For members


How to register a death and arrange a funeral in France

There’s a third certainty in life in France, after death and taxes - and that’s bureaucracy. 

Graves at a cemetery in Paris
There are strict rules around burial or cremation n France. Photo: Martin Bureau / AFP

No one wants to think about death while they’re enjoying the good life in France, but it’s important to understand what needs to be done – and when – in the event of a loved one dying in France.

Let’s start with what you can do before you die.

Burial or cremation

It’s a good idea to make it known whether you want a burial or cremation in France, or if you want your body repatriated for a service back home, so that anyone dealing with the formalities is aware of your wishes.

If you do want to be buried in France, it’s a good idea to reserve a plot, as it will make things a lot easier at a difficult time. Just keep the document that confirms you have done so in a safe place.

Funeral insurance

Funerals can cost anywhere between €3,000 and €5,000, so it can be a good option for older people to take out a funeral plan – they’re routinely offered by banks, insurers or funeral firms. It means funeral funding and organisation is automatically in place, and any family members flying into France, whose French may not be very strong, don’t have that issue to face. 

After a person dies, numerous administrative tasks are necessary in a short period of time.

The first 24 hours

If you’re with a family member, friend or relative when they die, you have 24 hours to report the death. 

If they die at home, contact their GP, or call 112 or 15. A doctor will come round and certify death and issue a medical certificate (certificat de décès / declaration de décès). If the person dies in a hospital, retirement home or other facility, it is their responsibility to report the death.

If the doctor believes the death was suspicious or by suicide, an inquiry is held. This is also standard if the death occurred in a public place. The responsibility for issuing the certificat de décès and burial permission in such cases falls to the public prosecutor (Procureur de la République) in the local high court (Tribunal de Grande Instance).

Registering the death

A relative, representative or undertaker then has to register the death at the local mairie (town hall) within 24 hours, unless the death takes place on a public holiday or at a weekend, when the admin offices at town halls are closed. 

Those who report the death need to take proof of their own ID, as well as proof of the deceased person’s identity (a carte nationale d’identité, carte de séjour, passport, marriage certificate or birth certificate) and the recently issued medical death certificate.

This should be enough for officials to issue a death certificate (acte de décès) – which includes information on where and when the death took place, not the cause of death. 

You can ask for several copies – they’re free and it’s a good idea to do so. These documents are needed to close the deceased’s bank or utility accounts. But, if you later find out you don’t have enough, don’t worry. More copies can be obtained online, in person or by post.

Organ donation

It may seem a bit crass to slip this point in here, but in general every adult in France is presumed to be an organ donor, unless they specifically opt out. 

This has been the case since the Loi Caillavet was passed in 1976, making everyone an organ donor except for those who have explicitly refused, as well as minors and those under someone else’s guardianship.

The rule, however, is different for foreign nationals who die in France. In such cases, the law of their home country takes priority.

In practice, doctors will consult with family members before harvesting any organs. Refusal must be in writing, and must confirm that the deceased had expressed their opposition to organ donation. 

Arranging the funeral

Once the death is registered, the mairie issues a burial permit (permis d’inhumer).

The deceased’s family usually have six days to arrange the service for a burial or a cremation, with allowances if there’s an open investigation or if the death happened on a weekend or public holiday, or if the person died abroad and wishes to be repatriated to France – in which case the time limit is six days of the arrival of the body in France.

Burial can’t take place within the first 24 hours after death.

If the deceased had indicated what type of ceremony they wanted, their wishes must be respected. If they didn’t specify, the decision has to be made by their closest relatives.

The funeral directors will help with these formalities. The mairie will have a list of local firms, and the website has details of funeral directors in towns and cities across the country.


Burial in a cemetery requires a surviving spouse, parent or child to ask permission from the mairie. This is a formality and will usually be granted – though there are exceptions.

The deceased can be buried in the commune where they lived, where they died or where they have a family tomb.

Families may request to have them buried in another city, town or village (for example, if that’s where other family members) but the mairie may decline the request.

If the deceased had not already reserved a burial plot (une concession) you need to buy one. This is done at the mairie or at the bureau des cimetières. Costs vary depending on timespan which ranges from five – 15 years, to perpetuity and can usually be paid in installments. Arrangements may be made if the family lacks the means to pay.

Enquiries about burial must be made as soon as possible to organise a time and date for a funeral. If a burial plot had been previously reserved, you should find a document called a titre de concession confirming this.

Normally cemeteries require flat paving to be placed over the grave before the family can install a headstone.


As with burials, permission for a cremation has to be obtained from the town hall of the commune where the death took place, as cremations usually take place at the crematorium nearest the place of death.

A medical certificate showing there are no medical or legal reasons preventing cremation is required. Medical implants such as pacemakers must be removed by a doctor or embalmer.

Following any short service, ashes are handed to a family member privately shortly after the funeral, or may be stored temporarily while the family considers what they plan to do with them. 

But there are strict rules on where ashes may be scattered. You can’t just throw them anywhere –  for example, scattering them on private land is banned. Communes will usually have a remembrance garden used for this purpose, but – again – surviving family members may be required to ask permission from the mairie to use it. 

If you intend to take the ashes to another country, you will need a certificate from the préfecture – your funeral director should be able to arrange this for you.

Who pays?

Funeral expenses in France are covered by the estate of the deceased, usually their bank account. If the money in their accounts isn’t enough to cover the overall fee, heirs or family members must pay the difference.

The person taking charge of the funeral may, upon presentation of the funeral invoice, obtain the debit from the bank account of the deceased, which is to say, the required amount for the payment of funeral expenses, with a limit of €5,000. Beyond this amount, a notary needs to get involved.

If the deceased had funeral insurance, contact the insurer as soon as possible after death.

Seven days and after

Within seven days of the person’s death, you should notify their employer if they were working, health and life insurance companies, bank (do mention if you shared a joint account), and their landlord, if they were renting.

Within 30 days, notify France’s primary health insurance fund CPAM and return the deceased’s carte vitale health card.

Within six months, make sure you have informed the tax office with reference to income tax declarations and other relevant fiscal information. The process can be done online in the first two months after the person’s death.


A notary must be contacted promptly, in order to open the inheritance file. There is a six-month time limit for the filing of the succession declaration and the payment of an inheritance tax, if the death took place in France, twelve months in other cases. This is usually sufficient for an estate to be settled.

Notaires de France has a comprehensive English-language inheritance guide on its website.

Member comments

  1. This is an excellent article. One also needs to inform the embassy in France of the deceased’s passport country.

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For members


Reader question: Who is responsible for paying French inheritance tax?

If you have received an inheritance there is a chance you will be required to pay French inheritance tax, even if you don't live in France. Here is how it works.

Reader question: Who is responsible for paying French inheritance tax?

In some countries taxes are subtracted from the estate before it is distributed, but in France the estate is distributed and then it is the responsibility of the heir to pay taxes on the share they have received.

In terms of the taxation level, the rate can range from 0 to 60 percent based on the person’s relationship with the deceased.

Scenario A: I live outside France, but I received an inheritance from a resident of France

The first thing to verify is whether or not the person who died was indeed a tax resident and fiscally domiciled in France. If you are unsure, you can consult our guide to tax residency. (although ultimately it will be French tax authorities who determine the answer).

Death and taxes: What you need to know about estate planning in France

In some very specific cases, Americans (thanks to the US-France tax treaty) can request to maintain the United States as their fiscal domicile in the first five years of living in France if they can prove they did not intend to move to France permanently and will be moving back to the US, according to tax attorney Jérôme Assouline, who is admitted to the bar in both Paris and New York (and based in Paris). 

Oftentimes, this is done by posted workers who have the intention of returning to the US after the end of their contract. The decedent should have taken steps to qualify for this status, so you will need to verify.

However, in most cases, if France was their main home then they would almost certainly be tax resident and fiscally domiciled in France. Keep in mind that this designation can apply to some second-home owners or people who spend long periods in France. 

If the person was a French tax resident then their estate – including assets outside France – will be eligible for inheritance taxes in France and by French law.

This means that you, as the heir, would be responsible for paying French inheritance taxes. 

Scenario B: I’ve received an inheritance from someone who didn’t live in France, but owned property there

If the person who died was not a French tax resident, but they owned property in France (for example, a second-home owner) then only their assets in France will factor into French inheritance taxes.

So if you have inherited a property or a part share in a property in France, you will be responsible for paying French inheritance tax, even if you don’t live in France. 

Scenario C: I am a tax resident of France, and I’ve received an inheritance from someone living outside France 

The first question to answer is whether or not the country where the deceased was resident has a tax treaty with France. In the case of the US and UK, there are tax treaties in place to avoid the double taxation of inheritance. For the US, you can find the treaty here. For the UK, you can find the treaty here.

Now, let’s say you live in France and your American parent (resident in the US) passes away and leave you an inheritance. In this case, the inheritance, assuming the assets contained are based in the US, ought to be taxed by the United States and not France. If the inheritance comes from a trust, however, the situation may be more complicated

For those from countries that countries that have no tax treaty in place with France, you may need to declare the inheritance to French tax authorities – even if you don’t have to pay tax on it and especially if the inheritance is more than €50,000. In this case you should check with your local tax office.

How much will I have to pay?

So once you have established whether or not you are liable to inheritance tax in France, the next step is how much you will be taxed – and this is on a sliding scale depending on your relationship with the deceased.

The taxable proportion is equal to the taxable assets of the estate minus the tax-free allowance.

The tax-free allowance is determined based on family relationships with the deceased. The surviving spouse or civil union partner is exempt from inheritance tax.

For children and parents of the deceased, up to €100,000 can be given tax-free. 

For siblings, the maximum of tax-free inheritance is €15,932. For nephews and nieces, the value is €7,967 and for all other heirs (eg friends or neighbours) the non-taxable maximum is €1,594. 

After you have determined how much you can receive tax-free, anything above that amount is taxed on a rate dependent on your relationship.

For children and parents – direct heirs – the scale for inheritance after the first €100,000 is shown below, as well as for siblings after €15,932.

Credit: Impots.Gouv.Fr

Other relatives, including cousins, are taxed at a flat rate of 55 percent, while all other heirs are taxed at the flat rate of 60 percent.

So for example if your sibling left you €16,932 the first €15,932 would be tax free. You would then pay tax on the remaining €1,000 at the sibling rate of 35 percent, giving you a total tax bill of €350. 

However if you were left the same amount by a friend, only the first €1,594 is tax free. You would therefore pay tax on €15,338 at the non-relatives tax rate of 60 percent, giving you a total tax bill of €9,202. 

What about gifts?

It’s not uncommon for older family members to give gifts to their heirs, but these too may be subject to tax in France. 

If as a French resident you want to leave a non-French resident a gift, then French tax rules would apply – similar to inheritance it depends on your relationship with the recipient of the gift, with a sliding scale of how much can be gifted tax-free. See full details here.

If you are in France but are given a gift from someone outside France then, similar to inheritance, you will need to verify whether your country has a tax agreement with France. So for example if you are the child of a UK resident, and they give you a gift, then it would usually be taxed in the UK, but potentially subject to reporting requirements in France (depending on the amount of the gift).

How to avoid problems

So as we’ve seen things can be complicated when it comes to cross-border inheritance.

For this reason it’s a good idea to have a family conversation about inheritance, and to consult specialists – ideally someone with expertise in both the tax and legal aspects of inheritance, who is familiar with both French laws and the laws of your home country – when writing your will. 

READ MORE: Wills, estates and notaires – what you need to know about French inheritance law

Notaires (legal experts) are crucial actors in the settlement of an estate. If you live in France and plan on leaving assets to relatives outside France who don’t speak French, it’s highly recommended to work in advance with a bilingual notaire, who will be able to explain things to your heirs when the time comes.

When someone dies in France, the notaire is responsible for drawing up a notary act which involves listing out all of the people who should be notified to collect their inheritance, as well as what rights apply to them. 

The next step will be for the notaire to create a comprehensive inheritance review of the deceased, which involves listing out all of their assets, according to Notaires.Fr.

After this, the notaire will work with the heirs regarding tax formalities, as well as the mortgage if there is one involved. It is at this point that an ‘inheritance declaration’ for French tax authorities would be drafted. The following forms will need to be filled out and sent to French tax authorities: 2705, 2750-S and 2706 – you can find them here.

The general rule is that French inheritance tax must be paid within six months of the death, but if the death occurred outside of France, then the heirs have up to one year to pay tax. The heirs can work with the French tax authorities to pay in instalments. 

The final step of estate settlement in France involves the heirs’ deciding whether or not to share property.

This article is intended as a general overview of French law and is not a substitute for legal advice. In all cases, it is best to obtain independent advice that’s appropriate to your personal situation, from a financial expert.