Funerals are not something we think about every day, indeed the majority of people have an aversion to the topic. However, a funeral is something that has to be considered and preferably prepared for. And it can be even more important to do so when you live abroad and are unfamiliar with the local customs and regulations.
Planning and Organising a Funeral in Spain
The Spanish system
In Spain, it is a legal requirement in the first instance following a death to contact the Guardia Civil (police) and a doctor. The doctor must issue a temporary death certificate and then either the doctor or the Guardia Civil contact a local funeral director. When the funeral director arrives, he will ask for a signature on a ‘release form’. This is where you need to be careful and need the services of a Spanish speaker: the release form may include a contract for the funeral director’s services without prices. This takes control away from you over the costs. Also, it is wise to be aware that the funeral director may be a relative or friend of the person who called them in. In other words, some kind of ‘arrangement’ is operating.
Funerals also happen very quickly in Spain compared with the UK and some other countries. Spanish law says that Spanish nationals must be buried within 72 hours. Expats don’t have to abide by this law, but you may find that the funeral director tells you that you must comply with it. Remember, you don’t, but you may have to pay hefty fees for the deceased to be kept at the funeral parlour. Most hospitals in Spain don’t have mortuary facilities, so the deceased is always collected immediately after death.
It is best for expats to choose a funeral director in advance if possible and in that way keep control over the costs and the funeral itself.
Get a funeral plan
The best way to avoid this type of practice is to have a funeral plan in place in advance. Having a funeral plan and/or funeral insurance is commonplace in Spain, and it is possible to cover the whole family, including the youngest member.
An insurance plan typically covers all the funeral expenses, which average €5,000 – €6,000 and are on the rise. With an insurance plan, even if you only took it out last week you are still covered. And, some offer added extras such as discounts on medical care. However, insurance can work out more expensive if you live to a ripe old age. Still, the smaller monthly payments are more manageable for many.
The other option is to buy a funeral plan. This usually involves either a lump sum payment, or the payment in instalments for a specified period. With a plan you are buying your funeral at today’s prices and at a set cost, no matter when the funeral happens. However, the sums here can be substantial and not everyone may find this method fits their budget.
Whatever method you choose, the key is always to plan in advance and ensure that your family is not troubled by an unfamiliar process at a time when they are most distressed.