Death in France

This guide has been prepared in collaboration with France based English speaking volunteer group Bereavement Support Network (BSN). BSN helps English speaking residents throughout France to manage their bereavement or terminal illness. You can contact BSN by mail at or via their website at Bereavement Support Network.

  1. Introduction
  2. Registering a Death
  3. Funeral
  4. Repatriation
  5. Bank Accounts
  6. Inheritance/Succession
  7. Spouses's Pension
  8. Bereavement Grant
  9. UK Pensions/Benefits
  10. Income Tax
  11. Vehicle Sale/Transfer

3. Funeral

The funeral must take place within six day of death, weekends and public holidays excluded.

There is no requirement that the funeral need be religious; a secular funeral carried out by a funeral parlour is permitted.

If the deceased did not leave instructions you need to choose a funeral parlour, a pompes funèbres.

Your doctor may recommend one, or you may obtain a list of those approved by the prefecture from your local council or the offices of the cemeteries.

The spouse/partner would be best advised to always have a second person with them.

The coffin is generally left open and available for viewing by arrangement with the funeral director. It is closed just before the funeral/cremation with a member of the family or close friend present for identification. On request the coffin can be closed after the body has been prepared.

3.1. Burial

The local council will supply a burial licence (permis d'inhumer).

The deceased can be buried where they died or lived, or in a family vault.

A fee is payable if buried in the local council cemetery.

It is also possible for the burial to be on private property subject to authorisation of the prefecture.

The cost will not be insignificant.

A 2018 survey carried out by consumer body by the consumer body UFC-Que Choisir reveals that burial services, not including the plot, cost on average €3,815.

There were substantial differences in the price from different funeral parlours

Whilst the cheapest quote for burial was found to be €1,269, the most expensive reached up to €7,515, highlighting the importance of requesting multiple quotes before opting for one company.

It also varies depending upon where you are in the country, as prices in Nouvelle-Aquitaine were on average €3,483 whereas they rose to €4,882 in Île-de-France.

The researchers found that there were large differences between certain elements of the service.

With some companies the opening and closing of the tomb could cost between €95 and €880, whilst a simple oak wood coffin could be as low as €490 but as high as €1,576.

The coffin was found to be 26% of the total bill for burials and 15% of the total for cremations.

Funeral parlours are required by law to provided details of their prices.

Until the end of 2020 local taxes were also payable, but since January 2021 they have been abolished.

3.2. Cremation

A cremation will need the authorisation of the local mayor.

The urn may be placed in a cemetery, but if you wish to scatter the ashes the approval of the council will also be required.

You can also scatter the ashes on your property, subject to local council approval.

If you wish to take the ashes overseas you will need the approval of the prefecture.

There is no need to rush into a decision on where to scatter the ashes as they can be kept by the crematorium for a year, after which the local council will dispose of them if you have not taken action.

The general misconception of cremation being the cheaper option was also confirmed by the research as the average cost of was actually higher than burial at €3,986.

As with burial services, cremation services saw a striking gap between the lowest quote coming in at €1,362 and the highest at €7,918.

Even though funeral parlours are required by law to provide a detailed list of expected costs in a quote, in 22% of cases no quote was was provided.

Furthermore, in 65% of cases the quote provided did not conform to the model provided by a law.

It is possible to take out an insurance policy (assurance obsèques) to cover funeral costs, but in a 2018 study carried out the consumer group INC, the policies were considered to be poor value, with premiums paid generally exceeding the costs of the funeral. Far better say the authors, to simply put money away as savings.

There are also social security benefits to which a surviving spouse and relative may be eligible, such as a capital sum payable on the death, which you can read about in

It is also possible to use funds from the bank account of the deceased, up to a maximum of €5,000, subject to procedural compliance, eg agreement of all the inheritors, provision of estimated costs, no contrary provisions in a Will. You can read more about access at Bank Accounts.

Some complementary 'top-up' health insurers include a sum towards the cost of the funeral and in the event of death as a result of accident at work or occupational illness, there is support towards funeral costs from the local health authority (CPAM).

The Guides to France are published for general information only.
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