Guide After death happens
WHAT TO DO IN GERMANY AFTER A LOVED ONE HAS DIED
Losing a loved one is painful and it is important to take time to grieve. At the same time, there are a lot of formalities to take care of when someone dies. Here we provide advice on what to do after the death of a loved one, in the hopes that we can help you navigate this difficult time and prepare you for what is to come.
The following provides you advice on what to do after the death of a loved one:
If your loved one dies at home, the first thing you need to do is notify a doctor. Usually this is your general practitioner (Hausarzt). If you are unable to reach them, you can call the emergency services. The doctor will confirm that the person has died and provide a preliminary death certificate (Totenschein). If your loved one dies in the hospital or in a nursing home, then the employees will usually take care of this step for you.
After a person has died, you will need to present various documents to different authorities. These documents include the preliminary death certificate, their government ID (Personalausweis), their birth certificate, their marriage certificate or divorce decree, and, if applicable, their organ donor card and a death certificate for any predeceased spouses. They may have already prepared for their death, in which case you should find any wishes they made for the funeral, any existing contracts with funeral homes, or their will.
Many people prepare for death while they are still alive. Plenty of institutions and associations offer members the option of making funeral arrangements or organizing their affairs in advance. It is therefore a good idea to check if your loved one had any such agreements, as they may include partial payment for funeral costs. Two German organizations that offers such services are the DITIB-Beerdigungshilfe-Fond and the AABF Beerdigungskollektiv. Your loved one may also have made private arrangements, such as setting up a trust account. If the deceased has not made any arrangements for burial, then their heirs must carry the cost of the funeral and associated services. If you are unable to pay for the funeral, you must contact your local social welfare office (Sozialamt) and apply to have them cover the costs.
Once a person has passed away, you should contact the funeral home you want to use as soon as possible. Most funeral homes can be contacted 24/7. A funeral home can discuss the following options with you: transport in Germany and outside of it, types of funeral, legal formalities, clearing out the deceased’s house if necessary, organizing and planning the funeral and/or memorial service, personal support, coordinating with other service providers (e.g. stone mason, florist, professional eulogist, musicians, cemetery administration, etc.), publishing obituaries and thank yous, driving services, grave maintenance, dealing with the grave once the Ruhefrist is up.
You will also need to inform the deceased’s relatives and employer that they have passed away. Relatives should also let their employer’s know that there has been a death in the family, as close relatives (parents, siblings, children, etc.) often have the right to take several days off work to process and deal with the death.
As soon as possible after a loved one has passed away, you should check their insurance policies and inform the insurance companies that the person has passed. Unfortunately, some insurance policies, particularly life insurance, funeral expenses insurance, and accident insurance, must be informed of the death within a very short time period, as not doing so can cause problems collecting on the policy.
You have to go to the appropriate registry office (Standesamt) and register the death within three days, and get a copy of the death certificate (Sterbeurkunde). It makes sense to ask for between five and ten copies of the certificate, because you will need to submit it to a variety of different places as you deal with your loved one’s affairs. In order to apply for the death certificate, you will need to present some documents to the registry office, such as the deceased’s ID, their birth certificate, the preliminary death certificate (Totenschein), and, if applicable, their marriage certificate, divorce decree, or a death certificate a predeceased spouse .
If the person who has passed was living in a nursing home, it is usually their relatives who are responsible for clearing out their room. There may be a deadline for doing so, which you can find either in the nursing home contract or by asking the staff at the home.
If your loved one left a will, then you must submit it to the probate court as soon as possible in order to clarify questions regarding the estate and the inheritance. According to Section 2259 BGB, relatives are required to submit the will without undue delay. If there is no will, the inheritance will be decided based on German inheritance laws.
After a person has died, you have to check their contracts, as some contracts do not automatically end once a person has passed away. This could include rental contracts, mobile phone contracts, telephone and internet contracts, (club) memberships, and subscriptions. If you wish to continue with a contract, then you will have to contact the company and organize to continue with the contract under the name of the person who will be responsible for it in the future.
When a loved one dies, the surviving relatives may be left without an important source of income. Surviving relatives such as spouses or children may have access to pension plans that help mitigate the loss of income caused by the death. This is known as a survivor’s pension, and you must apply to the German statutory insurance pension (Rentenversicherung) to receive it. They will verify whether the surviving relatives qualify for widower’s or orphan’s pensions.
Grief & Counseling
Some deaths happen without warning, and relatives have not had the chance to prepare themselves or say goodbye to their loved one. Grief can be overwhelming, and some people need help to process it. There are a variety of places you can turn to in Germany for help processing your grief. Most of them are available via telephone. They help you to process your grief, listen to what you say, and support you as you express your feelings about the death.
This is a general hotline that anyone can contact for help processing their grief.
0800 – 1110111*
0800 – 1110222*
116 123* (European service hotline)
116 111* (Youth hotline)
Muslim mourners living in Germany – particularly those with Turkish roots – can call the DITIB Bestattungsinstitut for support:
0221 – 86 99 797
(normal fees for calls from German landline and mobile phones)
AABF – alevitische Beerdigungskollektiv e.V.:
Turkish Alevis in Germany can call the AABF – alevitische Beerdigungskollektiv e.V. for support:
0800 – 78 80 800*
00800 – 90090090* (International service hotline)
(*calls are free of charge)