Funerals in Spain
"There is no cure for birth and death, save to enjoy the interval," wrote the Spanish-born philosopher, George Santayana. Death is one of the few constants of life that can strike at anytime and anywhere, and Andalucia is not exempt. People who live in Spain and even those who come on vacation should be aware of the customs surrounding death here in Spain as well as some of the ways in which you can prepare for a death beforehand.
In Spain, the death of a loved one is treated differently than it is treated in other countries. Funerals in Spain usually occur within 24 hours of the death while funerals in England and other places might be held three or more days later. This period in Spain can be extended (if the family wishes to wait for relatives to arrive from abroad, for example) but the burial usually occurs rapidly by most comparisons.
Once a death occurs in Spain, a certain protocol must be followed. First, the proper authorities need to be informed. If the death occurs in a hospital or some other care facility, this will be done automatically. If not, the "Policia Local" (Local Police) need to be called. They will, in turn, advise the "Juez Forense" (Forensic Judge), who will be summoned to come to the place of death to authorise the removal of the body. The deceased person's physician should also be informed of the death. Normally an autopsy is not required if there is no doubt as to the cause of death. It is of the utmost importance to remember that once you sign any paperwork given to you, even by the police, you are tied to that Funeral Director. If you are pressurised in any way, tell the authority concerned, even the police, that you want the Funeral Director of your choice to deal with all matters.
Thinking ahead, there are ways by which you can lower the level of stress your death causes upon your loved ones by pre-planning. It is the sensible way of making sure that your wishes are obeyed and that your family is not forced to make important decisions under duress. This is especially important when living in Spain where, as we discussed earlier, the culture of funerals might be very different from what you are accustomed, and language might also be a barrier. Pre-planning also offers a way by which you can protect yourself from the ever-increasing prices of funeral services. Do not rush to sign any paperwork. Make sure you know what you are signing beforehand to falling into traps.
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 as it cannot cross international borders or fly without it.
Repatriating may be covered by travel or life insurance. If this is the case, the insurance company will make arrangements.
A body can be cremated in Spain and the ashes flown to the home country. Ashes must be accompanied by a 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 handle many of the arrangements
- If there is no travel insurance the family will have to cover all the expenses
A variety of different plans and a number of different payment methods mean that you can choose the funeral that suits you best and pay for it in advance.
Installment options allow you to spread the cost out if you wish and once the premium is paid there is nothing else to pay for (no hidden extras, no surprises), your funeral will be carried out in accordance with your wishes, regardless of whether inflation has affected prices. Unlike an insurance policy where the premiums may not cover the cost of the funeral when you die, a pre-paid funeral plan means that the cost of your funeral is fixed at the day you take it out so you are guaranteed that your money will be enough to meet the costs.
The general procedure is that you ring the service of your choice and within an hour they should be with you to help determine what services will be required. They should take care of all the arrangements including:
- Viewings/ funerals (all religions)
- National and international transfers
- All paper work and documentation
- Cremation/ Burial
- Purchase of plot/ niche
- Flowers/ wreaths/ music during service
- Placement of obituaries in local and national news papers
- Vehicles arranged for family members
Don't be afraid to make your funeral arrangements ahead of time. It is a sensible, loving decision that can only help those you love get through their difficult loss with the least aggravation possible.
Can I donate my body to science? - Yes, of course you can leave your body to science, but be aware that it may not be required. Often there is an excess of donations, or simply your body may not be of the required criteria. For example if you have had an operation within the last 2 years then your body cannot be used.
Is the Spanish Death Certificate valid in my home nation? - Death certificates are valid all over Europe. If your home nation is in the Europe then yes. If you live outside of Europe then it is not.
What if I cannot afford a funeral? - If you cannot afford to pay for the funeral the the local Town Hall can provide a paupers funeral this grave is only available for five years, after which the body will be moved to a common grave. To organise this you must speak to your local Town Hall.
Where can I scatter ashes? - Use some common sense in this area. Do not go and scatter them in your neighbours garden. The sea is a good option as it is a natural place and is unlikely to disturb others - this is allowed. If you wish to scatter them in a park, a natural park or near to a monument then you will first need to ask the permission of those responsible for the area. You can´t just scatter them anywhere.
What should I look for in a Funeral Director? - It is advisable to choose a funeral director who speak your language, this helps to avoid translation issues and reduce strees and anxiety in an already difficult situation. Do not allow the doctor to call a director for you, this is illegal and you have rights under the Data Protection Act - if you ask the Doctor for a recommendation this is different, but, if the Doctor calls a funeral director without your asking, report it. Do not choose someone who is pushy or forceful; you have rights, take your time. This will be a difficult time; make sure you choose carefully. Take care with scam websites.