There are many funeral homes in France to choose from, some are owned privately by families and some by large corporations. Since January 1998 any funeral home that has been certified by the prefecture must have their credentials and certification displayed for public viewing at town hall’s, mortuaries, funeral homes, crematoriums, and cemetery conservation rooms.

Funeral homes in France have to abide by a code of practice which is the same as in the UK.

Below are some useful tips to help you when choosing a funeral home:
  • Obtain an itemised cost of their services and the procedures required. An estimate should be given free of charge. Consider the cost of coffins, the hearse, pallbearers and bear in mind that you may incur additional expenses for example for newspaper notices, flowers, a religious service, preservation care, the urn and monument. If you want the deceased to be repatriated to the UK or another country it is important to obtain a full breakdown of costs and how they are calculated.
  • It is important that all expenses are itemised so you do not take on more than you can afford.
  • Ensure you understand exactly what you have requested for the funeral, if in doubt ask, or ask someone who is fluent in French to help you. Ask for any terminology you are not familiar with to be explained to you. It is important not to leave anything to chance when mistakes could be extremely distressing.
  • Once you accept the estimate you are then contracting the funeral home and you will sign documents stating you agree to pay the bill.

Other useful information:
Normally an employee of the funeral home will guide the family with regards to organisation and protocol. In France, the funeral home will usually register the death for you. This is different to the UK where you register the death and take the paperwork to the funeral home.

Embalming is not mandatory and cannot be imposed on the family, however if repatriation is desired then embalming is obligatory.The deceased can be laid out in their home if you wish.

Viewing of the deceased is not obligatory, it is a personal choice. Cosmetic care is normally taken when a person will be viewed.

Some funeral homes have ‘an open door’ policy to viewing of the deceased. The deceased will be laid out in a private viewing room and the family will be given a swipe card to enter the viewing room as often as they wish within office hours.

A funeral should help family and friends express and share their sadness. It may be the last opportunity to be together to focus their thoughts on the person who has died. The ceremony deserves to be remembered as an occasion that uniquely and affectionately honoured that person's life. It should capture his or her personality.

Religious funerals – Catholic and Anglican
The religious funeral service can be very short and quiet with only a few members of the family present or an occasion with music, hymns and a packed church.
The service time is normally 1 hour minimum. This is arrival at the crematorium to committal and departure. It is important to remember the committal time e.g. if the funeral is booked for 10am this will be the committal time the service will be from 9.15/9.30am and not the start of the service.
You can have a service just the same as you would in UK – music, eulogy, prayers etc.
Coffin will be taken in by the funeral director and his attendants before you enter the chapel, not carried in like the UK.
Coffin will be placed on the catafalque.
In a crematorium, at the committal the coffin is moved slowly out of sight downwards.
The service time is normally 1 hour followed by either burial or cremation. Permission must be sought from the Mairie in the village/town the church will be. The same applies for UK – hymns, eulogy, prayers etc. The committal is a particularly solemn moment of the funeral service. It takes place either at the graveside or, in the case of a cremation, in the crematorium chapel or in church before the hearse leaves for the crematorium. In the cemetery or churchyard, the family will gather round the open grave into which the coffin is lowered

An estimate of costs should always be obtained from the Funeral Director before any final decision is made as to how the family wishes to manage the death.

The most economical would be cremation in France and the ashes scattered in the Garden of Remembrance.

Average costs:
Cremation of an adult, approximately = 3000€ (minimum)

Burials in France
The Funeral home should be contacted regarding costs, as grave purchase and re-opening determined by cost. Advice should always be sought first.

If you do not have a policy to cover the deceased’s funeral expenses it will mean paying the costs with your resources.

The deceased’s assets may cover funeral expenses. With authorization from the family and with the agreement of the bank, an amount to a maximum of 3000€ may be withdrawn by the funeral home from the account of the deceased person. This amount will be deducted from the estate assets upon presentation of the invoice.

A request of empowerment, countersigned by all the senior heirs can be made

There exists a funeral allowance. It is accessible if the deceased has paid enough social security contributions within a qualifying period. It is not subject to Inheritance Tax. Claims should be made to the Social Security to which the deceased was affiliated within 1 month of the death and the following documents are required:

• A copy of the Acte de Décés (death certificate)
• Evidence of the claimant’s relationship to the deceased
• Any pay slips/company details.

Angela Clohessy Dip. FD  MBIFD



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