The death of a family member or friend always causes great emotional distress to those left behind. Nevertheless, there are a lot of important decisions to be taken immediately after the death of a loved one. A death abroad can also entail a lot of seemingly complicated formalities.
Below we set out some practical guidance designed to give you an initial overview of what happens when a German national dies in the United Kingdom.
Of course you are also welcome to contact the Embassy in London if you have further questions or require further information, either by telephone or by email via the contact form.
a) Prior to the trip abroad the deceased had taken out insurance covering death abroad
In this case the insurance company will cover either the cost of a funeral in the United Kingdom or the cost of repatriating the body/ the urn to Germany in accordance with the terms of the particular policy. The insurance company will appoint a funeral director to take care of this.
However, as a relative, you will have to let the insurance company know what you wish to do in terms of transportation and/or a funeral.
The options are a coffin burial in the United Kingdom or cremation followed by an urn burial in the United Kingdom, or transportation of the body to Germany followed by interment of the coffin or urn.
At the same time it is advisable to clarify as soon as possible with the insurance company how much of the cost they will cover.
b) The deceased was not insured for death abroad
Relatives who cannot call on the help of an insurance company must contact the funeral director and book the funeral themselves.
Please note that not all funeral directors have staff with foreign-language, including German-language, skills.
The cost of the funeral generally has to be covered by the heirs/next of kin. It is therefore advisable to always obtain a detailed quotation before placing the order, to enable you to get an idea of the cost in advance.
With repatriation and a funeral in Germany, a German funeral director also needs to be appointed. If you wish your deceased relative to be repatriated to Germany, the local funeral director will generally contact the German funeral director and clarify the transportation arrangements directly with them. With this, too, it is advisable to obtain a complete detailed quotation that includes all costs (inc. the costs incurred abroad, cost of transportation and of the funeral in Germany) prior to placing the order.
Certificate of death
In the United Kingdom, when a person dies the death has to be reported to the relevant register office. When a person dies at home, the death should be registered at the register office for the area where the person lived. If a person dies in hospital or in a care home, the death has to be registered at the register office for the area in which the hospital or care home is located.
A death should be registered within five days. However, registration can be postponed by a further nine days if the register office is notified that a doctor's certificate has been issued.
If the death has been reported to a coroner, you cannot register the death or apply for a British death certificate until the coroner’s examinations are complete. How long this takes varies depending on the individual case and on how busy the coroner is. Once the death has been registered by the coroner you will receive an interim death certificate (“Coroner’s Certificate of the Fact of Death”).
You can apply for a British death certificate online.
A fee is charged for issuing the certificate.
When applying for a British death certificate, ask whether it can have an apostille attached to it. It can then be presented to the German authorities.
You will need at least one original of the British death certificate with an original apostille attached. If you need more copies, you can if necessary submit authenticated copies of the death certificate with the apostille to the German authorities.
You can book an appointment online to have your photocopies authenticated at the German Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Edinburgh.
If you decide to have the copies authenticated by a British notary public, you will need an FCDO apostille on each authenticated copy.
Please notify the relevant register office in Germany of the death. The relevant register office is the one in the deceased’s last place of residence in Germany.
If a German citizen dies abroad, the death can also subsequently be registered in Germany in order to obtain a German death certificate, which makes the administration of the estate in Germany easier.
Transportation of the coffin or urn to Germany
Cremation of the body can be done in the United Kingdom.
The body or urn can be transported to Germany by land or by air. The time it takes to make the preparations can vary. The funeral director here in the UK will be able to tell you more.
A funeral in Germany should only be booked once the funeral director appointed locally has confirmed the details of the repatriation in conjunction with the appointed funeral director in Germany.
If you have a question about current legal requirements surrounding the transfer of the remains, you are welcome to contact:
Anke Teraa, Executive Director
European Federation of Funeral Services (EFFS)
c/o Bundesverband Deutscher Bestatter e.V.
phone.: +49(0)211 1600 849
fax: +49(0)211 1600 8949
mobile: +49(0)176 6203 1992
Funeral in the United Kingdom
It is generally also possible for a German national to be buried in a local cemetery in the United Kingdom, provided there is space available. The local funeral arrangements need to be agreed with the appointed funeral director.
Do family members need to travel to the UK?
It is not necessary for relatives of the deceased to travel to the UK in person to deal with the funeral formalities. As a rule, local companies can be relied on to take care of all the repatriation or funeral formalities.
However, if the deceased was resident in the United Kingdom and left no instructions with respect to his/her estate, it may be necessary for a family member to travel to the UK. In these cases we ask that you get in contact with the Embassy first to determine what actions may need to be taken.
Choice of funeral director
Due to competition considerations the Embassy cannot recommend specific funeral directors and does not work with any funeral director.
The following funeral directors are mentioned only because they are known to the German Embassy in London:
- The Embassy takes no responsibility for the correctness of the list. The list does not claim to be complete -
name: Rowland Brothers International Ltd
address: 299-305 Whitehorse Road, West Croydon, Surrey, CR0 2HR
phone: 0044 20 8684 2324
name: Albin International
address: George Alfred Dyer House, 51 Neptune Street, London, SE16 7JP
phone: 0044 20 7313 6920
Dealing with liabilities of the estate
Please contact the German pension insurance scheme Deutsche Rentenversicherung to notify them of the death. Their contact details and the file reference should be on the pension statement, which is normally sent annually.
Further information can be found on the Deutsche Rentenversicherung website.
If the deceased had German insurance policies or contracts in place, those companies also need to be notified to avoid overpayment.
In addition, the probate court and the competent tax office need to be notified of the death.
If the deceased was resident abroad, the Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern) needs to be notified of the death. Further information can be found on the website.
Please send the German passport/ID card along with a copy of the death certificate to the competent passport authority (the one that issued the passport/ID card) to be cancelled.
The British Government has published a step-by-step guide containing further information.