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Dieing in France.


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As one staggers to their three score and ten, questions arise regarding what does happen here in France, when the time comes to dispose of one's mortal remains. What is the routine that you go through to report a death and arrange a funeral? What are the average costs of cremation etc? If anyone can link me to any web site appertaining to the above (In English if possible!) I would be very grateful!


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My goodness Clair, that was a quick response. Three minutes exactly! You must live alongside of your computer!

But thank you, it has all the informatkion that one would need. No mention of costs, but no doubt the undertakers will provide the bill, most likely in advance, if my knowledge of France is correct!


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[quote user="Philouis"]... No mention of costs, but no doubt the undertakers will provide the bill, most likely in advance, if my knowledge of France is correct[/quote]

There has been recent legislation regarding the costs associated with death, cremation and burials:

http://www.lefigaro.fr/patrimoine/2008/12/11/... obseques-le-parlement-modifie-la-legislation-funeraire (in google English HERE)

More info HERE (in google English HERE).

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We talked a while ago about having a section on dying in France. Would it be possible to put Clair's info sites together under health or something? I have put them in favourites, but so many of us feel able to turn to this forum about so many things we need help and guidance on, this one would be a great boon.

Thanks, Jo

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[quote user="sweet 17"]

Fab lights and stocking, Clair

BTW, got the Clairette de Die in (under €10 per 2 bottles).  So, and I know you like this drink,  here's to you, Clair!

And thank you for all your help throughout the year. 


Cheers Sweet! . You're a
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when I became a pensioner last year I decided to make a little folder with all the info my dear sons may need when I die. I have also put away money for my funeral . It's the least I can do. I can't think of anything more horrid than parent dying and have to get them disposed of quickly in a foriegn contry. I have found this useful, and acknowledge it comes from Anglo Info,

Death & Dying in France

Information on what to do if someone dies in France and how and where to report the death. Also how to arrange a burial in a French cemetery; a cremation, and where you may scatter ashes. Plus how to repatriate the body of the deceased to their home.

In the event of a death of a family member, friend or relative in France the first thing to do is to contact the local doctor who will certify the death and issue a medical certificate of death (certificat de décès). If the death has occurred in suspicious circumstances or it is that of a stranger it should be reported to the police (Tel: 15).

The death must be reported to the local town hall (Mairie) in the locality in which it occurred within 24 hours. A relative or formally appointed representative usually registers the death. This can also be carried out by undertakers. 

If the death occurred in a hospital, retirement home, prison or other institution, then it will be reported by the institution. In case of violent or suspicious death or a suicide it is necessary to contact the local police.

If the doctor who certifies a death is satisfied that no suspicious circumstances exist and the death was due to natural causes no inquiries are held. However, an inquiry is held when the death occurs in a public place or when foul play is suspected. In such cases the responsibility for issuing the death certificate and burial permit lies with the Public Prosecutor (Procureur de la République) at the local high court (Tribunal de Grande Instance).

Reporting a Death

When reporting a death at the registry office a number of documents need to be presented:

  • Proof of identity of the person declaring the death

  • Identity card or family book (Livret de famille) or marriage or birth certificate of the deceased

  • Medical certificate of death issued by the doctor or police

A certified copy of the entry - a death certificate (acte de décès) - is usually issued immediately if all necessary details are available. No fee is charged for the medical certificate or for the registration of death. 

Death Certificate

The death certificate (acte de décès) provides information on where and when death took place but does not indicate the cause of death. 

Once the death is registered, the town hall will issue a burial permit (permis d'inhumer) indicating the time and date of death. Burial may not take place in the 24 hours following the death.


A cremation should be authorised by the commune of the place of death. Approval is granted if the desire for cremation is stated in a will or in a non-legal document such as letter written by the deceased, or if the closest family member (spouse or partner) requests it. It usually takes place in the crematorium closest to the place of death although a body may be moved if a different location is requested by the deceased family or by them in a letter signed pre-death.

Dispersal of the Ashes

Following cremation of a body, the urn will be given to the family. If the family agree or if stated in a will, ashes may be divided between family members. Crematoria are also able to store the urn for a limited period (usually three months).

If the ashes are to be sealed in a monument or tomb, approval by the Mairie is required. Otherwise ashes may be scattered without formal permission on privately owned land, at sea or in an outdoor environment such as mountains or forests. 

Note: it is forbidden for ashes to be scattered in a public pathway, road or river (which is considered to be a public "path"). 

Most cemeteries and crematoria have a Garden of Remembrance available for the scattering of ashes. 


In France, burial (inhumation) without a coffin is prohibited.

Burial in a commune's cemetery is authorised by the Mayor. It must take place from 24 hours to six days (excluding Sundays and public holidays) following the death. The departmental Prefect may issue a waiver if there is a problem meeting the burial deadline. A burial may be organsied by a funeral parlour or the immediate family of the deceased. 

Documents required are:

  • burial licence

  • burial certificate issued by the commune in which the death occurred

While there is a variation between communes, place in a cemetery, the "concession" can generally be reserved for a period of 10 to 99 years. When a family is unable to pay the fee, shorter periods of five to six years are made available free or at reduced cost. It is recommended that request for burial be made at Town Hall of the intended commune of burial as soon after the death as possible. 

Within three months of the burial, the grave site must be covered by a concrete slab. Following that, a decorative tomb stone may be erected.

  • Information on the procedure of a funeral home from AFIF (Association Française d'Information Funéraire): Click here

Burial on private ground

Burial may take place on private property with the permission of the Prefect of the property's department. Certain conditions apply and the burial on private property must have been requested by the deceased (in their will). 

The person making application to the Prefect must supply:

  • proof that a burial on private property meets the wishes of the deceased

  • a plan of the property (showing burial location and proximity of neighbours)

  • a geological/hydrologist's report approving the location (underground water and other soil factors)

  • death certificate

  • doctor's certificate of death

  • burial certificate from the commune of the place of death

Repatriation of a Foreigner

Repatriation of a body to their home country requires the help of the relevant local embassy or consulate. Consular officials can assist in having the remains returned, in obtaining appropriate documentation and in inquiring about French exit requirements.

A relative or a formally appointed representative must instruct a funeral director in France or the home country of the deceased for a body to be repatriated. If the deceased was insured it is necessary to contact the insurance company so that they can make the necessary arrangements. If there is no insurance cover, funds for repatriation or burial will need to be met by the family. Insurance may varies, but accommodation and travel for relatives is usually covered.

The length of time required for the repatriation of remains can vary greatly and is determined by a number of factors including the cause of death and location of death. When death is the result of natural causes, remains can be more quickly repatriated. When death is the result of a crime, a suicide or an accident, repatriation of remains can take much longer. A body being repatriated will have to be embalmed.

The passport should always remain with the deceased and travel with the body.

Note: Recent changes to flight security means that many airlines are no longer prepared to carry coffins.

Further Information

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