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France - Death

If you are unfortunate enough to lose a family member or friend while you are living in France then the first thing you need to do is contact a doctor for the death to be certified. He/she will issue the death certificate (certificate de décès) and if there is any reason for concern the police should also be informed.

Within 24 hours of the death occurring it must be reported to the Mairie. This is usually done by one of the relatives or a representative of the family, although the undertaker might be able to do this for you. If the person has died in a hospital or retirement home then the death will be reported by the management team there. This also applies to prisons and other institutions.

There is not normally any need to hold an inquiry if the doctor certifying the death does not have any reason to suspect foul play. If they do, a death certificate and burial permit will only be issued by the public prosecutor through a court.

If you need to go to the Mairie to report a death you need to take along a certain amount of documentation. This includes your own proof of ID, the ID card/birth certificate/marriage certificate of the person who has died and the certificate of death which has been issued by the doctor.

The death certificate will provide information on where and when the death happened, but will not give details on the cause. You will receive several copies of this document as you will need to pass them on to various departments and companies. When the death has been officially registered you will then be given a burial permit (permis d’inhumer). A funeral cannot take place within 24 hours of the death occurring due to the procedures which need to be followed.

You can also obtain a booklet from the Mairie which tells you how to go about informing different authorities of a person’s death. Within a week you are obliged to inform the deceased’s employer, any life insurance companies, bank and landlord if the deceased was living in rented property. You have 30 days to notify CPAM and return the residency permit. Within 6 months you must have informed the various divisions of the tax office if the deceased was liable for any kind of taxes.

Cremations need to be authorised by the local authorities and must be requested either by a relative or by the deceased themselves in a will or handwritten letter. Ashes can be divided among family members but the funeral directors are not permitted to do this for you. The crematorium is only allowed to store the ashes for a period of three months following the funeral. If you wish to have the ashes interred in a tomb you will need to have permission from the local Mairie. If you wish to scatter the ashes you only need permission if you are taking them outside the immediate area. Ashes cannot be scattered on paths, roads or rivers.

A burial must take place within 6 working days of the funeral, not including the 24 hours that must be allowed following the death. If there are any problems with meeting this deadline you can obtain a waiver from the authorities. In order to arrange a burial you must have a burial license and a certificate which has been issued by the local authorities. A slab must cover the grave within 3 months and then a headstone can be placed on the grave.

It may be that an expat that dies in France would prefer to be buried in their home country. For this you may need the assistance of your embassy. The officials at the embassy can advise you on the correct paperwork required and the requirements needed to send the body home. A relative or other family representative must give the instruction to a local funeral home for the body to be repatriated. You may be able to get insurance to cover the cost of repatriation. A body that is being repatriated must be embalmed and contained in a special coffin that is zinc-lined and which will be sealed by the authorities when it leaves the country.

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