How do you register a death in France?
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Dealing with a loved one dying is difficult in any circumstances, let alone in a different country. To simplify the process as much as possible, here are the administrative procedures and legalities you need to know about when dealing with a death in France
Registering a death
In France, the death must be registered within 24 hours. Anyone can do this, but usually it is a close relative or, if the deceased died in a hospital or a care home, a member of staff will often carry out the task. A doctor must certify the death, thereafter it’s possible to register a death online, or in person or by letter at the mairie either where the death occurred or where the deceased resided. To do this, it is necessary to provide:
• Proof of identity of the person declaring the death
• Proof of identity of the deceased (passport or carnet de séjour for a UK national)
• The doctor’s signed death confirmation
The mairie will enter the death on the civil registry and provide a death certificate indicating the date, time and place (but not necessarily the cause) of death. Be sure to ask for several copies. For French nationals, the mairie will also add the date and place of death next to the deceased’s entry in the livret de famille or birth certificate.
If the person who has died in France is resident primarily in the UK, you must register the death in the France but you can also register it in the UK and access the government’s online Tell Us Once service. You will, however, need a sworn English translation of the doctor’s death certificate.
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Burials and cremations in France must take place within six working days after registering the death. Unlike in the UK, the bodies of deceased are not generally embalmed, so there is a legal requirement for them to be laid to rest rapidly. Many funerals take place just a couple of days post mortem. Authorisation must be obtained from the mairie or other relevant local authority for a burial or cremation to take place. Similarly, permission must be sought to inter ashes in an existing grave.
French funeral directors (pompes funèbres) are very efficient at organising proceedings swiftly, and offer many additional services as required.
Giving notice of a death
In France, the following organisations and bodies must be contacted within seven days of death:
• Banks and insurance companies
• If the deceased was in a civil partnership (PACS), the district court (tribunal d’instance) – within 36 hours
• Employer or job centre – within 48 hours
• Mutuelle, the French private health regime (they may also be able to help with funeral expenses depending on the cover scheme)
Within 30 days, contact:
• The tax authorities
• The lawyer (notaire) to handle the inheritance process
• Social security organisations (CPAM, la CAF)
• Utilities, television/internet and any other subscriptions
Within six months:
• You must make a declaration of succession, unless the estate left by the deceased is worth less than €5,000
• Declare the deceased’s income
• Change a joint bank account into a single personal account
• Change the owner name on the vehicle registration document (carte grise)
Repatriating a body back to the UK
In certain circumstances, it may be the wish of the deceased or their family to repatriate the body or ashes back to the UK.
To repatriate a body, you will have to instruct the French funeral directors that you want to conduct the burial in the UK. They will then need to embalm the body and arrange for a special zinc-lined coffin to transport it back home.
You will also need to:
• get a certified English translation of the death certificate
• get the French coroner’s permission to remove the body from the country
• take the death certificate on arrival in the UK to the registry office to get a ‘certificate of no liability to register’ to give to the UK funeral director
• inform the coroner in the UK if the deceased’s death was violent or unnatural
If you had a cremation in France and want to take the deceased’s ashes back to the UK, you will need:
• a certified English translation of the death and cremation certificates
• to contact the airline, if flying, to see if you can transport the ashes as hand luggage or if it has to go in the hold (you may need a non-metallic container to pass the ashes through the security x-ray)
• to fill in a standard customs form on arrival home