The last thing you might want to think of while settling into your new home is funeral planning.
But this is something you will need to plan for as the rules and regulations are very different from South Africa.
The rules in Germany are very strict and funerals are extremely expensive.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you want to be buried in a casket or be cremated?
- Do you want your remains to be sent back to South Africa
- If you opt for cremation, do you want your ashes to be sent to South Africa
- If buried in Germany would you want a tombstone (also valid for cremation)
- How will your family or estate pay for the funeral/repatriation costs. Here is a short video about how much a funeral costs in Germany
Rules in Germany
Funeral laws are regulated by the federal states. This includes issues such as the deadline for burial, death certificates, the determination of death and what happens in the case of an inquest. Each federal state enacts its own law.
You can find the rules for each state here (in German)
The following are roughly translated and cannot serve as legal advice:
The burial responsibility (Bestattungspflicht) specifies who is responsible for the burial of a deceased person.
This only implies responsibility and not an obligation to bear the costs. The obligation to bury a deceased person is in order of priority and starts with your spouse or life partner then your children, then your parents, next your siblings then grandparents and lastly grandchildren. If the obligation falls on more than one child, the eldest is usually responsible. If there are no survivors to take over this obligation, the community (Gemeinde) will take over the responsibility.
The obligation to bear the costs is not regulated by the federal states. According to § 1968 of the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB), the heirs have to bear the cost of the funeral. If the heir is a community, they will bear the costs. If the cause of death is a fatal accident, the costs can be reclaimed from the person who caused the accident. To read more about it in German have a look here. They explain a couple of scenarios.
When the estate is insolvent or over-indebted, and the heirs cannot pay the costs, the obligation to cover the costs may be passed on for example to relatives or maybe the person who caused the death, or the Sozialkasse if no one else can pay.
Each state also has their own rules on the burial deadlines (Bestattungsfristen ). The time allowed to transfer a body to the morgue (Eine Überführung) can be anything between 24 and 36 hours. Burials may not take place before 48 hours after death. Some federal states also specify the deadline by which the funeral must be carried out at the latest.
Laws on miscarriage or stillbirth (Sternenkinder) are based on the weight of the fetus and are governed by the states.
In Germany, a deceased person or his ashes must be buried in a cemetery, and German law does not allow private persons, to handle remains. This means you are not allowed to take the ashes with you.
The only two exceptions at the time of publishing are if you have a burial at sea or if the urn is buried in a burial forest (Beisetzungswald/ Friedwald.)
In Bremen you are allowed to scatter ashes on private property.
One of our members also mentioned the following with regard to a Sea burial:
An anonymous Seebestattung (no mourners) was 740 Euro in 2019; the Sterbeurkunden and Totenscheingebühren were an additional148 Euro. They are in Genthin and Brandenburg. The company is called Bestattung und Grabpflege Titze.
If you opt for a burial, you have to be aware that after 20/25 years your grave will be assigned to someone else, and the remains will be disposed of.
Funeral insurance (Sterbegeldversicherung/ Sterbeversicherung) covers the cost of the funeral and depending on your cover, it can also cover the costs of repatriation for those who wish to be buried in their homeland.
You can have a look at some of these providers. We are not affiliated with them and only post here so that you can have a baseline to work from. Talk to your financial advisor to get professional advice
What to do in the event of a death
- If the death happens at home, the first thing you need to do is call your doctor or an Notarzt, who will write a cause of death certificate (Totenschein)
If the death happened in a hospital, they will take care of the cause of death certificate (Totenschein). You need this to apply for a Formal Death Certificate (Sterbeurkunde). The Death Certificate a very important document, you will need it for everything related to the funeral and insurance.
Relatives or the undertaker can apply for the Death Certificate (Sterbeurkunde).
- As an expatriate, you will need to contact the consulate, from whom you must obtain the death certificate. The consulate can also advise you on Funeral homes or how to send the remains back to South Africa if needs be. You can also contact a funeral home (Beerdigungsinstitute) yourself. From my understanding, the consulate can issue you with an English death certificate, that you might need for insurance claims or repatriation of the remains. They will need the original German certificate.
- You will need to notify the Ausländerbehörde.
- A funeral home can organise almost everything for you, at a cost of course. They can help with notifying the Standesamt, the flowers, gravestones, etc.
Virtual Funerals / Memorial services
Anelia from Herklink organises virtual memorial services
Wills and Testaments
You can specify your funeral wishes in your testament, but you will have to register one in Germany. You can do it at a Notar or use a company like Deutsche Vorsorgedatenbank.
Types of wills:
- A public will (Öffentliches Testament) also known as a notarial will (notarielles Testament) which is prepared and sworn to in front of a Notary
- A holographic, or a handwritten will (eigenhändiges Testament), in which case the deceased’s signature is legally binding
Some useful websites
|Eine Überführung||den Transport des Toten vom Sterbeort in die Leichenhalle oder zum Friedhof.|
|Die Nutzungsdauer||einer Grabstätte entspricht den Ruhefristen. Diese liegen üblicherweise zwischen 15 und 25 Jahren.|
|Eine Umbettung||eine Verlegung des Verstorbenen in eine andere Grabstelle.|
|Eine Exhumierung||ist die Ausgrabung eines Toten.|
|Bestattungspflicht||Responsibility to bury someone|
|Kostentragungspflicht||Responsibility to cover the costs|
|Erblasser||das ist der Verstorbene|
|Erbfall||der Tod des Verstorbenen|
|Nachlass oder Erbschaft||das hinterlassene Vermögen/Besitz|
|Erwerb von Todes wegen||der Erwerb einer Hinterlassenschaft aufgrund des Erbrechts|
|Beerdigung||The physical burial|
|Beerdigungsfeier||The Funeral service|
|Der Totenschein||A certificate issued by a medical professional. You will need this to get the official Death Certificate (Sterberkunden)|
|Sterbeurkunden||Death Certificate issued by the “Standesamt”|
|Totenscheingebühren||Cost for the death certificate|
South African Businesses
We are a financial coaching and family office. We are able to assist our clients in both Germany and South Africa, so you only need one adviser to help you
Anelia se oupa is in Mei 2020 in die Wes-Kaap oorlede. In Junie skryf haar ouma via Whatsapp: “Ek kon nie eers my maat groet nie… ek kon net vir
The intention of this page is to serve as a reminder to make sure your paperwork is in order. It is important to know what laws
The Embassy is in Berlin.Physical Address:Tiergartenstr. 18, 10785 Berlinberlin.email@example.comTel.: +49-30-22073-0Fax: +49-30-22073-190Facebook page Consulate in MunichPhysical Address:Sendlinger-Tor-Platz 5,80336 Munich,Germanymunich.firstname.lastname@example.org+49 89 2311630 from 8:00 am to 4:30 pmFacebook page Honorary Consuls
Homepage of the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Information about the German state pension scheme can be found on their homepage for foreign languages. The German site has a lot more information.