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Death of a U.S. Citizen

The U.S.  Embassy in Guatemala City can assist family and friends in the event of the death of a U.S.  citizen in Guatemala.  When the death is reported to the U.S.  Embassy, a consular officer will notify the deceased’s next-of-kin of the death, offer information on options and costs for the disposition of the remains, and provide information regarding how to request a Consular Report of Death of a U.S.  Citizen Abroad (CRODA).

  • A deceased person’s next-of-kin is generally held to be their surviving spouse, child(ren), parent(s), or sibling(s).
  • Costs for preparing and returning the deceased’s remains to the U.S.  must be paid by the family.

Once a deceased person’s next-of-kin is notified of the death, there are several important things that the next-of-kin, or their legal representative, should do, as described below.

  • Processes for arranging for the disposition of remains and the deceased’s estate are subject to local law and may be quite different from what is done in the United States.  Next-of-kin may find it helpful to retain a local legal representative to help with arrangements.  See here for a referential list of local attorneys in Guatemala.

Contact a Local Funeral Home and Arrange for Disposition of Remains

Local funeral homes in Guatemala can be of critical assistance to the family of the deceased in arranging for the care and disposition of remains and the processing of paperwork related to the death.  Contacting a local funeral home as soon as possible after the death is necessary to comply with local regulations and time frames for disposition of the remains.

Please note that under Guatemalan law, if local authorities determine that there is reasonable cause to suspect that the deceased died of unnatural causes, a court order is required prior to effecting a cremation.  The local attorney may be able to help request this court order.  Alternatively, if the deceased has no legal representative or next-of-kin in Guatemala, the next-of-kin can provide the U.S.  Embassy with written authorization to request that a cremation be carried out.

See the disposition of remains report for more details, including funeral home contacts, estimated costs for services, and a summary of applicable local laws and regulations.

Request a Consular Report of Death of a U.S.  Citizen Abroad

A Consular Report of Death of a U.S.  Citizen Abroad (CRODA) is an administrative document that provides essential facts about the death, disposition of remains, and custody of the personal estate of the deceased U.S.  citizen.  CRODAs can be used in legal proceedings in the United States as proof of death.

  • CRODAs for U.S. citizens who die in Guatemala are issued by the U.S.  Embassy in Guatemala City.
  • In Guatemala, CRODAs are based on the death certificate issued the Guatemalan Civil Registry (RENAP).  A CRODA may not be issued until the Guatemalan death certificate lists a final cause of death and until there is a final disposition of remains (e.g., the name of the cemetery where the deceased was buried or until cremation is complete).

CRODAs may be requested in-person at the American Citizens Unit at the U.S.  Embassy in Guatemala City.  CRODAs are handled as a walk-in service, so you do not need to make an appointment with the embassy ahead of time.  You can come to the U.S.  Embassy during business hours (Monday through Thursday 7:00 am to 4:00 pm or 7:00 am to 11:00 am on Fridays).  You may also request a CRODA and transmit supporting documents by email at AmCitsGuatemala@state.gov and then bring the original documents once the CRODA is complete.

To request a CRODA, please come to the embassy with all of the documents listed below.  Any missing documents could cause your process to be delayed.

  1. Original death certificate from the Guatemalan Civil Registry (RENAP).
  • The name of the deceased shown on the CRODA must match the name on the deceased’s U.S.   If the name on the Guatemalan death certificate is different from the name on the deceased’s U.  S.  passport, you will be required to provide proof of a legal name change, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or original birth certificate stating the legal name change.
  1. Copy of the death report from the medical examiner’s office (INACIF – Instituto National De Ciencias Forenses de Guatemala) or medical facility.
  • INACIF is the Guatemalan agency that typically prepares the forensic death report.
  • If the deceased died in a hospital or other medical facility, the death report may be completed by a doctor instead of by INACIF.
  1. Completed form DS-2060, “Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen.”
  • This form should specify the disposition of remains, such as the name of the cemetery where the deceased is buried or that the deceased was cremated.
  1. The deceased’s most recent U.S. passport.
  • If the passport has been lost or stolen, you should provide a copy of a police report noting the theft/loss of the passport and the relevant circumstances.
  1. The deceased’s Social Security number, if any.
  • If the deceased was issued a Social Security number, it should be provided. It is not required to provide the original or a copy of the Social Security card.
  1. Copy of the next-of-kin’s valid photo ID.
  1. Proof of the next-of-kin’s relationship to the deceased.
  • This could include a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or documentation of adoption.
  • If documentation cannot be provided, the next-of-kin can fill out form DS-5511, “Affidavit for the Surviving Spouse or Next of Kin.” Form DS-5511 must be signed in front of a consular officer at the U.S.  Embassy in Guatemala City or in front of a notary in the United States, or any other U.S. consulate.  Note that the U.S.  Embassy does not accept documents notarized by a Guatemalan notary.

Make Arrangements for the Deceased’s Estate

If a U.S.  citizen dies in Guatemala without a legal representative or next-of-kin in Guatemala, a consular officer from the U.S.  Embassy in Guatemala City has statutory responsibility to secure for the personal estate of the deceased, subject to local law.  In that situation, the consular officer takes possession of personal effects, such as jewelry, personal documents, and clothing.

The consular officer prepares an inventory of the personal effects and then carries out instructions from the legal representative or next-of-kin concerning the effects.  The family or legal representative must pay all shipping costs for the personal effects.  For more information on the estates of U.S.  citizens who die abroad, see here.