Explainer: Everything you need to know about funerals in Spain

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None of us wants to think about the loss of a loved one and the planning of a funeral at an already stressful and upsetting time. The arrangements can be made even more difficult when living in another country with another language to contend with.

Having a detailed and comprehensive list of the procedures can really help, that’s why the Euro Weekly News has put together this in-depth explainer on everything you need to know about funerals in Spain, complete with timeframes, the types of funerals in Spain and the costs.

The death of a loved one – be it family or friends – is a really difficult time. Not only are you grieving and coming to terms with the loss, but you also need to have arrangements in place for funeral procedures, as well as repatriation of the body and considering the wishes of the deceased.

Things can be even more difficult in a foreign country with different practices in place for this event. Spain’s procedure is distinct from other nations’ processes. If you prepare ahead of time, you can reduce some stress if you need to organise someone else’s funeral in Spain or if someone else needs to arrange it for you. This is because you will know what to expect from the procedure and the choices that must be made.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the types of funerals in Spain, funeral plans, the costs and the timeframes.

Why do funerals in Spain take place so quickly?

Unlike the UK, where a funeral will usually take place three or four days after a death, funerals in Spain typically occur just 24 hours after the death. This doesn’t give you much time to plan, however, you can begin to prepare early by arranging a funeral plan, finding out the wishes of your loved ones, in addition to informing the people close to you of how you would like your funeral to be carried out.

It’s useful to note that this timeframe can be extended in Spain, for example, in order for family members to travel to the country. Nevertheless, by most comparisons, the burial takes place quickly.

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Informing the authorities

The relevant authorities you will need to inform will depend on the cause of death.

Natural causes

The hospital administration will make the initial administrative preparations if a patient passes away there.

If the death takes place at home, you must:

  • Call the policia municipal (municipal police), by calling 092 or 112 for the multilingual emergency service (this service is for all emergencies). They will inform the Juez Forense (Forensic Judge/Coroner), who will visit the residence to grant permission for the body removal.
  • It’s crucial that you avoid touching or moving the body.
  • You should also get in touch with the deceased’s physician if they had been providing medical care and had visited them recently. The physician will certify the cause of death and provide a medical death certificate.
  • Get in touch with a local tanatorio (funeral home), pompas funebres (undertakers), or funeral representative of your choice.
  • The police will be contacted if the death takes place in a public setting, such as a car accident, on the street, or at a business.

Judicial cases

If the attending forensic doctor or judge has any doubts about the manner of death it will be considered a judicial matter and an autopsy will be required. If this is the case, the body will be transferred to the Instituto Anatomico Forense (Forensic Institute), where an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

Once this has been established, you must visit the court to secure the necessary permissions for the body’s release. A funeral home may be able to act on your behalf in specific circumstances. You will always need to arrange the funeral yourself.

funerals in spain
Image – NKM999/shutterstock

Registering a death in Spain

A death must always be recorded in the country in which it takes place. This must be done within 24 hours of the death and can be done at the local Registro Civil, which is typically located in the Juzgado (Court building), in person, by mail, or online (some regions only). The funeral director will often take care of this for you.

A medical death certificate from the hospital or the physician who cared for the deceased at home must be presented in order to record a death at the Registro Civil. If an autopsy was performed on the person who has died, legal procedures will be used to process the death registration.

The information you will need to register a death includes:

  • The death certificate issued by the hospital or by the physician who treated the deceased at home.
  • Name, last name, and National Identification Number (DNI) or Ppassport information of the person requesting the certificate.
  • Information on the deceased person’s relatives.

Additionally, the deceased’s information should include the following:

  • The deceased’s name and last name.
  • The parents’ names.
  • Relational status.
  • Nationality.
  • Date of birth and place of birth.
  • DNI (National Identification Number), NIE, or passport number.
  • Address or dwelling last known.
  • Date, time, and place of the fatality (as detailed in the medical death certificate).
  • The place of burial, if indicated.
  • The type of death certificate you would like.

We recommend providing a phone number in case the information needs to be clarified.

Death certificates

There are two types of death certificates in Spain:

  • A doctor’s medical death certificate, which attests to the body’s identification and the manner of death, known as a “certificado medico de defuncion.”
  • Civil Registry death certificate, or “Certificado de defuncion del Registro”.

Thinking ahead with pre-paid funeral plans

If you do not inform the hospital, police, or doctor that you have a specific funeral director/agent that you want to use, they will automatically call the closest funeral director. Spanish funeral homes employ a large number of people who do not speak English. If they cannot provide you with an English-speaking person to assist you with the funeral arrangements and you don’t know Spanish, communication between you may be tough. That’s why it is highly recommended, for expats in particular, to take out a funeral plan and set out your wishes before the time comes.

There are many reputable companies in Spain that can assist you with setting up a funeral plan and making sure your wishes are met.

funerals in spain
Image – Marko Rupena/shutterstock

How much will a funeral in Spain cost?

If you don’t have a funeral plan, you may be unsure of how much a funeral will cost in Spain.

Numerous aspects including logistics, casket purchases, burial locations, and even catering, should be taken into account. In general, the price of a funeral in Spain can range from €3,500 to €4,000, but you should bear in mind that this price is dependent on a number of variables such as the location, the services needed, the type of coffin, etc.

In Spain, cremation is a more affordable option, typically costing €750. This is also usually the most common option for Brits.

It is crucial to get in touch with the deceased’s insurance provider as soon as possible to find out whether they had travel or other types of insurance that will cover the costs of repatriation, burial, or cremation. The family will be responsible for covering the expenditures in the event that the deceased did not have an insurance policy.

Cremation, local burial, and repatriation

If the deceased didn’t have a funeral arrangement, the next-of-kin should choose whether to have a burial, cremation, or repatriation—which entails returning the deceased to their country of origin. The funeral home director will also help with the alternatives.

A “burial” frequently refers to an above-ground niche in Spain. Every town has a cemetery where a casket is placed in a niche (Nicho). These are often kept for a predetermined amount of time (usually between one and fifty years), after which the body is transferred to a common burial site. These conditions could change depending on the cemetery.

If the body is to be taken back to the country of origin and if the deceased has travel insurance, you should contact the insurance company straight away to establish if they are able to cover the repatriation expenses and make the necessary arrangements.

If the insurance doesn’t cover repatriation, you will need to appoint an international funeral director in the home country of the deceased. The repatriation also has to be communicated with the attending doctor when the death certificate is prepared. In the case of repatriation, the passport should be kept with the body.

funerals spain
Image – Yau Ming Low/shutterstock

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories. Remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Written by

Laura Kemp

Originally from UK, Laura is based in Axarquia and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.