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HEALTH

What to do when a foreigner dies in Spain

Navigating Spanish bureaucracy is never simple, and this is also true in difficult moments like the death of a loved one. Here are the steps to take if you need to deal with the death of a family member in Spain.

funeral foreigner spain
The total cost to expect for funeral services in Spain is between €2500 and €4500. Photo: Eli Solitas

Call the emergency services

If your family member of loved one has died of natural causes in their home you should call the emergency services. In Spain you can call 112, which will put you in touch with the SUMMA or SAMUR emergency services.

If it was not a natural death, you should call the police (emergency number 092) and they in turn will call a doctor to establish the cause of death.

Contact the travel insurance company

If the person who died had insurance, the first thing to do is contact their insurance company, which may be able to cover the cost of repatriation. They may also help with the medical, legal, interpretation and translation fees.

If the person who died has insurance, the insurance company will appoint a funeral director both locally and in their country of origin.

Check with their bank, credit card company or employer for other insurances.

Register the death

The death 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.

The registration includes the date, time and location of the death. Normally the death certificate will be handed to you by the funeral director five or six days after the death.

The death needs to be registered within 24 hours usually at the local civil register office which is often situated at the local town hall our court.

Local death certificated 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 need to tell the local authorities if the deceased suffered from an infectious disease, such as hepatitis or HIV, so they can take precautions against infection.

Contact the funeral services (funeraria)

Funeral services will be contacted (by the doctor, the police or yourself) to remove the body (identification must accompany the body in order for it to be removed). The funeral company will take over and help you from this moment on.

If you choose to do a local burial or cremation, a relative or a formally appointed representative need to appoint a local funeral director. You can find a list of English-speaking local funeral directors here.

Burial or cremation

It’s important to take into account that in Spain ‘burial’ often means an aboveground nice. Rights to this are normally held for only five years, unless otherwise agreed.

In some rural areas, coffin bearers are not included in the service of funeral directors. When making arrangements, be sure to specify that these are required.

Burial or cremation should take place within 24 to 48 hours (although this can be extended on arrangement with the morgue).

Burial or internment are more common in Spain. If the deceased or next of kin request a cremation, the doctor in charge of certifying the death must be informed, as it will be noted on the certificate.

Burial in Spain happens faster than in other countries like the UK.

Embalmed bodies must be buried within 96 hours, and when a temporary preservation method is used, bodies must be buried within 72 hours.

Unembalmend bodies must be buried within 48 hours, but not before the lapse of 24 hours.

Scattering ashes

In Spain the scattering of ashes in public spaces, including the sea, is not allowed.

Repatriation

First, get in touch with the deceased person’s closes embassy or consulate in Spain.

If the person who died had insurance, find out if the insurance provider can help with 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.

Bringing the ashes home

If you choose local cremation and wish to take the ashes back to the UK, this is also possible. Check with the airline about specific restrictions or requirements, such as 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

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, ask 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.

Find a translator

If you need a translator to help you understand the information from local authorities and get documents translated, you can find a list of official English translators here.

Cancel a passport

To avoid identity fraud, the passport of the person who died should be cancelled. To do this, you will have to consult with the appropriate consulate or embassy.

Bear in mind that if you plan to repatriate the person who died to your home country, you may still need their passport to do this. 

Who pays for the funeral services in Spain?

These are either paid for by the family, by the person who died if they had a funeral plan or an insurance company, or the estate can pay using funds in the account of the deceased.

How much does a funeral cost in Spain?

The total cost to expect for the funeral services is between €2500 and €4500.

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For members

ENERGY

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain. 

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