Guidance

What to do after a British person dies in France

This guide gives advice about the death of a British person in France, including information on burial, cremation and repatriation.

If you are dealing with the death of a child, multiple deaths, a suspicious death or a case of murder or manslaughter, or have read the guide below and feel you need more support, call +33 (0)1 44 51 31 00.

Contact the travel insurance company

If the person who died had insurance, contact their insurance company as soon as possible. Insurance providers may help to cover the cost of repatriation. Repatriation is the process of bringing the body home. Insurance providers may also help with any medical, legal, interpretation and translation fees.

If the person who died had insurance, the insurance company will appoint a funeral director both locally and in the UK.

What to do if the person who died didn’t have insurance

If you are not sure whether the person who died had insurance, check with their bank, credit card company or employer.

If the person who died did not have insurance, a relative or a formally appointed representative will usually have to appoint a funeral director and be responsible for all costs. You can find a list of international funeral directors here.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office cannot help with any costs. In some cases, funeral directors and lawyers may provide services on a pro bono basis. Pro bono work is done for free or for a much reduced cost depending on your circumstances. This is decided on a case by case basis.

Charities and organisations that offer support

Some UK and France-based charities and organisations may be able to offer assistance, support and information to people affected by a death abroad. Find a list of UK-based charities and organisations here.

The Bereavement Support Network (BSN), based in France, also helps English speaking residents throughout France to manage their bereavement or anticipatory grief. It is a group of committed, trained volunteers, with the common experience of having coped with bereavement and supported those facing death, or suffering from anticipatory grief as a carer.

Register the death and obtain a death certificate

Deaths must be registered in the country where the person died. In France, a death is registered at the local ‘mairie’ (town hall). The next of kin usually registers the death. This can also be carried out by a local firm of funeral directors.

Certificates will normally be issued in French but it is possible to ask for a multilingual translation. French death certificates do not show the cause of death.

Ask for extra copies of the death certificate where possible. You might need to officially inform other organisations of the death.

You do not need to register the death in the UK. The local death certificate can usually be used in the UK for most purposes, including probate.

If you wish, you can register the death with the Overseas Registration Unit. You can buy a UK-style death certificate, known as a Consular Death Registration certificate. A record will be sent to the General Register Office within 12 months.

You need to tell the local authorities if the person who died suffered from an infectious condition, such as hepatitis or HIV, so they can take precautions against infection.

Deal with a local post-mortem

Post-mortems are normally performed when the cause of death is unknown, unnatural, sudden or violent. Post-mortems are carried out by forensic doctors appointed by the court. Cultural or religious sensitivities may not be taken into account. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office cannot stop or interfere with the process.

In France a post-mortem is usually carried out at the Legal Medical Institute (Institut Medico Legal (IML). Only medical staff and the police and/or magistrate in charge of the investigation can attend.

During a post-mortem, small tissue samples and organs may be removed and retained for testing without the consent of the family. You will not automatically be told if this happens. If French judicial authorities in charge of the case decide they no longer need the body parts, the next of kin can request their release.

If you want a copy of the post-mortem report, you must apply through the coroner in the UK (in the case of a repatriation) or through the local court dealing with the death.

Bring the body home

If the person who died had insurance, find out if their insurance provider can help cover the cost of repatriation. Repatriation is the process of bringing the body home. If so, they will make all the necessary arrangements.

If the person who died is not covered by insurance, you will need to appoint an international funeral director yourself.

Find an international funeral director

A relative or a formally appointed representative must appoint a UK-based international funeral director for the person who died to be repatriated to the UK. You can find a list of UK-based international funeral directors here.

Local funeral directors will work with UK-based international funeral directors to make sure all the necessary requirements are met both locally and in the UK. This includes providing documents such as a local civil registry death certificate, a certificate of embalming and a certificate giving permission to transfer the remains to the UK.

Advice and financial assistance for repatriation

For organisations and charities that may be able to offer assistance with repatriation, see information on LBT Global in Coping with death abroad: specialist support and advice or repatriation charities in Northern Ireland and Wales.

If you want to have a post-mortem in the UK once the body has been repatriated, you can request one from a UK coroner. The coroner will then decide if a post-mortem is needed. If you want the person who died to be cremated, you need to apply for a certificate from the coroner (form ‘Cremation 6’).

Bring the ashes home

If you choose local cremation and wish to take the ashes back to the UK yourself, you can usually do so. Check with the airline about specific restrictions or requirements, for example whether you can carry the ashes as hand luggage. When leaving France with human ashes you will need to:

  • show the death certificate
  • show the certificate of cremation
  • fill in a standard customs form when you arrive home
  • get a certificate from the local authority that gives you permission to transport ashes out of France. Your funeral director should be able to arrange the certificate for you

You should not have the person cremated abroad if you want a UK coroner to conduct an inquest into their death. If it is not possible for you to transport the ashes yourself, a funeral director will be able to make the necessary arrangements. You can find a list of UK-based international funeral directors here.

Bury or cremate the body locally

To have a local burial or cremation, a relative or a formally appointed representative needs to appoint a local funeral director.

The funeral director will be able to explain the local process.

A medical certificate certifying the death is issued by the local doctor and serves as a burial permit. French death certificates do not show the cause of death.

If a local burial or cremation takes place, there will not be a coroner’s inquest carried out in the UK.

Retrieve belongings

Personal belongings found on the person who died at the time of death are handed to the police if the family is not present.

If you choose to repatriate, instruct the local funeral director to collect all personal belongings from the police or court and ship them together with the person who died.

If there is an investigation into the death, clothing may be retained as evidence and will not be returned until the court case is finished.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office cannot help with the cost of returning personal belongings to the family.

Find a translator

You may need a translator to help understand information from local authorities or get certain documents translated. You can find a list of official translators here.

Find a lawyer

You can apply to appoint a lawyer in certain circumstances, such as a suspicious death. You can find a list of English speaking lawyers here.

Cancel a passport

To avoid identity fraud, the passport of the person who died should be cancelled with Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO). To do this, you need to complete a D1 form.

If you plan to repatriate the person who died to the UK, you may require their passport to do this. In these circumstances, you should cancel the passport after they have been repatriated.

Check you have done everything you need to do in the UK

Check this step-by-step guide for when someone dies to make sure you have done everything you need to do in the UK after someone has died. You can find information on how to tell the government about the death, UK pensions and benefits and dealing with the estate of the person who died.

Disclaimer

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides lists of service providers for information only, to assist British nationals who may need support overseas. This list is not exhaustive, and is subject to change at any time. None of the service providers are endorsed or recommended by the FCDO. You should research whether a service provider will be suitable. The FCDO does not accept any liability arising to any person for any loss or damage suffered through using these service providers or this information.

Published 28 January 2021