When the death of a loved one occurs, there are many issues to be resolved: at this difficult moment, in addition to experiencing pain and grief, one has to deal with the associated legal, administrative, and tax procedures. Of course, in such circumstances, it is difficult to remain calm and be able to effectively and adequately address all issues. It is necessary to consider that there are obligations that must be fulfilled by law within the stipulated time frame, which you should pay attention to in order to avoid loss of rights or other unpleasant consequences, such as fines, etc. If you are an expat living in Portugal, this can be even more difficult due to cultural differences, unfamiliar procedures and language barriers. In this article, we will detail what steps to take and when to take them if someone close to you dies.
All procedures are regulated by law Lei Mortuária - Decreto-Lei n.º 411/98. From it, we can draw the main brief conclusions about the formalities and the funeral procedure in general:
- The funeral procedure is the responsibility of the local government (Câmara Municipal);
- burial must take place no earlier than 24 hours and no later than 48 hours from the time of death (exceptions occur in cases where it is necessary to transport the body to Portugal or vice versa outside of Portugal);
- the body for burial may be transported only in a special hearse, the use of any other means of transport is prohibited;
- burials are allowed only in official cemeteries (in the case of members of other religions - additional approvals are required);
- burial options: regular graves, crypts, and cremation.
According to the guidelines of the Ministry of Justice Guia do Espaço Óbito, do Ministério da Justiça, there are actions that should be taken between one week and two months after the death. However, there are three primary steps that need to be taken more urgently and immediately, that is, immediately. These are:
- Obtain a medical certificate of death.
- Obtain a death certificate as an act of civil status.
- Contact a funeral home.
So, the first thing to do is to obtain a medical certificate of death (o certificado médico de óbito), a document confirming the fact of death itself. The medical certificate of death, as the name implies, must be issued by a doctor, and, if possible, on the same day that the person died.
The second step is to obtain a declaração de óbito (death certificate as an act of civil status). You will need the medical certificate from the first step to take the following steps, in particular to inform the Espaço Óbito at the local civil registry office (Conservatória do Registo Civil): you must make this declaration within 48 hours after death, so that the public services can register the death and issue an official paper. You can also go to Loja de Cidadão (multifunctional citizens' reception centers) or to the Portuguese Institute of Registration and Registry Instituto Português de Registos e Notariado - IRN (including online). If the person died in a hospital or nursing home, the institution will usually issue the medical certificate itself. If the death occurs at home, you can call a doctor from your Centro de saúde or INEM to issue a medical certificate of death by dialing the emergency number 112). If the cause of death was an accident or crime or was caused by unknown circumstances, the first place to call is the police (PSP or GNR).
The third step is to contact a funeral home (agência funerária). To avoid unpleasant surprises, it is important to agree and understand in advance what services the agency will provide and what their cost will be because the rates on the websites of funeral agencies are never specified, they are discussed in person and depend on your requests. In general, funeral homes should obligatory have basic "social funeral service" at maximum price, which is about 1200 euros for today. Naturally, everything depends on your preferences and the composition of the selected package, but on average, the cost of burial (if we are not talking about the minimum package) is from 2000 to 5000 euros, the cost of cremation - about 2500 euros. Average prices for individual services can be found in the table below (please note that the cost may vary depending on the agency's "brand" and on the region of Portugal):
In addition to the standard list of funeral services, funeral directors also take care of other matters for you. For example, they can, of course, for an additional fee, do the following:
- to obtain a medical certificate of death;
- to register the death and obtain a death certificate from Espaço Óbito;
- to apply to the public authorities for social support on your behalf, to apply for any subsidies, compensation, or pensions to which you are entitled (keep in mind that you can also do this yourself when you go to Espaço Óbito or on a separate trip to the office Segurança social).
The agency must also give you a certificate of attendance at the funeral to justify your absence from work or school: this certificate indicates the date of the funeral and your relationship to the deceased person, so your employer or school knows how many days you are entitled to miss (Portuguese law provides for family members of the deceased to take 2 or 5 days off, depending on the relationship, with days counted, both working and non-working, from the date the absence began);
To apply to a funeral agency, you will need the following list of documents:
- medical certificate of death issued by a doctor (o certificado médico de óbito)
- death certificate from the state civil registration authorities (declaração de óbito)
Note: Unless you choose to have a funeral home receive these documents.
- your national identification card (Cartão de Cidadão) or any other identification card (título de residência, passport, for example)
- the same for the deceased (additionally his taxpayer number (NIF), if any).
If, for some reason, you do not have any identification of the deceased, you need to prepare the following information about the deceased:
- full name;
- date of birth;
- place of birth;
- the full name of the parents;
- last address of residence;
- civil status (single, married, divorced, or widowed) and, if married, divorced, or widowed, you will also need the name of the person with whom the person is or was married.
Once the funeral is over, the bureaucracy, unfortunately, does not automatically end. Therefore, you will have to gather your will into a fist and go through a few more compulsory procedures.
You must notify the bank of the death if there are bank accounts of the deceased that should or can be claimed. In the case of legal direct heirs (spouse, ascendants, and descendants), it is sufficient to present the death certificate and your identification card to identify the kinship and the document of habitation of the heirs. In other cases, you must present one of the following documents: a certificate of will (Certidão de Escritura de Habilitação), a certificate of testament with date of death (Certidão do Testamento com a data do óbito averbada pelo Notário) certified by a notary, a certificate of probate (Certidão de Processo de Inventário) or a European certificate of succession (Certificado Sucessório Europeu). At this stage, you should also ask AT - Autoridade Tributária e Aduaneira), a statement of account (uma declaração de saldos de conta) on the date of death for the payment of stamp duty (Imposto de Selo).
Note: The initiation of the probate process at a bank and the issuance of a statement of account balances (declaração de saldos dá origem) entails the payment of a fee, which can be up to 90 euros, depending on the specific banking institution.
If you want to ascertain whether the deceased had other bank accounts than those you know, you can request this information directly from the Banco de Portugal (Banco de Portugal).
Important: If the account belongs solely to the deceased, access to the money and the account is automatically closed after you notify the bank of the death.
Please note that if the deceased had any credit (mortgage or otherwise), that credit is usually associated with a life insurance policy that will cover the payment of guaranteed capital in the event of death. Or, regardless of having a loan, the deceased had a medical life and health insurance policy - it is critical to notify the insurance company of the death as well, within the time limit set by the general and/or specific terms of the policy. In some cases, this deadline is 8 days from the day you became aware of the insured's death. The notice must be sent directly to the insurance company, even if the policy was taken out with the loan agreement. Insurers usually ask for the following documents:
- in case of death due to illness: a copy of the death certificate; a report filled out by the medical assistant of the deceased indicating the dates of diagnosis of the pathologies he/she was wearing at the date of death; heirs' habitation document; copy of the identity card and tax number of the beneficiary(ies).
- in case of death accidentally/crime: copy of death certificate; accident report; autopsy report (if conducted); copy of toxicology and alcohol test results (if conducted); heir's habitation document; copy of Beneficiary(ies) identity card and tax number.
However, the package of documents, as well as the deadline for reporting a death, may vary from one insurance company to another. If you have doubts about the existence of valid policies for the deceased, you can always ask the Autoridade de Supervisão de Seguros e Fundos de Pensões - ASF (Insurance and Pension Funds Supervisory Authority), information about the existence of a life insurance contract or any other insurance contract in which the particular person is a policyholder or subscriber, as well as the insurer with whom the contract was concluded.
Note: if there are doubts about the existence of a will, it is always convenient to inquire about it at the central Conservatória do Registo Civil of the region where you reside. If a will exists, the authority will issue a positive certificate indicating the registration office where the will was made. To obtain such a certificate of probate, you must present the death certificate of the deceased, and the notary will have to mark the date of death on the will itself. The certificate of will is valid only after this marking made by the notary.
It is also mandatory that you notify the IRS AT - Autoridade Tributária e Aduaneira of death, to obtain a certificate of settlement (as we wrote above) for the payment of stamp duty (which is 10% of the inherited property). If you are a direct heir, you are exempt from paying it, but you must declare all the assets you inherit, and you must make sure that the values declared by the bank, as well as real estate, vehicles, shares, or company shares, are included in the aforementioned inventory. Note that the deadline to file the appropriate notice with the IRS is within three months of death, and you will face a fine if you violate this deadline. After the death is notified to the Portuguese Tax Office, the head of the family receives a certificate with the calculation of stamp duty (instead of the certificate of settlement status), which must be kept for presentation at the bank, as well as in any other authorities.
Here is a sample list of documents to be submitted to the tax office:
- a copy of the death certificate;
- the identity card and NIF of the deceased;
- the identity card and NIF of the head of the family;
- name and NIF of other heirs;
- a will or deed of gift or certificate of disinheritance or disinherited property (if any);
- a list of the property included in the inheritance and its value;
- a list of the assets included in the inheritance;
- a list of bank accounts;
- a list of investment funds, stocks, and savings certificates;
- retirement savings plans and life insurance;
Note: Who can be recognized as the head of the family? According to article 2080 Decreto-Lei No. 47344, the status of head of the family (cabeça-de-casal) is granted in the following order:
- to a surviving spouse who is not judicially separated from the property if he or she is an heir or has a half share in the spouses' property;
- to the executor, unless the testator specifies otherwise;
- to relatives who are heirs at law;
- heirs under a will.
Social guarantees from the state
If you are entitled to any state support, such as burial allowance, funeral reimbursement, widow's pension, survivor's pension, orphan's pension or death pension, funeral homes usually help with this, but you can certainly do it yourself. To qualify for some of these benefits from the month following the date of death, you must take care to apply to Segurança Social within six months of the date of death. Here are the main existing benefits from the state related to the death of loved ones:
Bereavement Allowance - Subsídio por morte. It is a lump sum benefit paid to the family members of a deceased social security beneficiary, subject to the conditions of payment to the social security fund. The amount of this benefit at the time of writing is € 1,441.29. To apply for it, you have to fill in and submit to the social security office the application form Requerimento de Prestações por Morte, the application must be made within 180 days from the date of death and must be accompanied by the documents required by the form.
Reimbursement of funeral expenses - Reembolso das despesas de funeral. This benefit is given as a lump sum upon proof of payment of funeral expenses (if you are on the general social security scheme). To receive it, the following conditions must be met: there must be no other relatives of the deceased eligible for the death benefit, and the applicant must provide the original funeral expenses. The maximum amount of reimbursement is €1,441.29. To apply for reimbursement, you must complete and submit to the social security office an Application for Reimbursement of expenses Requerimento de Reembolso das Despesas de Funeral for a funeral within 90 days from the date of registration of the death, accompanied by the documents indicated on the form.
Funeral Allowance - Subsídio de funeral. It is a one-time cash benefit that reimburses the applicant for funeral expenses incurred by any person residing in Portugal. This allowance is specifically for citizens who are not covered by the mandatory social security scheme and are entitled to a death benefit. Its fixed amount is 236.37 euros. To apply for this benefit, two forms must be filled out Requerimento do Subsídio de Funeral and Declaração de Ato da Responsabilidade de Terceiro - Subsídio de Funeral, and submit it to the social security office within six months from the first day of the month following the month in which the death occurred, along with the documents listed on the form.
Survivor's pension - Pensão de sobrevivência. This monthly cash benefit is intended to compensate the family members of the deceased for the loss of earnings as a result of his death. It requires that on the date of death, the deceased had made 36 months of contributions under the General Social Security regime or 72 months of contributions under the Voluntary Social Security regime. To qualify for this pension, it is necessary to fill out and submit the death benefit application forms to Social Security Requerimento de Prestações por Morte and Declaração - Pedido de Pensão à Instituição Estrangeira Competente - Pensão de Sobrevivência within 6 months of the date of death.
Widow's or widower's pension - Pensão de viuvez. It is a monthly payment for widows and widowers of social pensioners. To qualify for this pension, the applicant must not be entitled to any other pension and must meet the need test for a social pension. The surviving spouse's pension is 134.54 Euros (60% of the social pension). To receive this pension, you need to fill out the application form and submit it to the social security office within 6 months together with the necessary documents.
Orphan's pension - Pensão de orfandade. It is a monthly allowance granted to orphans of Portuguese nationality and residence until they reach the age of majority or emancipation. Its amount takes into account the % of the social pension, as well as the number of orphans and the presence or absence of a spouse or former spouse entitled to the pension. The amount can range from €44.85 to €179.39. To apply for this benefit, you need to fill out and submit the application form for death benefit - orphan pension as well as the relevant supplementary documents to the social security office within 6 months of the date of death.
Some financial institutions (both microfinance institutions and banks) deal with funeral loans. In the table below, you can see the loan conditions for comparison (loan amount 1726 euros, term - 12 months). There is no separate program, of course, but this type of credit is implied as a type of consumer credit.
How is this topic perceived in Portuguese society?
Yes, now let's talk about how death, the funeral process, and even its planning are treated in Portugal in general. Death is discussed calmly, with no tensions or taboos. It is considered normal to plan in advance, so many people take out health insurance that includes funeral expenses, to make life easier for relatives when the time comes. There are also so-called funeral plans, which are ready-made packages of funeral services with payment, as it were, in installments (an example of how it looks like you can see here). Insurance and prepaid plans allow you to plan a funeral in advance, giving you the certainty that your relatives won't have to worry about how to organize the funeral and how to pay for it. One of Portugal's insurance market leaders, Fidelidade, has health insurance Vital Protection 65+which relieves your family from worrying about funeral arrangements and expenses. Questions related to this type of insurance, as well as any other type of insurance, will be gladly answered by an insurance specialist in Portugal.
Finally, a few technical points about funerals in Portugal. A traditional funeral is a burial in the ground, but since the cost of maintaining the plot in the cemetery is quite high, the duties of care are quite strict and other formalities with the organization of the architecture of the place are complicated (obtaining permits from the municipality, almost like building a house), make an increasing number of Portuguese lean towards the cremation option (the urn with the ashes relatives take home or send it to the columbarium).
Note: the scattering of ashes is forbidden by law in Portugal (as in all of Europe), regardless of where you want to do it. All urns have to be sealed and registered at the custodian's address, so a health inspection can stop by your house at any time.
You may have already seen on the bulletin boards, in the local newspapers, at the church and in the stores - flyers saying that so-and-so has passed away and that the funeral and burial will take place then and there. So, in Portugal it is customary to notify the townspeople (in the case of large cities, the neighbors in the neighborhood) of the death so that all those who knew the person could come to pay their respects and say goodbye. Thus, we can say that the attitude toward death is rather commonplace. This is also reflected in the dress code - it is not customary to go to a funeral here in black, a black item will suffice (even a white dress and black hat are quite acceptable for señoras), for men the only dress code requirement is a suit and tie, color is of no particular importance. It is customary to celebrate the wake either at the home of the deceased or in a cafe/restaurant, it is not like a party, of course, but in a quite elevated atmosphere (everyone recalls some bright or curiosities from the life of the deceased, they eat and drink wine).
I would like you to read this article in the reference general educational mode, and it was not useful to you in practice for many years, but, at the same time, at the moment of need, could be an important help. I wish you all good health and a long life!