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

2. How to Register a Death

If the death occurs naturally at home a doctor should be called, who will issue a medical report confirming death (certificat de décès), although it will not show the cause of death.

If the deceased had been fitted with a pacemaker the doctor must be informed so s/he can arrange for its removal. The removal of this is essential if the deceased is to be cremated.

In the event of a violent death, e.g. suicide or the result of an accident, the local police/gendarmes must be informed.

Where death occurs in a hospital or private clinic the management will be responsible for issuing the confirmation of death.

In such circumstances, the body will usually be placed in a mortuary (chambre mortuaire). Use of the mortuary is free for the first 3 days, but there may be a fee for any extra days.

If the death occurred at home, a funeral parlour (pompes funèbres) should be contacted who will remove the body once the death certificate has been issued and place it in a private or municipal mortuary, which may cost more than a hospital mortuary.

In both cases, you will be asked to select some suitable clothing for the deceased to be dressed in.

No-one can impose the removal of a body to the deceased’s home or mortuary without permission from the family. The only exception to this is where a care home is unable to contact the family within 10 hours of the death. In such a case, it can arrange the transfer at the cost of the establishment.

Within 24 hours the local mairie should be informed, i.e. the local municipal council where the death took place.

This can be done by a friend (it does not have to be the surviving spouse/partner), by a member of the funeral parlour's staff, or by a care home or medical establishment if this is where the death occurred.

The informant must take his or her own identity papers (carte de séjour or passport) as well as the doctors certificate ( certificat de décès) and the identity documents of the deceased.

These documents will be retained permanently by the mairie.

The following information will be needed:

  • The full name of the deceased (maiden, not married name, in the case of a woman.)
  • Time, date and place of death; the place must be in the commune whose mairie is being notified of the death.
  • Normal residential address of the deceased.
  • Place and date of birth and profession of the deceased.
  • Full names of the deceased’s parents (maiden name only for the mother) and ages or a statement that they themselves are deceased.
  • Full names of the spouse/partner or spouses if any (maiden names only for wife or wives).

Where possible, it is recommended that all details in a family are collected in advance, as these details are not always easy to collect in a hurry, particularly where the spouse/partner is already deceased or there have been two or more marriages.

The mairie will issue the death certificate (acte de décès). It is best to ask for 15–20 copies as they will all be needed.

If it is intended to transfer the body to a different commune for burial, the mairie of the receiving commune must give authorisation.

Many foreign insurance policies often require a cause of death - it should be possible to ask for a letter stating this from the attending doctor, especially when the death occurs in a hospital, but it does need to be requested promptly.n

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