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e-CFR data is current as of September 17, 2020

Title 22Chapter ISubchapter HPart 72 → Subject Group


Title 22: Foreign Relations
PART 72—DEATHS AND ESTATES


Personal Estates of Deceased United States Citizens and Nationals

§72.8   Regulatory responsibility of consular officer.

(a) A consular officer should act as provisional conservator of the personal estate of a United States citizen or non-citizen national who dies abroad in accordance with, and subject to, the provisions of §§72.9 through 72.27. The consular officer may act as provisional conservator only with respect to the portion of the personal estate located within the consular officer's district.

(b) A consular officer may act as provisional conservator only to the extent that doing so is:

(1) Authorized by treaty provisions;

(2) Not prohibited by the laws or authorities of the country where the personal estate is located; or

(3) Permitted by established usage in that country.

§72.9   Responsibility if legal representative is present.

(a) A consular officer should not act as provisional conservator if the consular officer knows that a legal representative is present in the foreign country.

(b) If the consular officer learns that a legal representative is present after the consular officer has taken possession and/or disposed of the personal estate but prior to transmission of the proceeds and effects to the Secretary of State pursuant to §72.25, the consular officer should follow the procedures specified in §72.22.

§72.10   Responsibility if a will intended to operate locally exists.

(a) If a will that is intended to operate in the foreign country is discovered and the legal representative named in the will qualifies promptly and takes charge of the personal estate in the foreign country, the consular officer should assume no responsibility for the estate, and should not take possession, inventory and dispose of the personal property and effects or in any way serve as agent for the legal representative.

(b) If the legal representative does not qualify promptly and if the laws of the country where the personal estate is located permit, however, the consular officer should take appropriate protective measures such as—

(1) Requesting local authorities to provide protection for the property under local procedures; and/or

(2) Placing the consular officer's seal on the personal property of the decedent, such seal to be broken or removed only at the request of the legal representative.

(c) If prolonged delays are encountered by the local or domiciliary legal representative in qualifying and/or making arrangements to take charge of the personal estate, the consular officer should consult the Department concerning whether the will should be offered for probate.

§72.11   Responsibility if a will intended to operate in the United States exists.

The consular officer immediately should forward any will that is intended to operate in the United States and that is among the effects taken into possession to the person or persons designated as executor(s). When the executor(s) cannot be located, the consular officer should send the will to the appropriate court in the State of the decedent's domicile. Until the consular officer knows that a legal representative is present in the foreign country and has qualified or made arrangements to take charge of the personal estate, the consular officer should act as provisional conservator in accordance with §72.8.

§72.12   Bank deposits in foreign countries.

(a) A consular officer is not authorized to withdraw or otherwise dispose of bank accounts and other assets deposited in financial institutions left by a deceased United States citizen or non-citizen national in a foreign country. Such deposits or other assets are not considered part of the personal estate of a decedent.

(b) The consular officer should report the existence of bank accounts and other assets deposited in financial institutions of which the officer becomes aware to the legal representative, if any. The consular officer should inform the legal representative of the procedures required by local law and the financial institution to withdraw such deposits, and should provide a list of local attorneys in the event counsel is necessary to assist in withdrawing the funds.

(c) A consular officer must not under any circumstances withdraw funds left by a deceased United States citizen or non-citizen national in a bank or financial institution in a foreign country without express approval and specific instructions from the Department.

§72.13   Effects to be taken into physical possession.

(a) A consular officer normally should take physical possession of articles such as the following:

(1) Convertibles assets, such as currency, unused transportation tickets, negotiable evidence of debts due and payable in the consular district, and any other instruments that are negotiable by the consular officer;

(2) Luggage;

(3) Wearing apparel;

(4) Jewelry, heirlooms, and articles generally by sentimental value (such as family photographs);

(5) Non-negotiable instruments, which include any document or instrument not negotiable by the consular officer because it requires either the signatures of the decedent or action by, or endorsement of, the decedent's legal representative. Nonnegotiable instruments include, but are not limited to, transportation tickets not redeemable by the consular officer, traveler's checks, promissory notes, stocks, bonds or similar instruments, bank books, and books showing deposits in building and loan associations, and

(6) Personal documents and papers.

(b) All articles taken into physical possession by a consular officer should be kept in a locked storage area on post premises. If access to storage facilities on the post premises cannot be adequately restricted, the consular officer may explore the possibility of renting a safe deposit box if there are funds available in the estate or from other sources (such as the next of kin).

§72.14   Nominal possession; property not normally taken into physical possession.

(a) When a consular officer take articles of a decedent's personal property from a foreign official or other persons for the explicit purpose of immediate release to the legal representative such acton is not a taking of physical possession by the officer. Before releasing the property, the consular officer must require the legal representative to provide a release on the form prescribed by the Department discharging the consular officer of any responsibility for the articles transferred.

(b) A consular officer is not normally expected to take physical possession of items of personal property such as:

(1) Items of personal property found in residences and places of storage such as furniture, household effects and furnishings, works of art, and book and wine collections, unless such items are of such nature and quantity that they can readily be taken into physical possession with the rest of the personal effects;

(2) Motor vehicles, airplanes or watercraft;

(3) Toiletries, such as toothpaste or razors;

(4) Perishable items.

(c) The consular officer should in his or her discretion take appropriate steps permitted under the laws of the country where the personal property is located to safeguard property in the personal estate that is not taken into the officer's physical possession including such actions as:

(1) Placing the consular officer's seal on the premises or on the property (whichever is appropriate);

(2) Placing such property in safe storage such as a bonded warehouse, if the personal estate contains sufficient funds to cover the costs of such safekeeping; and/or

(3) If property that normally would be sealed by the consular officer is not immediately accessible, requesting local authorities to seal the premises or the property or otherwise ensure that the property remains intact until consular seals can be placed thereon, the property can be placed in safe storage, or the legal representative can assume responsibility for the property.

(d) the consular officer may decide in his or her discretion to discard toiletries and perishable items.

§72.15   Action when possession is impractical.

(a) A consular officer should not take physical possession of the personal estate of a deceased United States citizen or non-citizen national in his or her consular district when the consular officer determines in his or her discretion that it would be impractical to do so.

(b) In such cases, the consular officer must take action that he or she determines in his or her discretion would be appropriate to protect t the personal estate such as:

(1) Requesting the persons, officials or organizations having custody of the personal estate to ship the property to the consular officer, if the personal estate contains sufficient funds to cover the costs of such shipment; or

(2) Requesting local authorities to safeguard the property until a legal representative can take physical possession.

§72.16   Procedure for inventorying and appraising effects.

(a) After taking physical possession of the personal estate of a deceased United States citizen or non-citizen national, the consular officer should promptly inventory the personal effects.

(b) If the personal estate taken into physical possession includes apparently valuable items, the consular officer may, in his or her discretion, seek a professional appraisal for such items, but only to the extent that there are funds available in the estate or from other sources (such as the next of kin) to cover the cost of appraisal.

(c) The consular officer must also prepare a list of articles not taken into physical possession, with an indication of any measures taken by the consular office to safeguard such items for submission with the inventory of effects.

§72.17   Final statement of account.

The consular officer may have to account directly to the parties in interest and to the courts of law in estate matters. Consequently, the officer must keep an account of receipts and expenditures for the personal estate of the deceased, and must prepare a final statement of account when turning over the estate to the legal representative, a claimant, or the Department.

§72.18   Payment of debts owed by decedent.

The consular officer may pay debts of the decedent which the consular officer believes in his or her discretion are legitimately owed in the country in which the death occurred, or in the country in which the decedent was residing at the time of death, including expenses incident to the disposition of the remains and the personal effects, out of the convertible assets of the personal estate taken into possession by the consular officer.

§72.19   Consular officer is ordinarily not to act as administrator of estate.

(a) A consular officer is not authorized to accept appointment from any foreign state or from a court in the United States and/or to act as administrator or to assist (except as provided in §§72.8 to 72.30) in administration of the personal estate of a United States citizen or non-citizen national who has died, or was residing at the time of death, in his or her consular district, unless the Department has expressly authorized the appointment. The Department will authorize such an appointment only in exceptional circumstances and will require the consular officer to execute bond consistent with 22 U.S.C. 4198 and 4199.

(b) The Department will not authorize a consular officer to serve as an administrator unless:

(1) Exercise of such responsibilities is:

(i) Authorized by treaty provisions or permitted by the laws or authorities of the country where the United States citizen or national died or was domiciled at the time of death; or

(ii) Permitted by established usage in that country; and

(2) The decedent does not have a legal representative in the consular district.

§72.20   Prohibition against performing legal services or employing counsel.

A consular officer may not act as an attorney or agent for the estate of a deceased United States citizen or non-citizen national overseas or employ counsel at the expense of the United States Government in taking possession and disposing of the personal estate of a United States citizen or non-citizen national who dies abroad, unless specifically authorized in writing by the Department. If the legal representative or other interested person wishes to obtain legal counsel, the consular officer may furnish a list of attorneys.

§72.21   Consular officer may not assume financial responsibility for the estate.

A consular officer is not authorized to assume any financial responsibility or to incur any expense on behalf of the United States Government in collecting and disposing of the personal estate of a United States citizen or national who dies abroad. A consular officer may incur expenses on behalf of the estate only to the extent that there are funds available in the estate or from other sources (such as the next of kin).

§72.22   Release of personal estate to legal representative.

(a) If a person or entity claiming to be a legal representative comes forward at any time prior to transmission of the decedent's personal estate to the Secretary of State under 22 CFR 72.25, the consular officer may release the personal estate in his or her custody to the legal representative provided that:

(1) The legal representative presents satisfactory evidence of the legal representative's right to receive the estate;

(2) The legal representative pays any fees prescribed for consular services provided in connection with the disposition of remains or protection of the estate (see 22 CFR 22.1);

(3) The legal representative executes a release in the form prescribed by the Department; and

(4) The Department approves the release of the personal estate.

(b) Satisfactory evidence of the right to receive the estate may include:

(1) In the case of an executor, a certified copy of letters testamentary or other evidence of legal capacity to act as executor;

(2) In the case of an administrator, a certified copy of letters of administration or other evidence of legal capacity to act as administrator;

(3) In the case of the agent of an executor or administrator, a power of attorney or other document evidencing agency (in addition to evidence of the executor's or administrator's legal capacity to act).

§72.23   Affidavit of next of kin.

If the United States citizen or non-citizen national who has died abroad did not leave a will that applies locally, and the personal estate in the consular district consists only of clothing and other personal effects that the consular officer concludes in his or her discretion is worth less than $2000 and/or cash of a value equal to or less than $2000, the consular officer may decide in his or her discretion to accept an affidavit from the decedent's next of kin as satisfactory evidence of the next of kin's right to take possession of the personal estate. The Department must approve any release based on an affidavit of next of kin where the consular officer concludes that the personal estate effects are worth more than $2000 and/or the cash involved is of a value more than $2000 and generally will consider approving such releases only in cases where state law prohibits the appointment of executors or administrators for estates that are valued at less than a specified amount and the law of the foreign country where the personal property is located would not prohibit such a release.

§72.24   Conflicting claims.

Neither the consular officer nor the Department of State has the authority or responsibility to mediate or determine the validity or order of contending claims to the personal estate of a deceased United States citizen or non-citizen national. If rival claimants, executors or administrators demand the personal estate in the consular officer's possession, the officer should not release the estate to any claimant until a legally binding agreement in writing has been reached or until the dispute is settled by a court of competent jurisdiction, and/or the Department has approved the release.

§72.25   Transfer of personal estate to Department of State.

(a) If no claimant with a legal right to the personal estate comes forward, or if conflicting claims are not resolved, within one year of the date of death, the consular officer should sell or dispose of the personal estate (except for financial instruments, jewelry, heirlooms, and other articles of obvious sentimental value) in the same manner as United States Government-owned foreign excess property under Title IV of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (40 U.S.C. 511 et seq.). If, however, a reasonable amount of additional time is likely to permit final settlement of the estate, the consular officer may in his or her discretion postpone the sale for that period of additional time.

(b) The consular officer should send to the custody of the Department the proceeds of any sale, together with all financial instruments (including bonds, shares of stock and notes of indebtedness), jewelry, heirlooms and other articles of obvious sentimental value, to be held in trust for the legal claimant(s).

(c) After receipt of a personal estate, the Department may seek payment of all outstanding debts to the estate as they become due, may receive any balances due on such estate, may endorse all checks, bills of exchange, promissory notes, and other instruments of indebtedness payable to the estate for the benefit thereof, and may take such other action as is reasonably necessary for the conservation of the estate.

§72.26   Vesting of personal estate in United States.

(a) If no claimant with a legal right to the personal estate comes forward within the period of five fiscal years beginning on October 1 after the consular officer took possession of the personal estate, title to the personal estate shall be conveyed to the United States, the property in the estate shall be under the custody of the Department, and the Department may dispose of the estate under as if it were surplus United States Government-owned property under title II of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (40 U.S.C. 4811 et seq. or by such means as may be appropriate as determined by Department in its discretion in light of the nature and value of the property involved. The expenses of sales shall be paid from the estate, and any lawful claim received thereafter shall be payable to the extent of the value of the net proceeds of the estate as a refund from the appropriate Treasury appropriations account.

(b) The net cash estate shall be transferred to the miscellaneous receipts account of the Treasury of the United States.

§72.27   Export of cultural property; handling other property when export, possession, or import may be illegal.

(a) A consular officer should not ship, or assist in the shipping, of any archeological, ethnological, or cultural property, as defined in 19 U.S.C. 2601, that the consular officer is aware is part of the personal estate of a United States citizen or non-citizen national to the United States in order to avoid conflict with laws prohibiting or conditioning such export.

(b) A consular officer may refuse to ship, or assist in the shipping, of any property that is part of the personal estate of a United States citizen or non-citizen national if the consular officer has reason to believe that possession or shipment of the property would be illegal.

§72.28   Claims for lost, stolen, or destroyed personal estate.

(a) The legal representative of the estate of a decreased United States citizen or national may submit a claim to the Secretary of State for any personal property of the estate with respect to which a consular officer acted as provisional conservator, and that was lost, stolen, or destroyed while in the custody of officers or employees of the Department of State. Any such claim should be submitted to the Office of Legal Adviser, Department of State, in the manner prescribed by 28 CFR part 14 and will be processed in the same manner as claims made pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 2669-1 and 2669 (f).

(b) Any compensation paid to the estate shall be in lieu of the personal liability of officers or employees of the Department to the estate.

(c) The Department nonetheless may hold an officer or employee of the Department liability to the Department to the extent of any compensation provided to the estate. The liability of the officer or employee shall be determined pursuant to the Department's procedures for determining accountability for United States government property.

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