Death and Dying in Brazil

Find out how and where to report the death, how to arrange a burial or cremation, and how to repatriate a body...

At the difficult time of the death of a loved one, there are a number of procedures and formalities which must be observed. Most of these can be handled by a funeral company, but there are nevertheless some tasks which should be performed by the family.

Death Certificate (Certidão de Óbito)

If the death occurs in a hospital or at home and a doctor is present, then the doctor will issue a Death Certificate.

If a doctor is not present, one should be called to issue the Death Certificate.

The Death Certificate is drawn up by the doctor who is present at or who is called to the scene. It is called a Certidão de Óbito and will include the following information:

  • Name, gender, profession, age and nationality of the deceased
  • Day, time and location of death
  • Names of the deceased’s parents
  • Cause of death
  • Proposed date of registration of the death
  • Name of the doctor responsible for signing the Certificate
  • Proposed location of the burial or cremation
  • Declarant (person who will assume responsibility for registration of the death)
  • Additional (but not required) information can include: marital status and whether the deceased left children, assets or a will

Registering the Death

The law requires all deaths occurring in Brazil to be registered within 24 hours of occurrence. Therefore, once a Death Certificate has been obtained, a family member or an acquaintance of the deceased should take the document to the Civil Registry Office (Cartório de Registro Civil) of the town or city district in which the death took place. There is no fee for registering the death.

If the death occurs at the weekend and the Registry Office is not open, then it should be registered the following Monday morning.

Although technically not mandatory, the deceased’s identity card, social security document, proof of marital status and evidence of property, possessions and children may also be taken along to the Registry Office, in case they are requested.

Funeral Arrangements

There is no official time limit within which a body must be buried, cremated or otherwise disposed of, but it is traditional for burials to take place within 12 hours of the death.

It is common practice in Brazil for a family to own a tomb or plot of land in which its members are buried. For a body to be placed in a family plot or tomb, the family must present evidence to the federal police and cemetery authorities of the deceased’s family relation.

If the deceased has no claim to a family plot or tomb, an official statement may have been left expressing the individual’s wishes for the disposal of his/her bodily remains, be this burial, cremation or any other ends. This document is called a Declaração de Último Vontade (Declaration of Final Wishes) and the declarer should have had his/her signature officially recognized at a Registry Office where it was filed. This document can be obtained from the Registry Office by a family member or an acquaintance of the deceased.

Repatriation of Foreigner's Remains

If a foreign national dies in Brazil and either the deceased had expressed wishes to be repatriated or his/her family wishes to bring the remains back to the country of origin, the first step – following fulfillment of Death Certificate and registration responsibilities – is to contact the relevant country’s Consulate.

Although repatriation procedures depend upon the deceased’s country of origin, the Consulate will usually send a representative to accompany the family and federal police in the registration procedures. The Consulate representative will also need to be present at the sealing of the coffin if the body is to be returned in this manner.

Some countries require that the Death Certificate be translated by an official translator and that it is then legalized at the Consulate offices prior to arrangements being made for repatriation. If a foreign national dies in Brazil without family or friends to administrate the registration procedures, the federal police will automatically contact the Consulate, who will contact the family to arrange for repatriation.