Le vrai tombeau des morts c’est le cœur des vivants.
Jean Cocteau

I felt uncomfortable researching and writing this article. I am unprepared. I don’t want to think about it… but it’s the one absolute in life.  We’re all going to die…. and the practicalities fall to loved ones, at a difficult, and unhappy time, often made worse by language barrier and lack of information.

We can’t make the hurt go away, but we can give you some basic, useful, information to help you to be better prepared for death in France.

The following information assumes that the death is not unnatural or suspicious, in which case the police must be notified.

Death at home

➽ Contact the doctor who will issue a ‘Certificat Medical de Décès‘ (death certificate)

➽ Call a funeral home (pompes funèbres) who will arrange for the deceased to be removed to the funeral home mortuary.

Death in hospital

➽ The attending doctor will issue the death certificate and the ‘on duty’ funeral home will remove the deceased, unless relatives specify a funeral home.

A death must be reported (déclaration de décès) to the local mairie WITHIN 24 HOURS.

Paperwork required for funeral home and death declaration.

➽ Proof of identity of the person declaring the death

➽ Passport or carte de séjour, marriage (if applicable) or birth certificate of the deceased

➽ Death certificate issued by doctor.

➽ You will also need to know the address, next of kin, and maiden name if applicable.

If all details are available, a death certificate (acte de décès) is usually issued immediately, stating where and when death took place. There is no charge. Ask for several copies to make it easier to cope with paper work to follow.

Once the death is registered, a ‘permis d’inhumer’  (burial permit) or a ‘certificat d’incinération’ (Cremation certificate) is issued.

If the deceased followed a particular religion, their local religious organisation can be consulted for guidance.

If the deceased has not joined the  ‘opt out’ register (Registre National des Refus) for organ donation, it will be presumed that they have consented to organ donation, although family can still object.

A good funeral home can take care of all paperwork, and arrangements, but remember this is a business. Don’t be afraid to ask for one or several quotes (un devis obsèques) with itemised cost of services and procedures.

Beware. Funerals, and in particular repatriation, are expensive without an appropriate insurance policy.


Coffin – cercueil

Mourning – le deuil

Insurance to cover funeral costs –contrat/assurance obsèques

Undertaker – entrepreneur de pompes funèbres/ croque-mort

French Sympathy Card Messages

Soyez assurés de notre chaleureuse sympathie et de notre amitié.

Nous venons d’apprendre le décès qui vous touche et nous partageons votre peine.

Nous n’oublierons jamais XXX. En gardant son souvenir dans notre cœur, il/elle sera toujours avec nous.

Je suis profondément ému par ce deuil qui vous frappe et vous envoie toute mon affection et mon amitié dans cette difficile épreuve.

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