Time to say Goodbye – Cremation or Donation

goodbye funeral home death

    Cremation or Donation

Not in the same way that you can in the UK.  In France the law says that bodies cannot be buried without a coffin and regulates the production of coffins, including its thickness (18-22mm), that it has a waterproof lining and that it should be sealable.  Therefore, shrouds, bamboo or jute and many other eco materials cannot be used here, but there are some bio-degradable paper/cardboard fibre coffins which meet the French regulations.  Probably the greenest funeral in France is a cremation without the body having been embalmed.  Modern crematoria have made significant reductions in emissions and bio-degradable urns are available.

→   Can my ashes be buried on my land?
This is possible as is the burial of a coffin on your own land, but permissions must be obtained from the Préfecture following a geological report and from the Mayor (an interment permit).  Town halls will, however, rarely grant the interment permit.  Following a recent change in the law Ashes may not be scattered on private land, including your garden.

→   Where else can ashes be scattered?
They can be spread in a rememberance garden or scattered “in nature” e.g. a forest, anywhere in France except public highways (including “managed” rivers), public parks and, now, in private gardens.  They can be scattered at sea, as long as this is done further than 150m from the shoreline, and they can be returned to another country, however authorisation for transport of the ashes will be required from the Préfecture, the funeral director will obtain these for you.

→   Can I keep the urn in my home?
Since a change in the law on 19.12.2008, this is not allowed.  The ashes within the urn are recognised, in France, as having the same status as a body.

→   Can I make a “Living Will” in France?
      A French law passed on 22nd April 2005 allows people to make a ‘ testament de fin de vie(the will of life’s end) or ‘ directives anticipées’(anticipated directives).  This is similar to an English “Living Will” and expresses what an individual would like to happen regarding limitation or stopping of treatment at a time when they lose consciousness at the end of their life.

Anyone over 18 can make a Living Will, which will be valid for 3 years and can be renewed by written confirmation every following 3 years.  It can also be revoked at any time.

The document must be hand written, dated and signed and it should contain surname, first name, date and place of birth.  It can also detail a reliable person, a parent, friend or general practitioner, who is to be consulted by the doctor’s.  If the person is unable to write or sign the document two people, one of which is the person named as above, to witness that the document expresses the free will of the person concerned.  Itl needs to be easily accessible by the doctor who has to make these decisions.  It is ideal, therefore, that it should be kept in their medical file.

One issue ….The doctor is obliged to consult the Living Will and the reliable person, but nothing appears to oblige him/her to follow the wishes.


cremation or donation

cremation or donation


→   I wish to donate my organs, what should I do?
In France it is assumed that organs can be used for transplant unless you have formerly opted out.  If you want to proactively encourage donation you can obtain an organ donor card from www.france-adot.org.   If you wish to opt out you must register this on www.dondorgans.fr or detail your wishes in a will left somewhere that it can be found quickly.

→   Can I leave my body to science?
Yes.  See the tab Donating your body.

→   When I die, do my family have to use a funeral director?
No, your body can lay at rest in your home until the funeral.  However certain things will need to be done to preserve the body (see http://www.afif.asso.fr/english/ddhome.htm ) and if the weather is hot your body may need to be embalmed.  A coffin can be purchased and the funeral arranged directly with the Mairie and Church or Crematorium.  Guidance will be required to ensure that all legalities are followed, eg Gendarmes will be required to check the seal on the coffin and permissions to transport the coffin will be required if it is to leave the home commune.

→   How can funeral costs be paid?  Financing funerals (information sourced from the AFIF – Association Française d’Information Funéraire website

  • Through the deceased’s banker.
    The deceased’s assets may cover funeral expenses.
    With authorization from the family and with the agreement of the banking establishment, an amount to a maximum of 3,049 Euros may be withdrawn by the funeral directors from the account of the deceased person. This amount will be deducted from the estate asset upon presentation of the invoice.

    By the notary.

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

    Accessing dues.

    Life insurance, death-funeral insurance, mutual insurance or social security (in the case of death while performing duties as an employee or professional or receiving unemployment benefits).

    If the assets of a deceased person are insufficient.

    The children and the spouse must finance the funerals of their relative, even if they renounce beneficiary status.
    These expenses constitute a maintenance debt the children must bear proportional to their resources if the assets of the deceased parent are insufficient. The funeral expenses constitute a succession debt only if they were “necessary”. If the funeral takes on a “de-luxe” character, the expenses are only incurred by the person who initiated them.

    Requisitioning a funeral home.

    In the event of death on a public road or in order to satisfy public health requirements, a society for the transportation of mortal remains may be requisitioned. The Mayor or the Director of Public Prosecution may demand payment of transportation costs before placement in the coffin.

    Funeral of an indigent person.

    The Mayor of the town or commune where the death occurred will be responsible for the organization of the financing of the funeral, taking in consideration, both of the deceased person’s wishes, and the cost normally agreed and the governing laws.
    Consult social services of the town hall.
    The Mayor, calling upon a tribunal, may recover the cost of the funerals from one of the children or from the spouse, only on condition of his or her solvency.→   Is there a need to have the death certificate officially translated if the deceased is repatriated to the UK?
    Yes, amongst other documents that are required, an officially translated death certificate will be needed.  Note as well that the French death certificate does not detail the cause of death and so when the body returns to the UK the Coroner may require a post-mortem and inquest to establish the cause of death, even if this has already been done in France.  Burial or cremation could, therefore, be delayed for some time.→   I really do not want a fuss made, can I just be buried under my compost?
    No.  You cannot be buried without a coffin in France and burial in your garden is very unlikely to be agreed by the Mairie and Prefecture.  Also, if your family wanted to sell the house do you think many people would be interested when they were told where you were buried?→   I would rather my body was returned to the UK but don’t want my family to have to “jump through hoops”, couldn’t they just put me in the car and go through the Channel Tunnel?
    Lots of people have suggested this would be what they would do, but………………. a) it’s illegal and b) just what can you say if challenged by the gendarmes, customs, staff at the Channel Tunnel, police or, even if you managed to get to your home town, the doctor when you try to get a death certificate for someone who has been deceased for several hours?

    →   Could my body be frozen (cryopreservation)?
    No, only burial and cremation are recognised in France and, therefore, all other methods of disposing of the body are not allowed.

    More to come …but until then, the same questions is poping out our minds, Cremation or Donation?

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