A Death in the Family

The death of a loved one is always a very difficult time and having it happen in a foreign country is even more trying. German law requires all deaths to be certified by a doctor. If someone in your home dies and your family doctor is not available, an emergency doctor can be summoned. Contact your local embassy or consulate to ask for assistance. They may be able to give you important advice and information about what to do next.

The costs of funerals, burials and cremations are quite expensive in Germany, ranging from 8,000 Euros and more. Because of these high costs, some people opt to buy insurance policies to cover the expenses of their funeral. Funerals take place from Monday to Friday and people still follow the tradition of wearing black.

Funeral homes will take care of most of the necessary details and arrangements. They are responsible for collecting the body, notifying the authorities, arranging the services and supplying a coffin. It is almost always mandatory to have the corpse embalmed. In the past, this was taken care of by state owned hospitals, but new regulations allow it to be done at an authorised funeral home as well.

Most cemeteries are state or church operated. As in many other European countries, graves are usually rented for a fixed period of time. After the initial period of usually 20-30 years, the grave lease must be renewed or it will be cleaned in order to be used for another burial.

If your loved one has chosen to be cremated, the ashes may only be buried in a cemetery. Since German law forbids private individuals from handling the remains of a corpse it is not possible to take the ashes home with you as it is in some other countries. Crematoriums are usually state-operated, but more and more funeral homes have been given the authorisation to carry out cremations in the past few years.

Cremation may be the financially wiser choice for expatriates wishing to ship the remains of a loved one back to their home abroad. It is extremely expensive and difficult to ship a casket by air to another county. The costs start at about 5,000 Euros and do not include the price of embalming. Although less expensive, shipping home the ashes of a loved one is not always a simple matter. Special arrangements for the transportation of an urn must be made and authorised by a funeral home. Your consulate or embassy may be able to assist you and provide you with more information regarding this procedure. They may also be able to provide the translation of the death certificate so you can avoid having problems with insurance claims in your home country.

Fidelio Main Office: +49 69 40 56 499-1 · info(bittekeinspam)fidelio-relocation.de