Death: Procedures to carry out

Updated on Thursday 20 October 2022

One of your loved ones has passed away. Who inherits? What is the ratio? How much does it cost? Your notary is here to help you and assist you with the inheritance transactions you need to carry out.


Death: What are the initial procedures to carry out ?

In the case of the death of a relative or a spouse, certain administrative formalities must be settled: funerals, inheritance, contacting the employer of the deceased, etc. In addition, many organizations (pension fund, health insurance, home insurance, mutual, etc.) must be informed of the death.

The procedures are different depending on the situation of the deceased: retired, employee, job seeker, married, children, etc..

Death certificate

The death certificate must be obtained by the doctor who shall draw up the death certificate. The death certificate allows the transfer to funeral directors. If the death took place in a a health facility or in a social structure (hospital, clinic, retirement home), the establishment establishes the certificate, by the department’s doctor. In some cases, it is possible to request access to the deceased's medical file.

Declaration in a town hall

The death must be declared at the town hall within 24 hours, by any person who has the necessary documents (death certificate, family record book, identity card, passport, birth certificate…). The declaration can also be made by the funeral director.

Death record

The registrar draws out the death record and transmits the information to INSEE, who in turn informs the pension funds. Hosting the body before the funeral. While waiting for the burial or the cremation, the place where the body rests needs to be chosen (funeral home, home, social or medico-social establishment).

Note: The deceased may have indicated his last wishes regarding his funeral and organ removal.

For the organization of the funeral, it is necessary to contact funeral directors.

Good to note: If a French individual dies abroad, you must start by declaring the death with the local civil registry. Following which, it is possible to have the local act transcribed in the French civil status register in order to carry out certain formalities (inheritance, retirement pension, etc.). The consular services can help with the procedures related to the funeral and the repatriation of the body of the deceased. Moreover, if the deceased received benefits in France (retirement pension, etc.), the relatives of the deceased must declare their death to the National Old Age Insurance Fund.

Which funeral method to choose? Burial or cremation?

If the deceased has left indications on how his/her funeral should be organized, his wishes must be respected. Otherwise, it is up to relatives to choose. The funeral must take place within 6 days of death (Sundays and public holidays not included). If the death took place abroad, the period is 6 days from the arrival of the body in France. Relatives of the deceased can ask their employer for specific leave.


The deceased may be buried in the cemetery of his/her commune of residence, or commune where the death occurred, or in the cemetery where his/her family had acquired a burial plot. If the deceased wanted to be buried in another municipality, the mayor's approval must be obtained.


The choice of crematorium is free. The ashes are either kept in a cinerary urn or dispersed in a space specially made for a cemetery or a cinerary site or scattered in the middle of nature (except on public roads). In the case of the latter, a declaration to the town hall, of the place of birth of the deceased is required.

Financing the funeral

Funeral expenses are borne by the estate. This means that they are taken from the estate's assets if there is enough. 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 euros. Of course, this is only possible if the capital is available in the accounts of the deceased. Beyond this amount, a notary needs to get involved.

Relatives must also make sure with the documents of the deceased, whether the latter had a funeral insurance. If this is the case, one must immediately contact the insurer. Relatives can also check with the deceased's health insurance fund to see if they can receive an allowance for funeral expenses. The contract can guarantee the payment of a lump sum, to the designated beneficiaries, or include in excess to the organization of the funeral with the funeral directors.

Which people and institutions need to be notified?

The family of the deceased must be responsible for informing third parties of the death (mainly the employer, pension funds, social organizations, bank(s), service providers and the tax center), by sending them a copy of the death certificate.

In order to review, it is recommended to sort the papers of the deceased :

  • debts and claims of the deceased,
  • guarantee documents made by the deceased with a bank or if the latter was a tenant,
  • life annuity sales of the deceased,
  • the contracts of the deceased (subscription, insurance contract, etc.)

As a first step, it is important to inform the bank of the deceased in order to block the accounts. It shall no longer record any transactions on the accounts. However, if they are joint accounts, the accounts will remain with the surviving joint owner. It will then be necessary to determine the share of the sums in the accounts which belonged to the deceased and which forms part of the succession.

Following which, the insurance companies (home insurance - automobile insurance - mutual insurance) of the deceased must also be contacted in order to terminate the contracts. If the deceased had a subscription (gym, mobile, internet, etc.), relatives should remember to terminate it by contacting the establishment concerned.

When the deceased owns a vehicle, it is important to change the registration certificate.

Note: For certain formalities, the heirs will have to prove their capacity, mainly to use the bank accounts of the deceased:

  • with a certificate signed by all the heirs for an inheritance less than or equal to 5,000€
  • with a notarial act for an inheritance exceeding 5,000 €.

When the deceased was in a civil union, the town hall where the death was noted informs the authorities responsible for registering the dissolution of the civil unions and inscribing it alongside the birth certificate of the deceased and his partner.

For a deceased former employee, the heirs or the spouse must inform the former employer in order to obtain the early release of the capital from the deceased's employee savings plans. The employer of a former civil servant must also be notified in order to have the death benefit.

On the other hand, if the deceased was a job seeker, his relatives should contact Pôle Emploi (Job Center). Indeed, if the deceased was compensated by Pôle Emploi, his spouse can claim payment of certain allowances. Moreover, the death allowances paid by Pôle emploi are death benefits and not additional income.

Remember: Relatives of the deceased can contact the association for managing information on insurance risk (Agira) to find out if they are beneficiaries of a life insurance or death insurance contract.

In addition, the notary must be contacted quickly, in order to open the inheritance file. Indeed, the law imposes a time limit on the heirs, for the filing of the succession declaration and the payment of an inheritance tax. The period is six months, if the death took place in France metropolis, twelve months in other cases. In the event of a delay, an interest of 0.40% per month is due. In practice, this six-month period corresponds to the average period for settling a succession, from the opening of the succession file by the notary and if the file does not present any issue. The notary must therefore be contacted quickly, in order to favor a settlement, as soon as possible.

Good to know: In the case of the deceased's children or grandchildren who were involved in the succession, it is mandatory to have recourse to the guardianship judge.

If certain movable property of the deceased is to be preserved pending settlement of the estate, it is possible to ask a bailiff to establish an inventory.

Once the estate has been settled, in some cases the heirs have to declare the estate to tax and pay certain duties. Moreover, the spouse of the deceased or his civil union partner must report the death to the administration to obtain a new rate of income tax.

The spouse can also apply to the pension fund or the supplementary pension fund for the payment of a survivor's pension and an invalidity pension under certain conditions. Pension funds are informed of the death by state services.

Note: Only one request is to be made even if the deceased had several pension funds.

The survivor's pension is part of the retirement of the deceased. The survivor's pension is paid to the surviving spouse and/or the surviving ex-spouse.

The health insurance fund (reimbursement of sickness/care costs for the deceased - payment of death grant) and other organizations must also be contacted to obtain aid or benefits such as bereavement benefits.

Health insurance pays the heirs of the deceased a death benefit in certain cases when the latter was contributing to the general social security scheme. The deceased contributed to social security when he was:

  • employee,
  • compensated job seeker,
  • holder of an invalidity pension,
  • holder of a work accident or occupational disease pension,
  • self-employed craftsman not retired,
  • self-employed, trader and non-retired,
  • retired self-employed worker,...

The death grant is neither subject to the CSG, nor to the CRDS, nor to social security contributions, nor to inheritance tax.

When the deceased was a tenant of his home, his relatives are responsible for informing his landlord in order to terminate the lease. The heirs or the notary will also have to pay the remaining rents. On the other hand, if the deceased lived with his spouse in the dwelling, the surviving spouse can keep the dwelling even if they were not both tenants on the residential lease.

Last but not least, during the year following the death, the last income of the deceased must be declared to the tax authorities. For this, two income tax returns will have to be completed if the deceased was married or in a civil partnership:

  • one mentioning the couple's income,
  • one for the widow or widower's income after death.