Death and Dying in Switzerland
Find out how and where to report a death, how to arrange a burial or cremation, where ashes can be scattered, and how to repatriate a body...
In the event of a death of a family member, friend or relative in Switzerland the first thing to do is to call a local doctor who will certify the death and issue a document that will be required to register the death (constat/Sterbeurkunde).
The death must be reported within two days at the Office de l'Etat Civil/Zivilstandsamt (registry office, see below) in the district where the death occurred.
The following people may make the report to the registry office:
- the spouse of the deceased
- children or their spouses
- the deceased's closest living relative in the region
- the head of the household in which the death took place
- any person who witnessed the death
If the death occurred in a hospital, retirement home, prison or other institution, then it will be reported by the institution.
The death certificate (acte de décès) provides information on where and when death took place but does not indicate the cause of death. It serves as proof of death and should not be confused with the certificate issued by the doctor who confirms the death.
The burial or cremation can only take place once the death has been reported.
When reporting a death at the registry office a number of documents need to be presented.
- Certificate (constat/Sterbeurkunde) issued by a doctor
- Identity card of the deceased
- If available, the family record book (livret de famille/Familienbuechlein)
- Certificate of civil status or family certificate
Foreign nationals may be required to present further documents; this will depend on the canton where the death took place.
A person failing to report a death in Switzerland within the two day period, may have to pay a fine.
The death of foreigners who are not domiciled in Switzerland and who are not registered with the resident's registration office must also be reported to the diplomatic mission of the deceased's country.
Repatriation of the Body
Returning the deceased to their home country requires the help of the relevant local Embassy or Consulate (see below for contact information).
Consular officials can assist in having the remains returned, in obtaining appropriate documentation and with Swiss exit requirements.
The length of time required for the repatriation of remains can vary greatly and is determined by a number of factors including the cause of death and location of death. When death is the result of natural causes, remains can be repatriated more quickly. When death is the result of a crime, a suicide or an accident, repatriation of remains can take much longer.
Funeral arrangements and customs vary from canton to canton. In some areas cremation is not allowed. Deceased persons have to be buried in a public cemetery unless special permission has been granted.
A funeral parlour can take care of all the arrangements including recording the death at the registry office.
- Visit ch.ch To find the address of the Office de l'Etat Civil/Zivilstandsamt registry office in your canton
- ch.ch also has a checklist with dealing with a death in the family