The Special Consular Services Unit (SCS) of the American Citizen Services Section can assist family and friends in the event of the death of an American Citizen in France. The SCS Unit can act as liaison in arranging the disposition of remains and help with forwarding personal effects if there is no one present to do so on your behalf.
Even if no assistance is needed in making funeral arrangements, the death of an American citizen, whether resident or tourist in France, should be reported to the SCS Unit so that a “Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad” can be issued. This document is necessary to settle legal and estate matters in the United States.
You may reach us in Paris for this service, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except on French and American holidays at: 01.43.12.29.97 from France, or when dialed from the U.S. 011.33.1.43.12.29.97, after business hours and on weekends. You may also write to us at: Citizeninfo@state.gov.
If the death occurred in southern France, (region of Marseille, Nice or Toulouse) you may contact the Consulate General in Marseille by telephone, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at 01.43.12.47.54, or 011.33.1.43.12.47.54 when dialed from the United States, except, on French and American holidays, after business hours and on weekends. You may also write to us at: CitizeninfoMarseille@state.gov.
When we learn of the death of an American in the Paris Consular District, we will determine as quickly as possible who the next-of-kin of the deceased is and contact that person by telephone immediately. There are several important actions that the next-of-kin must take in conjunction with the SCS unit.
If the death occurred in southern France, (region of Marseille, Nice or Toulouse) you may contact the Consulate General in Marseille by telephone, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at 01.43.12.47.54, or 011.33.1.43.12.47.54 when dialed from the United States, except, on French and American holidays, after business hours and on weekends. You may also write to us at: CitizeninfoMarseille@state.gov .
The following general information is provided to assist families in their initial decisions. Indicated costs are estimates, based on deaths with no unusual circumstances and should be considered for guidance purposes only. These estimates also relate only to costs incurred in the Paris area (inclusive of shipping). United States funeral home costs will need to be added.
The family or legal representative must pay all funeral home expenses, shipping costs of the remains and personal effects (if applicable). The SCS Unit will work with any funeral home selected by the family to ensure proper documentation for shipment of remains to the United States. See the list of English-speaking Funeral Homes that are familiar with the international shipping requirement of human remains.
Should you decide to have burial take place in France, the consular officer and local officials will take every possible care to follow your wishes as to ceremony and site of burial.
- The costs for burial in France (not embalmed) are approximately $4,500 including a 10-year grave rental.
- The costs for cremation and disposition of ashes in France are approximately $4,200 including 10-year niche rental.
Should you decide to have the remains returned to the U.S. for burial, the costs would be substantially greater due to the high cost of airfreight and embalming:
- The total cost for preparation and air shipment of the remains to the East Coast of the U.S. is approximately $6,000; to the Midwest, approximately $6,200; or to the West Coast, approximately $6,400.
- The cost of cremation and air shipment of ashes anywhere in the United States is approximately $4,500.
In Paris: You may contact our services at: Tel. 01.43.12.29.97 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or, contact the Department of State in Washington, D.C., Tel: (202) 647-5226 for detailed instructions on how to transmit the funds.
In Marseille: You may contact our services at: Tel. 01.43.12.47.54. or send an e-mail to email@example.com or, contact the Department of State in Washington, D.C., Tel: (202) 647-5226 for detailed instructions on how to transmit the funds.
Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad
The “Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad” is an official report that provides the essential facts concerning the death of a U.S. citizen and is based on the French death certificate.
In order to assist you with legal matters that may arise as a result of the death of your relative, certified copies of the “Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad” prepared by the U.S. Embassy will be forwarded to you as soon as possible. This document is in English and can generally be used in U.S. courts to help settle estate matters, bank accounts, insurance policies, and similar matters.
To complete the Report of the Death Abroad, the next-of-kin or legal representative will have to complete and submit a list of information and documents. To obtain this list, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office.
Upon receipt of the required items, the SCS unit will prepare the “Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad” and send copies to the next-of-kin and/or legal representative. Twenty (or more if you desire) certified copies of the Report of Death are normally issued at the time of death, and will be provided free of charge.
If in the future you find that you need additional copies, submit a signed, written request including all pertinent facts along with requester’s return address and telephone number. There is a $30 fee for a certified copy of Reports of Death, and a $20 fee for each additional copy provided at the same time. Please send a written request together with a check or money order made payable to the Department of State to the following address:
U.S. Department of State (Telephone (202) 955-0307)
Passport Services Correspondence Branch 1111 19th St., NW, Suite 510 Washington, D.C. 20522-1705 U.S.A
Please do not hesitate to contact the Special Consular Citizens Services Section at the U.S. Embassy in Paris at email@example.com if you have any further questions.
If the death occurred in southern France, (region of Marseille, Nice or Toulouse) you may also contact the Consulate General in Marseille by telephone, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at 01.43.12.47.54, or 011.33.1.43.12.47.54 when dialed from the United States, except, on French and American holidays, after business hours and on weekends. You may also write to us at: CitizeninfoMarseille@state.gov .
For emergency information the Embassy’s Duty Officer can be reached by telephone after working hours and on weekends by dialing: 01.43.12.22.22 in France, and 011.33.1.43.12.22.22 from the United States.
Services Available in France Regarding Preparation and Shipment of Remains
English Speaking funeral homes
Country Specific Information for France
Services Available in France Regarding Preparation and Shipment of Remains:
French laws governing deaths are covered under Title II of the French Civil Code, as amended, and decree law 5050 of December 31, 1941, as amended by decree law No. 76‑435 of May 18, 1976.
While regulations for the disposal of human remains apply nationwide, services and prices vary by locality.
French death formalities require at least five working days and must be completed before remains can be transported to the United States. If an autopsy is performed, the body may be retained by the medical authorities for a lengthy period of time. Consequently, completion of the Report of Death will be delayed (see Section “remarks”).
Quality of funeral services is typically on par with those offered in the United States.
IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING COVID-19:
CDC requirements for importing human remains depend upon if the body has been embalmed, cremated, or if the person died from a quarantinable communicable disease.
At this time, COVID-19 is a quarantinable communicable disease in the United States and the remains must meet the standards for importation found in 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 71.55 and may be cleared, released, and authorized for entry into the United States only under the following conditions:
- The remains are cremated; OR
- The remains are properly embalmed and placed in a hermetically sealed casket; OR
- The remains are accompanied by a permit issued by the CDC Director. The CDC permit (if applicable) must accompany the human remains at all times during shipment.
- Permits for the importation of the remains of a person known or suspected to have died from a quarantinable communicable disease may be obtained through the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine by calling the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information.
Disposition of remains report
2022 DISPOSITION OF REMAINS REPORT – FRANCE
U.S. Embassy Paris
2 avenue Gabriel
Tel (24 hours): +33-1-43-12-22-22
France Information Travel Advisory: France International Travel Information (state.gov)
Register with the U.S. Embassy: Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
Religious Services available
Funeral Directors, Mortician and Related Services
The funeral home or mortuary service is a critical partner in a death in France and will handle much of the bureaucratic process whether burial or cremation is elected and whether the remains remain in France or are shipped to the United States. The French funeral home will work with the U.S. funeral home if the remains are being returned to the United States. While an initial funeral home may have been selected by default by local authorities, the family can choose any funeral home to assist them, even if not in the same city. The selected funeral home will work with the default or local funeral home on arrangements to transfer the remains. The Embassy recommends choosing an English-speaking funeral home with experience in international shipment of remains.
English-Speaking Funeral Homes
The local prefecture is responsible for licensing funeral homes in France.
Services Available Regarding Preparation and Shipment of Remains
French laws governing deaths are covered under Title II of the French Civil Code, as amended, and law number 2008-1350 dated December 19, 2008.
While regulations for the disposal of human remains apply nationwide, services and prices vary according to locality.
French death formalities require at least five working days and must be completed before remains can be transported to the United States. If an autopsy is performed, the body may be retained by the medical authorities for a lengthy period of time. Consequently, completion of the Report of Death will be delayed.
Quality, cost, and capacity
French embalming techniques generally do not meet U.S. standards for viewing of remains, especially in those cases where an autopsy has been performed. As a general rule, the U.S. funeral home director should determine whether the remains are suitable for viewing.
Capacity of mortuary services and professionals is adequate for the demand, except for forensic services such as autopsy and additional testing, which often face back-logs stretching from a week or two to several months if additional testing is required.
For burial in France, or cremation with placement in a niche, in most cases funeral plots are rented for 10 years, although 30- and 50-year rentals are also available, as is a permanent spot. Plot rentals are renewable. Unlike in the U.S., maintenance of the plot is the responsibility of the family.
Charges are based on the exchange rate of November 15, 2022, $1.00 = 1.05 Euros.
All fees are approximate and vary depending on location and, for remains returning to the United States, shipping costs.
The costs for burial in France (not embalmed) are approximately 6,000 euros ($5,800) including a 10-year grave rental.
Local Cremation and Disposal of Ashes:
The costs for cremation and disposition of ashes in France are approximately 5,500 euros ($5,200) including ten (10) year niche rental.
Preparation and Shipment of Remains to the U.S.:
The total cost for preparation and air shipment of the remains to the east coast of the U.S. is approximately 7,400 euros ($7,000); to the midwest, approximately 7,500 euros ($7,200) or to the west coast, approximately 7,800 euros ($7,400).
Preparation and Shipment of cremated remains to the U.S.:
Fees include cremation, collection of ashes, documentation costs, packaging for shipment and shipping costs and are approximately 5,800 euros ($5,500).
Timing, Embalming, Cremation, Caskets, and Exportation
Maximum period Before Burial of Remains
French regulations prescribe that burial of remains should occur no sooner than 24 hours after death, and no later than 6 days after death. The regulations do not distinguish between embalmed and nonembalmed remains.
When a death occurs in a public place, the remains are taken to the city morgue. A burial permit will not be issued until identity and cause of death are established, even if this exceeds the six-day burial requirement.
Embalming is not widely practiced in France. When requested or otherwise required, morticians generally use the intravenous method of embalming (I.F.T.).
French regulations forbid embalming if the death was due to a contagious disease. U.S. CDC rules require an import permit in this case.
Cremation is permitted under French law if requested in writing by the deceased, the next of kin, or by the Embassy on behalf of next of kin. An attending doctor’s certificate stating the cause of death must be presented before cremation can be undertaken. Due to the limited number of crematoria, cremation may be delayed for periods as long as one week to ten days.
While there is no law in France permitting the scattering of ashes, local officials usually have a tolerant attitude about this practice, as long as it is done discreetly.
Caskets and Containers
French-made caskets and containers are suitable for the shipment of remains to the United States.
Exportation of Human Remains
French and American regulations require the complete flight schedule and the following documentation for the export of remains transported by casket:
- Official French death certificate
- Doctor’s certificate stating that death occurred under noncontagious, nonepidemic circumstances
- Embalming certificate (French laws only require embalming for transportation of remains if the death was due to a contagious disease)
- Police certificate that remains are sealed in an airtight container (usually the inner coffin)
- Transit permit.
Exportation of Human Cremains/Ashes
Regulations require the complete flight schedule and the following documents for the export of cremated remains:
- Official French death certificate
- Certificate to the effect that the ashes were sealed in an airtight urn
- Transit permit.
While noncontagious remains may be disinterred at any time, French law prohibits the opening of the coffin before five years or more, depending on local requirements; the funeral director will advise the family if opening the coffin is feasible. If the decedent died of a contagious disease, disinterment is not possible for a year.
Exhumation requests must be made in writing by the next of kin, the legal representative, or the police. Obtaining the authorization from the French authorities can take from two to four months. Local authorities will supervise an exhumation with a family member or representative present. Arrangements for an exhumation should be made through a French funeral home familiar with local laws and procedures. The cost of shipping exhumed remains is generally much higher than for normal embalming and air shipment. Owing to export requirements, a triple coffin is mandated by French authorities. An estimate should be requested in advance from a funeral home in each case.
Certificates and Reports
The city hall is for issuing death local certificates (acte de décès) based on a medical certificate (certificate de décès).
Cause of Death and Autopsies
The French medical Professional Secrets Act of 1960 prohibits physicians from giving any information about the cause of death to anyone except another physician. Medical authorities generally provide only a statement that death occurred due to natural causes. Most of the time no specific cause of death is provided, except if an autopsy was performed.
In cases where cause of death was not “natural,” e.g., accidents, murder, suicide, or suspicious circumstances, an autopsy may be required. Autopsies are usually ordered by the French judiciary (the “procureur”) when the circumstances surrounding a death are unclear. Regrettably, even objections from the family or the Embassy will not prevent an autopsy from being conducted. Lengthy delays are encountered in obtaining the coroner’s report; this timeconsuming process often delays the preparation of the Report of Death.
If the next of kin wishes to request that an autopsy be performed in a case when one has not been ordered by the authorities, a written request must be made to the Procureur de la Republique for the locality where the death occurred. The Embassy can initiate this request or forward one on behalf of the next of kin.
French officials normally release only the conclusions of the autopsy report to the Embassy to facilitate preparation of the Report of Death. Families who wish to obtain a copy of the full report must send a written request (preferably through their physician) to the appropriate court. If the case is under judicial investigation, French authorities will release autopsy and police reports only at the request of the family’s French legal representative. Generally, this action will not be carried out until the inquest is complete. Families should be advised that the report they receive will be in French. The Embassy cannot provide translation services. A list of courtapproved translators can be provided upon request.
Autopsy reports in France are usually delivered within three months, toxicological studies between three and six months, and pathology reports between six to nine months.
Bodies of those who have died from contagious diseases, including AIDS, may not be embalmed under French law. Shipment of such bodies to the U.S. depends on whether the destination state accepts such non-embalmed bodies. If cremation is elected, the shipping problem does not arise.
Sympathy Journals to convey condolences and express grief are made available for family, friends, or community members. It is usually presented at the funeral ceremony.
French Funeral Services are large events that the whole community attends. In Catholic funeral services, music, prayers, and readings are presented.
In France most people choose cremation. Some families choose a cremation niche for the urn. Some others may choose to scatter the ashes.
Settling an Estate in France
In most cases, the services of a “notaire” is required to settle an estate in France. A notaire is a government-appointed lawyer whose role is essential for all real estate transactions: If property is bought, sold, donated or inherited, a notaire will draft the act, record it, levy the appropriate taxes (such as inheritance taxes), and deliver the deeds of property. In addition to handling real estate transactions, a notaire will also assist with closing bank accounts, settling unpaid bills, and disposing of personal property through sale or donation. In the event a decedent did not leave a will, a notaire will be responsible for identifying and locating heirs, sometimes with the help of genealogists. Physical presence of an heir in France is not required to settle an estate.
The services of a notaire must be retained if the deceased U.S. citizen owned real estate or left an estate valued at more than 5,000 Euros. However, under certain circumstances heirs may be able to access a decedent’s rented property and take possession of the contents. In this case, the heirs would need to communicate directly with a landlord or rental agency to make arrangements.
The Embassy has a list of English-speaking notaires in Paris. For more information regarding notaires, their roles, their fees, or locating a notaire in other regions of France, please visit the official French website for notaires (English version).
Frequently Asked Questions
How are notaire fees determined?
The fees of the notaire are determined by the French government and are payable once the notaire’s services are complete.
Are burial or cremation costs considered as part of the estate settlement?
The funeral home can use up to 5,000 Euros from the deceased’s bank account to cover costs related to burial or cremation.
Do I have to travel to France to settle an estate?
Physical presence in France is not required to settle an estate. If official signatures are required on French legal documents, heirs can visit the nearest French consulate for assistance.
How long does it take to settle an estate?
Each case is unique, but heirs should expect the process to take several months at a minimum.
What are the potential tax liabilities for me as an heir?
The notaire will declare the estate to the fiscal administration, which will determine the amount of taxes to pay.
If my relative did not own real estate in France, and the estate is valued at less than 5,000 Euros, am I still obligated to retain a notaire?
No. If desired, heirs can waive an estate by going to a French court. A notaire can advise on this.
What can I do without retaining a notaire to claim my relative’s personal effects?
To claim a deceased relative’s personal effects, the Embassy can assist you by issuing a “certificat d’hérédité consulaire,” an affidavit notarized by a Consular Officer. Heirs should check if such a document will be accepted by the entity holding the personal effects.
Do I need to retain an attorney in France regarding a deceased relative’s estate?
A notaire is a French government-appointed public and ministerial officer who handles estate matters. Unless there is a dispute, a separate attorney is generally not required.