us your own name and contact information, particularly a phone number, so that we can contact you if we need more information.

Next of Kin

When we learn of the death of a U.S. citizen, we will notify the deceased’s Next of Kin by telephone as soon as possible.  In some situations it may not be possible to immediately determine the Next of Kin; for example, if an individual dies in a car accident without ID.  In these situations, we will work with local authorities, the Department of State, and other available resources to locate and inform the Next of Kin.

Generally, the Next of Kin is the individual’s spouse, adult children, parent(s), or siblings.  We seek to carry out the wishes of the Next of Kin regarding disposition of the remains and any personal property.  We will generally ask the Next of Kin to fill out, notarize, and return to us an Affidavit of Surviving Spouse or Next of Kin (PDF 185 KB). A faxed or scanned copy is fine, but we do ask that you return this as soon as possible.  Please indicate in writing on that Affidavit or in a separate letter whether you do not mind an autopsy be performed in order to verify the cause of death. Also, please indicate if you want to appoint a representative who will deliver your wishes to the U.S. Embassy on your behalf. This Affidavit does not take the place of a will, but it will assist us in carrying out your wishes.  In some circumstances, probate may be necessary to determine the final disposition of the deceased’s estate, including effects, property, and funds.

Disposition of Remains

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 relate only to costs incurred in Ukraine (inclusive of shipping).  U.S. funeral home costs would be handled separately.  All of these costs must be paid by the deceased’s family.  Once the next of kin makes a decision regarding disposition of remains, we ask that he or she send us a letter of instruction to ensure that his or her wishes are carried out.

A. Maximum Period before Burial

There is no specific time limit for burial and, as long as the remains have been embalmed, burial may be delayed for a reasonable period upon request.  Local morticians, however, prefer to embalm within 48 hours of death.  The fee for refrigerated storage of remains varies from region to region.  The average cost is between $20 and $50 per day.  Not every town in Ukraine has refrigerated storage facilities.  In some cases, it may be necessary to transport the remains to another location in Ukraine before they are embalmed.  Transportation costs vary greatly.  If remains are involved in a criminal investigation, embalming may be delayed until law enforcement officials have given permission for it to take place.

B. Embalming

Mortuaries are available in most major hospitals and regional centers.  These mortuaries generally have adequate facilities for storage and embalming.  Mortuaries in smaller cities and towns may be inadequate.  Mortuaries are state-operated facilities that provide most of the actual required services for the embalming and preparation of the remains.

C. Cremation

Ukrainian law permits cremation upon request of the next of kin or if requested in the deceased’s will.  There are three crematoria in Ukraine, located in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa.

D. Caskets and Containers

Caskets available locally normally meet the requirements for shipment out of the country.

E. Exportation of Remains

The U.S. Embassy generally cannot directly arrange the preparation or transportation of remains to the United States.  Usually, a Ukrainian funeral home makes these arrangements, especially when there is no relative or legal representative present in Ukraine.  Remains shipped from Ukraine must be in a hermetically sealed zinc casket, which is then placed inside a wooden shipping crate.  Zinc caskets and crates are generally available through local funeral homes, though zinc caskets may not be available in some smaller towns and rural areas; in such cases, a casket can be shipped from Kyiv or another nearby city.  The zinc casket or urn must be sealed by a Ukrainian customs official, who will certify there are no illegal items in the casket.  Shipping of remains from Ukraine is not possible without this certification.

F. Costs

Autopsy fees can be as high as $200 under normal circumstances.  If additional tests are required (such as in the case of a death under suspicious circumstances), the costs can be higher, and the costs of these tests are borne by the next of kin; these fees vary depending on the tests required and could be as high as $700.

  • Embalming fees vary from city to city, but typically range from $100 to $200.
  • Local interment costs approximately $200. Local burial may be arranged through a local funeral home.  Burials are normally permitted only in the deceased’s place of residence.  If the next of kin requests burial at another location in Ukraine, permission must first be obtained from the central mortuary office (a government body) in Kyiv.
  • Wooden inner-caskets range from about $50 (for the least expensive) up to $12,000 or more.  The price of a zinc casket typically ranges from $250 to $400, while shipping crates range in price from $50 to $200.
  • Cremation costs approximately $200. Additional costs in case of cremation can include cost of the urn, storage of remains at crematorium, rent of facilities, etc., which could amount to another $200.
  • Shipment of a casket (based on a casket weight of 200 kg) can vary between $1,700 and $2,500. Exact costs costs of shipping remains to the United States vary depending on the air carrier and the destination.  Major European carriers, including British Airways, Air France-KLM, and Lufthansa, offer service to their European hubs with connecting flights to the United States. While no U.S. carrier currently offers service between the United States and Ukraine, Ukraine International Airlines operates direct flights to New York’s JFK airport and is willing to transport human remains.
  • Shipment of an urn can vary between $300 and $400. Please note that an urn may be shipped only as airline cargo, as Ukrainian law prohibits sending human remains through the postal system.

Please note that local funeral homes generally will not begin preparation of remains until payment for their services has been received.  Therefore, it is imperative that these funds are sent as soon as possible after the death occurs.  The fastest method to send funds is via direct transfer to the funeral home.  As an alternative, the family may wire money to the Department of State, which will then authorize the Embassy to use the money for costs associated with preparation and disposition of remains.  Please contact the American Citizen Services Unit for instructions on utilizing this service. 

G. Exhumation and Shipment

According to Ukrainian regulations, exhumation should be performed during winter, not earlier than one year after interment if buried in sandy soil, or not earlier than three years if buried in wet or clay soil.  Exceptions can be made in cases of violent death at the request of the local law enforcement.

To request exhumation an applicant must present a medical report of death, permission from the local sanitary-epidemiological authority, and permission from the local council.  Exhumation is conducted in the presence of a medical professional retained by whoever requested the exhumation.

The procedures in paragraph E, above, apply to the shipment of disinterred remains to the U.S.

H. Autopsies

Ukrainian law requires that an autopsy be performed before a certificate of death is issued in cases of violent death, death under suspicious circumstances, death in a medical facility, or death outside a medical facility when medical history is not available. The next of kin may, however, request a waiver of this requirement.  Local authorities will often request confirmation from the Embassy that an autopsy is not desired; Embassy practice is to inform local authorities that the Embassy endorses the decision of the next of kin.  Note that applying for a waiver may delay the preparation of remains for either local burial or transportation to the United States.  Also, unless the cause of death is obvious, an autopsy waiver will usually result in the Ukrainian death certificate listing the cause of death as unknown.

Please note that, in accordance with Ukrainian law, under certain circumstances local authorities might still need to perform an autopsy regardless of the family’s wishes.

I. Remarks

Death Certificate: Whether the next of kin wishes local burial or repatriation of remains to the United States, a death certificate must be obtained from the local registrar by submitting a medical cause of death report (issued by the mortuary) and the deceased’s passport.  The funeral home selected by the family may be able to assist in obtaining the death certificate.

Personal Effects: If the deceased has no next of kin or designated representative in Ukraine, the Embassy will collect his or her personal belongings for safekeeping. We will work with the next of kin to send this property to the family, or to otherwise dispose of it according to the family’s wishes.  Again, all costs of shipping personal effects to the United States must be borne by the family.

 

This report was last updated in November, 2017