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South Africans in Germany

Home » Life in Germany » Legalities » Funerals


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 additional 148 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 of the fact that after 20/25 years your grave will be assigned to someone else, and the remains will be disposed of.

Funeral Insurance

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,

Chad Joubert – Wealth Advisor

DIE GUTE WAHL – THE GOOD CHOICE – Agency for Allfinanz Deutsche Vermögensberatung. We are here for you, we provide you with professional support in your planning for the future: With the right concept, you are fully protected and build your wealth step by step. Ask for an individual (no fee) consultation. We advise you competently and reliably, via online meetings. Click the link to get access to our Bookings page: Financial advice as comprehensive as your life with our All-Finance Concept. At the beginning of our consultation there is always a detailed analysis of your financial situation and

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 a 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 is 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

Herklink Virtuele Begrafnisse

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 oulaas by die hospitaal se ingang my elmboog teen syne druk. Hy het in sy laaste oomblikke na my geroep en ek kon nie daar wees nie.” Na aanleiding van hierdie onbewustelike roep na hulp, ontwikkel Anelia en Andri ‘n “virtuele gedenkdiens”. Bydraes kom van reg oor die wêreld: sy dogter en kleinkinders in Australië, familie oor die hele land, die NG Gemeente uit sy geliefde tuisdorp. Op hierdie

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 the Deutsche Vorsorgedatenbank.

Types of wills:

  • A public will (Öffentliches Testament) also known as a notarial will (notarielles Testament) 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


Eine Überführungden Transport des Toten vom Sterbeort in die Leichenhalle oder zum Friedhof.
Die Nutzungsdauereiner Grabstätte entspricht den Ruhefristen. Diese liegen üblicherweise zwischen 15 und 25 Jahren.
Eine Umbettungeine Verlegung des Verstorbenen in eine andere Grabstelle.
Eine Exhumierungist die Ausgrabung eines Toten.
BestattungspflichtResponsibility to bury someone
KostentragungspflichtResponsibility to cover the costs
Erblasserdas ist der Verstorbene
Erbfallder Tod des Verstorbenen
Nachlass oder Erbschaft das hinterlassene Vermögen/Besitz
Erwerb von Todes wegender Erwerb einer Hinterlassenschaft aufgrund des Erbrechts
BeerdigungThe physical burial
BestattungThe Funeral
BeerdigungsfeierThe Funeral service
der FriedhofCementary
die Einäscherung/FeuerbestattungCremation
BeisetzungswaldBurial forest
BestattungsfristenBurial deadline
Der TotenscheinA certificate issued by a medical professional. You will need this to get the official Death Certificate (Sterberkunden)
SterbeurkundenDeath Certificate issued by the “Standesamt”
SterbegeldversicherungFuneral insurance
TotenscheingebührenCost for the death certificate
UrnengrabUrn Grave
UrnenwandUrn Wall
BestattungsrechtBurial Laws
Notfallkarte Emercency card

Related content

Wills and Testaments

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 will apply to you and your heirs or estate when you are deceased and you were a South African citizen with permanent residence in Germany.Do you need a will/testament in Germany, or will your South African will/testament suffice?Since we are not legal professionals we cannot answer these questions for you. The best advice we can give you is to speak to a qualified lawyer or professional.  Possible considerations: Is your South African will and testament

SA Consular and Embassy services

Please note that the Embassy in Berlin is currently not reachable on their listed phone numbers, please use  0171 364 2679 Embassy Berlin Reach them through Tiergartenstraße. 18, 10785 Berlin +4930220730 +493022073190 Social Networks SAEmbassyBerlin @SAEmbassyBerlin Website Consulate Munich Reach them through Sendlinger-Tor-Platz 5, 80336 Munich +49892311630 49 89 231 163 53 Social Networks Consulate in Munich Website Honorary Consuls The Honorary Consuls are tasked with the promotion of the South African export trade, serve as contact persons for visiting South African business people, distribute general information on South Africa and represent South Africa at functions and


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. To make use of their online services, your Residence card must be activated for online use. How to apply for a Social Security number? Your Social Security number is used as identification for health insurance (public), pension, long-term care, and unemployment insurance. You can get this number in different ways, depending on your situation. Public Health Insurance – You receive your number automatically when you first sign-up for public health insurance in Germany. If you