Death and Dying in Portugal
How to proceed if you need to report the death of a family member or arrange the burial, cremation or the repatriation of remains outside Portugal...
When a death occurs due to natural causes at hospital or at home the doctor who was attending the person should be notified to confirm the death and issue a document certifying the death (boletim de óbito). If the death has occurred suddenly, under suspicious circumstances, then an inquiry will be instigated and a postmortem will almost certainly be carried out.
Registering a Death
The death of an individual which occurs on Portuguese territory must be reported within two days (48 hours) at the Civil Registry Office (Conservatória de Civil Registo) in the district where the death occurred.
- The Justice Department provides a directory of addresses of all Civil Registry Offices in the country
The funeral director normally deals with the registration of the death but the following people may also make the report to the registry office:
- Next of kin or any other family member present at the time of death
- Church minister
- Owners of the house where the death occurred
- Administrative or police authorities
- If the death takes place within a hospital, retirement home, prison or other institution, the death will be reported by the institution
When reporting a death at the registry office documents need to be presented. These include:
- Death certificate issued by a doctor
- Proof of identity of the deceased (although this is not compulsory)
Death certificates in Portugal come in two formats:
- A full form death certificate (Assento de Óbito)
- An international form which confirms the death in several European languages
The death bulletin/certificate enables the deceased's body to be repatriated for burial abroad or transported to a local cemetery.
The appropriate embassy or consulate should also be informed about any of their citizens who die in Portugal.
Under normal circumstances, burial or cremation must take place within 72 hours of death and can only happen once the death has been reported.
It is the responsibility of the next-of-kin to find a funeral agent. Once the next-of-kin has given the funeral agent their signed authority, they are then authorised to deal with all local procedures and paperwork, including the paperwork required if the person’s ashes are to be transported to another country.
Burial rights in Portugal are only valid for a limited amount of time. After this time the burial rights have to be renewed or the Portuguese authorities reclaim the grave.
Repatriation of the Body
Returning the body of the deceased to their home country requires the help of the relevant local embassy or consulate.
If the person is insured, the insurance company will organise repatriation and will liaise with international funeral directors to take the body back to the deceased's home country. It is necessary to contact a local funeral director who will coordinate with the funeral directors in the home country.
If the person is not insured then repatriation will have to be paid for by the deceased's family or friends who will have to contact an international funeral director.
Note: Recent changes to flight security mean that many airlines are no longer prepared to carry closed coffins.
- Information for Americans from The US Embassy
- Information for British citizens in Portugal from the GOV UK website
- Information from the Justice Department on registering a death in Portugal (in Portuguese)