Authority to act as conservator
Whenever a United States citizen or national dies abroad, a consular officer shall act as the provisional conservator of the portion of the decedent’s estate located abroad and, subject to paragraphs (3), (4), and (5), shall—
take possession of the personal effects of the decedent within his jurisdiction;
inventory and appraise the personal effects of the decedent, sign the inventory, and annex thereto a certificate as to the accuracy of the inventory and appraised value of each article;
when appropriate in the exercise of prudent administration, collect the debts due to the decedent in the officer’s jurisdiction and pay from the estate the obligations owed by the decedent;
sell or dispose of, as appropriate, in the exercise of prudent administration, all perishable items of property;
sell, after reasonable public notice and notice to such next of kin as can be ascertained with reasonable diligence, such additional items of property as necessary to provide funds sufficient to pay the decedent’s debts and property taxes in the country of death, funeral expenses, and other expenses incident to the disposition of the estate;
upon the expiration of the one-year period beginning on the date of death (or after such additional period as may be required for final settlement of the estate), if no claimant shall have appeared, after reasonable public notice and notice to such next of kin as can be ascertained with reasonable diligence, sell or dispose of the residue of the personal estate, except as provided in subparagraph (G), in the same manner as United States Government-owned foreign excess property;
transmit to the custody of the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. the proceeds of any sales, 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; and
in the event that the decedent’s estate includes an interest in real property located within the jurisdiction of the officer and such interest does not devolve by the applicable laws of intestate succession or otherwise, provide for title to the property to be conveyed to the Government of the United States unless the Secretary declines to accept such conveyance.
The responsibilities described in paragraphs (1) and (2) may not be performed to the extent that the decedent has left or there is otherwise appointed, in the country where the death occurred or where the decedent was domiciled, a legal representative, partner in trade, or trustee appointed to take care of his personal estate. If the decedent’s legal representative shall appear at any time prior to transmission of the estate to the Secretary and demand the proceeds and effects being held by the consular officer, the officer shall deliver them to the representative after having collected any prescribed fee for the services performed under this section.
In addition to being subject to the limitations in paragraph (3), the responsibilities described in paragraphs (1) and (2) may not be performed unless—
authorized by treaty provisions or permitted by the laws or authorities of the country wherein the death occurs, or the decedent is domiciled; or
permitted by established usage in that country.