Death of a U.S. Citizen

Report the death of an American Citizen in Madagascar and Comoros to the Embassy in Antananarivo as soon as possible. Death reports are accepted 24 hours per day by telephone at 261-20-23-480-00 or by e-mail to AntanACS@state.gov (this e-mail is available 24 hours per day but only checked during business hours). The Embassy and the U.S. State Department can help with notification of next of kin, assist with making arrangements for shipment of the remains, provide the Consular Report of Death (used in place of a death certificate in the U.S.) and assist with the estate. Please note that the Embassy cannot pay to return remains to the United States nor to inter remains overseas, but can help receive and transfer funds to pay for these services.

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.

(1) Maximum Period before Internment

Interment should take place within 3 to 5 days. However, remains can usually be kept under refrigeration for a maximum of 15 days.

The BMH (Bureau Municipal d’ Hygiene), the Health Authority dealing with all death cases in rural areas, has jurisdiction over the place where death occurs and might issue an order or recommendation on the allowed period of time before necessary interment depending on the cause of death and the condition of the body.

(2) Embalming

Embalming consists of preparing, washing, and injecting the body with a formaldehyde solution. Embalming should be carried out within 24 hours by a doctor or the local funeral home contracted by the next of kin. If death occurs far from the capital city, embalming might not be performed adequately, in which case a funeral home in Antananarivo will have to redo it in order to meet international requirements.

(3) Cremation

The only crematorium available in the capital city belongs to the Indian community. In addition to the official authorization to transfer the remains and the written consent of next of kin (NOK), a special authorization from the Indian community representative is required before cremation is permitted. This is included in the services provided by the local funeral home.

(4) Caskets and Containers

When remains are to be shipped to the United States, they are prepared and placed in a wooden casket lined with metal to meet the requirements of the U.S. Public Health Service and U.S. port authorities. There is little demand for burial caskets in Madagascar and therefore most funeral homes use simple wooden caskets such as the ones used for cremation. Containers for human ashes are also very simple. Ornamental caskets and containers can, however, be requested from a local funeral home.

(5) Exportation of Human Remains

No Malagasy laws forbid or otherwise govern the exportation of human remains except in instances where the cause of death was due to a highly communicable disease (as defined by the BMH and the airport Health Authority).

Documents for the exportation of human remains are as follows:

1. Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad
2. Mortician’s Affidavit*
3. Consular Mortuary Certificate

* In order to obtain a Mortician’s Affidavit, there must be written authorization from the NOK regarding the disposition of remains. Additionally, a letter from a funeral home in the United States assuming responsibility for the remains upon entrance to the U.S. is also required.

Note: Individual shipping companies and airlines have their own rules and regulations concerning shipment of remains to the United States. In general, they are based on rules established by the U.S. Public Health Service.

(6) Exportation of Human Cremains/Ashes

Documents for the exportation of human ashes are as follows:

  1. Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad
    2. Cremation Certificate with an endorsement on date the cremation took place
    3. Certificate of the Contents of Urn

(7) Costs

Charges are based on the exchange rate of June 2019: $1.00 = Ariary 3700 and are subject to change.

Cost in Ariary (est.)
(a) Local interment including preparation, local transportation, casket, and permanent grave plot within the Antananarivo city limits (costs may change depending on the availability of sites for foreigners). Ar 5,300,000
(b) Cremation fee (in Antananarivo)
All preparation included.
Ar 5,660,000

(c) Preparation for shipment:

All preparation (embalming, documentation,
casket, cold storage, transport to airport):

Ar 5,250,480

 

When death occurs outside of the capital city, the remains may be transported to Antananarivo for embalming and shipment. Transportation is not included here because it varies depending on the size of the town and its distance from Antananarivo.

Prices for the above services depend on the location and the status of the body and its degradation.

Note: Before any proceedings, the estimation of cost must be approved first.

Shipment of Human Remains:
Average weight of an export-type casket with human remains is 200 kilograms for an adult and 100 kilograms for a child. Based on this estimate, costs for airfreight shipment from Antananarivo to various points in the United States are as follows:

Charges are based on the exchange rate of June 2019: $1.00 = € 0.90 and are subject to change.

ANTANANANANARIVO to: Rate/Kg+€6 Total Dollars (est.)
New York € 25+€0,05 $5473.71 (Adult)
Los Angeles € 25+€0,05 $5473.71 (Adult)
Chicago € 25+€0,05 $5473.71 (Adult)

 

In addition to the above per kilo rate, tax payment which is € 0.05 per Kilogram must be paid with the surcharge of € 6 per shipment (this is factored in to the total dollar amount).

 

Shipment of Human Ashes:
Average weight of an export-type urn with human ashes including packing material is 10 kilograms. Based on this estimate, costs of air freight shipment from Antananarivo to various points in the United States are as follows:

 

ANTANANANANARIVO to: Rate for 10 kg Total Dollars (est.)
New York € 250 $272.81
Los Angeles € 250 $272.81
Chicago € 250 $272.81

 

(8) Exhumation

Under normal circumstances, a body can be exhumed for repatriation only after 1 year and 10 days following burial. The local Mayor’s Office and the Bureau Municipal de l’Hygiene (BMH) or a representative of the Ministry of Health must authorize the reopening of the tomb. The same regulations and procedures apply as those for shipment of remains above. All of the funeral homes listed above can provide the service, but the costs will be higher than those estimated above.

(09) Local Customs Regarding Funerals, Disposition of Remains, Mourning, Memorial Services

Deaths and funerals are extremely important aspects of Malagasy culture. This is a time for friends and family to show their solidarity, friendship and love for one another. A Malagasy funeral includes a wake, a religious service, a burial in a family grave, and a memorial service. The wake is held in the home of the family before the deceased is buried. Relatives and close friends, and in many places in Madagascar the whole community, spend a number of nights prior to burial with the corpse, praying for the soul of the departed and singing. Funerals are often held at the home of the deceased or at a church chosen by the family.

Customarily, relatives, friends and communities pay condolences to the family of the deceased. The family is presented with an envelope of money (Famangiana) to show empathy.