Death and dying in Spain
How to proceed if you need to report the death of a family member or arrange the burial, cremation or the repatriation of remains outside Spain…
The process of death in Spain is very different to your home country.
In the Event of a Death
Call the police (Policía Municipal). Tel: 092
Contact a doctor (if the police do not do this) who will certify the cause of death and issue a certificate of death
A funeral parlour (tanatorio) will be contacted to remove the body (identification must accompany the body in order for it to be moved)
Register the death within 24 hours at the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) which is located in the local Town Hall
In most regions of Spain a body should be buried or cremated within 24 to 48 hours of death
If the death occurs in a hospital, the administrative authorities will manage the process.
Undertakers (pompas fúnebres) are licensed to manage funeral arrangements and the burial or cremation of a body. They will be able to assist with much of the process.
The Death Certificate
In the event of a death, the last doctor to treat the deceased (or one who confirms death and identification of the body) issues the certificate of death. This document certifies a person’s death.
If the death occurred in suspicious circumstances or involves an investigation, an order from the judicial authority may be issued to confirm the death.
The death certificate (certificado de defunción) will be issued by the Civil Registry office. Multiple copies can be requested but these can be expensive, sometimes in excess of e80 each.
Registration of a Death
Within 24 hours of a death, the certificate of death must be taken to the Civil Registry to formally register the death. The registration includes the date, time and location of the death.
Anyone with knowledge of the death is eligible to make the registration, although this is normally done by a member of family, a friend or neighbour of the deceased. In most cases the death should be registered with the Civil Registry office of the area where it occurred. The certificate of death stating the cause of death must be presented in order to make registration.
Contents of the registration
- The registration of death form is free of charge. It should contain the following information:
- Name and surname of the deceased
- Names of the deceased’s parents
- Marital status
- Date and location of birth
- Birth registration details
- Last known place of residence
- Date, time and location of the death (as documented in the death certificate)
- Place of burial or cremation, if indicated on the death certificate or the certification from the authority or civil servant in charge of the cemetery
When the death registration has been completed a burial license is issued and a formal funeral can take place.
Funerals in Spain
Burial or cremation should take place within 24 to 48 hours
If the deceased has made specific arrangements for a religious service, burial or cremation their wishes should be followed. If the deceased or next of kin request a cremation this must be made known to the doctor in charge of certifying the death as it will be noted on the certificate.
Each municipality has a cemetery. Spanish cemeteries have a system where a coffin is inserted in a recess, or niche (nicho) (rather than buried in the ground). A niche can be rented for a pre-determined number of years. The remains are interned in the niche and once the period expires the body is moved to a common burial ground. Each cemetery has different procedures, periods available and prices.
Cremation is widely practised in Spain due to the immigration population, normally with 24 hours. Prices vary depending on location, but 4,500e would be a good average and is normally paid at the time of death and before or at the time of the cremation to the Funeral Director. A Funeral Director has the power in Spain to freeze bank accounts and assets if his bill is not paid. Cremations costs in Spain are rising at an annual rate of 10% per year.
Organisation to Contact
In the event of a death it is important to contact certain institutions:
Any public or private institution for that the deceased worked for or received payment from
The Director General of the Public and Personal Pensions(Dirección General de Costes de Personas y Pensiones Públicas), or the Institute for Social Security (Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social INSS) as appropriate. Pension payment can then be altered accordingly, to widows pension or orphan allowance for example
Banks and insurance companies (life insurance). Banks often insist that an accident policy is taken out when an account is opened
To find out if the deceased made a will or to obtain a copy of the will, contact the Registry of Last Wills of the Ministry of Justice, (Registro de Últimas Voluntades del Ministerio de Justicia)
Repatriation of a Body
If the deceased or their next of kin requests that the body be repatriated to the country of origin this must also be communicated to the attending doctor when the death certificate is being completed. If a body is to be repatriated the passport should be kept with the body, it cannot cross international borders or fly without it.
A body can be cremated in Spain and the ashes flown to the home country. Ashes must be accompanied by a ‘Blue certificate’.
Embassies and consulates can provide advice but not financial assistance with regard to repatriation.
Death of a Non-Resident or Tourist in Spain
In the event of the death of a short-term visitor to Spain:
Contact the travel insurance company. It will take over many of the arrangements
If there is no travel insurance the family will have to cover all the expenses
Contact the deceased citizen’s Embassy in Spain
Last Will and Testament
As soon as possible after purchasing assets (property or otherwise) in Spain it is very important to make plans for what should happen in the case of a death. Make a will (testamento or última voluntad) with the advice of a Spanish notary.
A basic will document can be purchased from the tobacconist (estanco). In Spain, tobacconists are licensed to sell official government forms.
The will is registered at the Registry of Last Wills and Testaments (Registro General de Actos de Última Voluntad), where it is given a certification number.
The will can be applied for 15 working days after the death by anyone who is able to produce the relevant documentation.
Due to the fact that funerals have to be paid for in advance, often Life Insurance doesn’t cover this cost, as you need a death certificate to claim on the policy.
Death – payment –cremation/reputation -death certificate -insurance.
Spanish families have funeral plans or special funeral insurance put in place almost from birth.
A pre-paid funeral plan is not insurance, you are simply paying for and arranging the details of your funeral in advance and fixing the coast at today’s prices, also releasing your loved ones from the financial stress and worry when the time come. It also insures you get the service you require. The above process is also much simpler as you just make one phone call to your 24hr contact number & FD who has all your wishes and requirements in place and can help you through the process in your own language. Time can also be built into the plan to allow for loved ones to visit, assist and offer support to the bereaved prior to cremation. Plan prices are often cheaper than dealing with the funeral direct at the time, as on average funeral prices are rising at 10% per year. Required items like multiple death certificates are free as is the Blue Certificate.
Contact your local Avalon consultant for further details
by Elle Draper
Elle, along with Alan, is the owner of Spain Buddy and the busy web design business - Gandy-Draper. Born a "Norverner", she then spent most of her life "Dann Saff" before moving to Spain in 2006. Elle's loves are Alan, the internet, their three bouncing dogs, good food, and dry white wine - although not necessarily in that order. More about Elle - HERE | Got a news story to share? Click HERE | Want to write for Spain Buddy? Click HERE | Interested in our low cost advertising? Click HERE