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What to do if a loved one dies in Spain!

This is something that many of us here in Spain possibly think about, but don’t really want to dwell on too much.  The following is a guideline to the procedures and options available.  It may differ slightly to the area you live in, but generally it is a good guide to how the procedures work here in Spain.

In the event of a death - 1. Call the police.  2. Contact a doctor (if the police do not do this) who will certify the cause of death and issue a certificate of death. 3. A funeral parlour (tanatorio) will be contacted to remove the person (identification has to be provided in order to move the person to the tanatorio). 4. Register the death within 24 hours at the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) which is located in the local Town Hall, However, this is normally carried out by the Tanatorio/Funeral Director. Please note, the majority of these procedures will normally be carried out in Spanish.

In Spain burial or cremation will normally take place within 24 to 48 hours of death. The quickness of this final procedure is not for legal reasons, but is mainly the custom of Spanish people.  Years ago, it was a necessity to have the body cremated or buried as quickly as possible, due to the very hot climate.  This has now become a custom of most Spanish people and of course there is a cost element by keeping their loved ones in the Tanatoria for too long!  Also, many Spanish families will take out a family funeral insurance which they pay from a very early age, until the time of need is upon them.

You may already be aware of the procedure here in Spain, but if not, hopefully you will now understand that funerals in Spain and your home country are very different. The Police or the Doctor will appoint the Funeral Director (so not your own choice), there is no legislation for price capping, or monitoring of service standards by a Government Body and the price of a funeral can vary greatly depending upon the Funeral Director that has been appointed. There will be charges for additional mortuary days required (standard is 2 days), charges for a Minister, Service, type of coffin or urn chosen and more. Payment is also required within 24 hours of the death, certainly before the funeral will take place.  Once you inform the Bank that there has been a death, half of the bank account (if a joint account), will be frozen for tax reasons.  Always ask the Funeral Director for clarification of costs and if you need cheaper options, then ask for this!

By putting provisions in place for your loved ones, not only are you helping your family to avoid having to make these stressful arrangements, but you are also ensuring that you are treated in a dignified manner. The favourite choice of saying is, “put me in a bin liner and throw me in the garden”, however unfortunately it is not that simple! Most people in the UK would have some kind of cover, yet we move to Spain and put our heads in the sand. There are options to take out pre-paid funeral plans, funeral insurance and life insurance. But the difficult question, is which one to choose?

Funeral Plans - When choosing a plan, if you follow these basic principles and do your homework on the Company which you choose, then you can rest assured that the plan will be available for your loved ones at the time of need.

  • Do research –. Ensure the company that you choose have been trading for many years in Spain. This will give you the confidence that they are established and their plans work. Talk to friends and family who have plans, look the companies up on the internet.
  • Terms and Conditions – Ask to see these and read them. Check that there is nothing additional to pay at the time of death. IVA (21%) is currently charged at the time of death with some Companies. Ask the question! “Do you charge IVA at the time of death”?
  • Securities – The best way to secure your money for the future is for it to be placed in a managed Trust Fund.  Payments that are secured in bank accounts in Spain, can be accessed by individuals of the Company involved and are therefore not 100% safe.
  • Make sure that your policy has dual cover, which covers you in the UK and Spain.  If you are not from the UK, ask if there is an option for the plan to cover you in your home country, as well as Spain, after all, you may decide that you want to move back to your home country and of course do not want to lose what monies you have already paid.
  • Ask about payment options.  Can you pay over so many years and is there an option for interest free payments.  However… a word of warning, if you pay on instalments, at the time of death ALL funeral plan providers will ask for the balance of the payment. Remember, this is a Funeral Plan that you are buying and not a Funeral insurance and therefore the balance of the plan must be met in full.

Funeral Insurance – Most Insurance Agents, will have the facility to offer Funeral Insurance.  Funeral insurance can be taken out from the age of 18 up until 75 (some companies have different acceptance ages).  However, once you have taken out the insurance, you can generally continue with the policy until you die, with no forced cancellation due to age.  The main advantage with funeral insurance, is you can pay monthly instalments and the insurers will pay out for your death regardless of how long the policy has been in force. Whereas, the Funeral Plan will require the full cost price of the plan to be paid by your estate, prior to the plan being implemented.  Also, please be mindful when buying funeral insurance, that many companies will increase the cost price each year, as and when your age increases.  There are some companies, that “fix” the annual cost of the plan, for the lifetime of the policy and this enables the insured person, to manage their finances more effectively, with no sudden increase of premiums, which could result in the policyholder having to cancel the policy as they can no longer afford the costs. Another disadvantage for insurance, is if you move away permanently from Spain, you cannot transfer your funeral insurance to the UK (or your home country) and the policy will be cancelled, with no cancellation refund, regardless of how many years you have paid into the policy.

For both Funeral Options, most Companies will allow you  to nominate your next of kin, record if you wish, what type of funeral you would like, e.g.,  Catholic, Church of England, Non-religious service, choice of music, flowers, coffin etc., If you live alone here in Spain, even if you choose not to have a funeral insurance or plan, it is a good idea to document these types of things, either in your Will, or papers, that neighbours will find and it helps to tie up all loose ends in the event of your death.

So as you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages for both Funeral Insurance and Funeral plans.  When seeking advice from an Agent, please ask if they offer both funeral insurance and funeral plans, you can then have the added security of knowing they are not giving you a biased opinion when trying to sell either Funeral Insurance or Funeral Plans.  A decision to buy Funeral Cover, depends on your own personal circumstances, not what benefits the insurance agents in terms of their commissions!!

LIFE INSURANCE – Life Insurance, is something which can be taken out by individuals to provide a lump sum amount to their estate after death.  However, in Spain, it can take a considerable time for the payment of the capital amount to be paid.  Rights of the heirs have to be established, taxes paid, even if a Will has been provided by the policyholder, the time this takes to settle is still very lengthy.  As previously advised, Funeral Directors in Spain, require the full settlement of the funeral costs, within 24 to 48 hours after death and certainly before any funeral will take place.  There are some life insurance providers that provide a percentage of the capital sum, immediately on receipt of the death certificate, but in many cases, this would not be sufficient to cover the full cost of the funeral.  Therefore if you have a life insurance policy in place, although this a responsible action to take, to help your loved ones to settle your legal bills and possible inheritance tax issues following your death, please be mindful, this will not cover the immediate costs for your funeral.

If you would like more information please contact us.