What to do after a British person dies in Spain
This guide gives advice about the death of a British person in Spain, 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, call +34 91 714 6300.
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-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 that can help.
Register the death and obtain a death certificate
Deaths must be registered in the country where the person died. In Spain, the funeral director will arrange for the registration of the death with the local Spanish civil registry, who will issue a death certificate.
Local death certificates will be in Spanish and do not show the cause of death. If you need an English translation you need to pay for it.
You can also apply for multiple copies of the standard death certificate and an international multilingual version through your funeral director. Alternatively, you can request additional Spanish death certificates by accessing the Spanish Ministry of Justice website.
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 deceased 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.
During a post-mortem, small tissue samples and organs may be removed and retained for testing without the consent of the next of kin. You will not automatically be told if this happens.
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 to the local court dealing with the death.
The person who died can be buried or cremated in Spain or returned to the UK before tests on removed organs are completed. Any organs removed are retained for the duration of the tests, and are then put in storage for a period of time before being destroyed.
However, if you wish to recover the organs you may request this through the offices of the UK coroner (in the case of a repatriation to England and Wales) who will contact the British Consulate, or by instructing your lawyer in Spain if you have one. The British Consulate will make a formal request to the relevant Spanish court asking for the return of the removed organs, on behalf of the family.
Bring the body home
Repatriation is the process of bringing the body home. If the person who died had insurance, find out if their insurance provider can help cover the cost of repatriation. 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.
The repatriation process usually takes 7 to 10 days. Local authorities can request that bodies are embalmed within six days after the death. If the embalming process does not take place within this timeframe, the local authorities may not authorise a repatriation. Contact the international or local funeral director for further information as this can vary depending on the area of Spain you are in.
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 Spain with human ashes you will need to:
- show the certificate of cremation
- fill in a standard customs form when you arrive home
- follow local rules about departing with human ashes
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.
You can find a list of local funeral directors here.
In Spain, a burial will normally be in an above ground structure, such as a burial wall, with spaces called ‘niches’ where the urn or casket are placed. Rights to this space are normally only held for five years, unless otherwise agreed.
In some rural areas, coffin bearers are not included in the service of the funeral directors. When making arrangements, be sure to specify that these are required.
In Spain the scattering of ashes in public spaces, including the sea, is not allowed.
If a local burial or cremation takes place, there will not be a coroner’s inquest carried out in the UK.
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. See Find a lawyer in Spain.
Cancel a passport
To avoid identity fraud, the passport of the person who died should be cancelled with HM 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.
Last updated 2 September 2022 + show all updates
Updated information about the repatriation process.