For members


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.


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


Healthcare in Spain: What are the pros and cons of the ‘convenio especial’?

If you live in Spain and are not covered by the public health system because you’re not working and are not retired, then you can apply for the "convenio especial". But what are the pros and cons of this ‘special agreement’ or are you just better off getting private healthcare instead?

Healthcare in Spain: What are the pros and cons of the 'convenio especial'?

What is the convenio espeical?

This ‘special agreement’ allows foreigners in Spain to pay a monthly sum into the country’s public health system to have access to it, even if they’re not working. 

This scheme means that those who aren’t paying social security in Spain and those who aren’t using the S1 pension scheme can still use the public health system.

READ ALSO – Healthcare in Spain: the steps to apply for the S1 form for UK state pensioners

To access it, you will pay a monthly fee of €60 for those under 65 and €157 for those over 65. 

READ ALSO – BREXIT: How Britons can access Spain’s public healthcare if they’re not pensioners or working

What are the pros of the convenio especial

  • You are able to access Spain’s public health care system
    Even if you’re not working or paying social security through self-employment in Spain, you will still be able to have access to public healthcare via this special agreement.

  • You will be fully covered by the public health care system
    Even if you have pre-existing conditions, you will be fully covered by the public system. This is especially good to know for those who may have particular conditions that will not be covered by private healthcare.

  • You won’t have to pay extra for certain procedures
    Certain medical procedures may not be covered by private health insurance and you will end up paying extra, but those on the convenio especial won’t have to. 

  • Pregnant women and children don’t have to apply
    If you’re pregnant or are a child, you are already automatically covered under the Spanish public health system for free, so will not have to sign up and pay for the convenio especial.

  • You are covered temporarily in other regions of Spain
    If you are temporarily in another Spanish region, such as for a holiday for example, then you will be covered for healthcare there too.

  • The convenio espcial doesn’t have an expiry date
    You can pay for it as long as you need it, provided you don’t get a job or become self-employed, in which case you will be covered for national health care by paying social security instead.

What are the cons of the convenio especial

  • You must have been registered as legally living in Spain for one year
    To be eligible to apply for this agreement, you have to have been living in Spain for one year before you can access it. You will need to prove this via your padrón certificate.

  • Not everything is covered
    Prescriptions, prosthetics and dietary products are not covered under the convenio especial.

  • You can get private health care insurance for around the same price
    Private healthcare is very affordable in Spain and you may be able to get coverage with some companies for a similar price elsewhere. However, private healthcare companies won’t cover for pre-existing conditions, so you may end up paying more in premiums. The advantage of private healthcare over public in Spain is that you won’t have to wait as long for an appointment and you can access specialists more easily. 

READ ALSO:  What are the best private health insurance options in Spain for Brits?

  • You will need a lot of paperwork
    Like many situations in Spain when applying for a document, you will require a lot of paperwork. One of these documents, which can sometimes be tricky to get, is a letter from your home country stating that you’re not covered for health care there anymore.

  • You will not have the right to get a European Health Card for travel
    If you’re only covered through the convenio especial, then you can’t apply for a European Health Card. This means that when you’re on holiday or travelling in the rest of the EU, you will need to take out private travel insurance instead.

READ ALSO – TSE card: How to get a Spanish European Health Insurance card

  • You will generally need a good level of Spanish
    You won’t find many doctors in the public healthcare system in Spain that have a good enough level of English to treat you in English. They may have a basic level, but most of them are not comfortable with giving you medical advice in English. This is true even in big cities like Barcelona. If you take out private healthcare, you’re much more likely to find a doctor who will be able to speak to you in English.

READ ALSO: What are the different types of medical specialists called in Spanish?

  • You will need to wait at least a month
    To find out if your application has been accepted, it will take at least a month. On the other hand, if you’re paying social security and you register with your local clinic, even though your health card may take a month to arrive, you will be registered and be able to make an appointment with a doctor straight away. 
  • If you move to a different region in Spain, you will have to re-apply 
    As with many processes in Spain the convenio espeical differs slightly between regions, in the way you apply for it. This means that if you move from Andalusia to Catalonia for example, you will have to re-apply. 

  • You will need to apply and pay for each member of the family separately
    Members of your family not be covered under the convenio espeical, even if you are. If you pay social security, however, and are covered for public healthcare that way, then the other members of your family who are dependent on you will be covered too.

  • If you opt-out of the convenio especial, you will not be able to sign up again straight away
    If you choose for whatever reason to stop paying for the coverage, then you will not be able to apply again until a whole year has passed. This means that you will probably need to get private health insurance while you wait to reapply.