Procedure and formalities following a death

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Here are listed all the procedures you must do as the partner or relative of the deceased following a death in France.

Death at home

If the deceased has been treated by a doctor during the four weeks preceding the death and has received medical care, you should contact the doctor and advise them of the death. The doctor will attend the body and issue a certificate (please note that this is not the Death Certificate). In most areas, the doctor will notify the funérarium (funeral parlour) and arrange to have the body collected. If this isn't done, you should contact your local police.

If the deceased has not been treated by a doctor recently, the local police must be contacted and be advised of the death. They will require the name and address of the deceased (have the passport and address of the deceased available as means of identification) as well as the name(s) of the next of kin.

The police will then visit the home in order to authorise the removal of the body (and, if needed, may organize an autopsy to be carried out in case of a doubt as to the cause of death).

Once the body is removed, you will be requested to visit the office of the funérarium (usually the next day), to make the funeral arrangements.

Death in hospital

If the death occurs in hospital, the next of kin may be contacted by telephone from the hospital or by the police. They will want to know where the funeral or cremation is to be held, the funeral director at the funérarium could, on your instructions, arrange for the body to be cremated. After the cremation, the ashes will be returned and if desired, a service of remembrance can be held at the funérarium.

Liasing with the funérarium

It is necessary to attend the funérarium as soon as possible after a death, in order to make arrangements for the burial or cremation. This is done by speaking to the Director and filling out a simple form of Contract. You will be asked to state whether you want a cremation or burial. In the case of a cremation, the ashes will be available for collection at some point later, so ask when this will be.

Please note that if death was the result of a road traffic accident or other situation where some criminal action may have occurred, then the body will only be released after an application has been made to the Court. This will require the intervention of a French Judge.

Be ready to supply the following documents or information at the funérarium:

  • Passport or ID of the deceased (unless the police have taken them already).
  • Passport or ID of the person (usually next of kin) giving instructions to the funérarium
  • Names of both parents of the deceased
  • Details of the place, date of birth, marital status and permanent address of the deceased in France or elsewhere.

Find out whether the funérarium are in possession of any documents that were with the deceased in hospital, such as a Passport or driving license. Any such documents should be collected at a later date from the funérarium. Normally, the passport is sent directly to the relevant Consulate for cancellation and then returned to the funérarium. However, if the passport of the deceased is returned intact to the next of kin by the funérarium, this must be sent to relevant Consulate (nearest to you) in order for the passport to be cancelled.

Burial to inter a body in a cemetery

Cemeteries are owned by the town hall that governs their area. Burials are carried out by the method of placing the coffin in a 'Niche'. A niche cannot be ordered or purchased in advance of a death and the same applies to choosing the location of the niche. At present, it cost approx 500 euros to purchase a niche.

French Priests do not attend burials at cemeteries. The usual procedure is for a memorial service to be held at the funérarium and then the hearse is carried to the cemetery for the interment.

If the deceased was a resident of France, 3 International and 3 French Death certificates are issued. However, if the deceased was a visitor to France, only 3 International Death certificates are issued.

Death registration

All deaths should be formally registered within 24 hours (Bank holidays and Sundays are not taken into account). Any person can carry out this procedure. If death happened in medical institutions (hospital, clinic, retirement home…), hospital/clinic administrators generally carry out the procedures.

Registration of death should be made at the Town Hall of the place of death.

You will need to provide the following documents to register the death and for the Death certificate to be drawn up:

  • the doctor's death certificate ; this includes a confidential clause (stating cause of death) to be transmitted to the county sanitary authority;
  • the deceased's family record book, or failing that, identity card, or copy of birth or marriage certificate.

The person declaring the death must provide proof of identity and sign the death certificate.

When the death certificate is being drawn up, you are advised to request several copies as if you subsequently discover you need more original certificates, you will have to return to the Civil Registry (or send a registered post) to order them (you may also have to explain why you need extra certificates and who has asked for them) or ask .

Once you will get the copies of the death certificates, you must then declare the death (and enclose copy of the death certificates) to different public bodies as such the Consulate, the social securitues authorities, banks, insurance companies, etc. Please consult our models of letters to carry out those declaration.

Tax declaration

A tax declaration must be submitted to the tax authorities by the beneficiaries within six months of the death of the deceased. No declaration is required where the property to declare is below 3,000 € or 10,000 € where the beneficiaries are a spouse or direct line relatives. For estates under these thresholds, ask for a certificat d’hérédité from City Hall Council (mairie).

For more substantial estates you will need to contact a notaire. If the deceased was deemed UK domiciled on death, then the notaire will require a Grant of Probate, which itself would need to be translated for use in France.

Note that in cases where the deceased’s debts exceed the value of his assets, the beneficiaries should consider refusing the inheritance in order to avoid taking on the deceased’s debts. If you think that this may be the case, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible and before you deal with any of the deceased’s property in any way, as this could be considered as a tacit acceptance of the succession. In such a case, you may be required to clear the deseased's debts.