What to do when someone dies
1. Register the death
- First contact should be a doctor, who will sign the Death Certificate.
- A declaration de decès will need to be made at the Mairie (town hall) in the commune where death occurred. If the person died in hospital, the hospital will notify the Mairie. If death occurred at home, the undertaker may do this for you. The Mairie can issue a multi-lingual copy of the Death Certificate if appropriate (Formule Plurilingue de l'Acte de Décès). This could be helpful if the estate is to be settled in a country other than France.
Once the death has been registered by the Mairie, the burial permit (permit d'inhumer) will be issued. It is advisable to obtain several original copies of all certificates as these will be needed by the undertaker, French Social Security, health insurers, pension providers and those dealing with the estate.
2. Contact an undertaker
An undertaker (Pompes Funèbres) will take care of the body and make arrangements for the actual burial or cremation. Under the 'six day rule', French Law requires that a funeral take place within a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of six days, although this may be extended by the Prefet in exceptional circumstances. Sundays and bank holidays are not counted. It is important that the coffin is sealed (by legal authorities) and identity verified before the funeral.
After death, the body may be transported to either a mortuary, or home location.
Burial can take place in a cemetery with the Mairie's permission. It may be possible to reserve a burial plot by applying to the local Mairie.
Cremation – In Aquitaine there are crematoria at Agen, Bordeaux, Bergerac, Périgueux and Tonneins. The ashes will be given to the family in an urn. If they are to be repatriated, the Crematorium must be advised, as the urn must be sealed appropriately. Most cemeteries have areas set aside for the burial of ashes. They may not be scattered on in public areas, roads or rivers.
Repatriation of a Body
Should you wish to return a body to the country of origin, this can be arranged (by an International Pompes Funèbres) but is likely to be very expensive. For repatriation to the United Kingdom, the British Consulate in Bordeaux (05 57 22 21 10) can give appropriate information.
3. Contact the Chaplaincy of Aquitaine
Before you agree to the date or time of a service, please telephone either the Assistant Chaplain: Revd Gill Strachan (05 53 58 12 58) or Chaplaincy secretary: Amy Owensmith (06 07 04 07 77), who will find a priest or other appropriate person to take the service. The person who will take the funeral service will help you to plan it. (The fee is 250€ + travel.) Music, hymns, readings, tributes, eulogy can be included according to the wishes of the family. We can usually help with support and follow-up care for the bereaved person.
Bank Access, Inheritance Issues, and the Will. A lawyer, notaire, should be contacted as soon as possible to help ensure access to bank accounts. Penalties are levied if the process of settling an estate takes too long.To find an English-speaking notaire go to www.notaires.fr and click on the Union Jack flag for English.
The Newspaper Connexion France has published various helpful guides which you can download for 7.50 € from this link: http://tinyurl.com/yahj99m or order by post for 9.50 € by phoning:
Tel from France: 0800 91 77 56 (Free Number), Tel from UK: 0844 256 9881 (4p/mn)
4. Planning for a Funeral in France
As funerals in France are organised quickly, we have compiled a form to use to help you think through your wishes, to leave a record for family and friends, so that their task is easier.
Do remember to ensure that if you have any important wishes about your funeral or estate, they are properly recorded in your will.
The information recorded on this leaflet should be stored with your private papers, or kept with your will.
Please contact any member of clergy if you wish to discuss any aspect of funeral preparation.