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Spanish funeral procedures under review

Thu 30th Jun 2011

Funerals: not a subject that many expats give much thought to - unless they have been directly affected by the issue in the past.

A draft law is currently being debated in the Spanish Parliament which is proposing to reduce the cost of funerals and regulate the monopoly currently being held by a few financial institsutions who specialise in making loans to pay for funerals to bereaved relatives.

The law also proposes to change some out-dated formalities which cause distress, extra expense and have no real purpose. Such formalities involve the requirement to wait 24 hours before a burial can take place and for the body to be transferred by a funeral director authorized by the ayuntamiento where the person died or where the burial will take place.

There will also be the requirement for such insurance companies to provide a free estimate for the cost of their services and also for them to offer the services of funeral director who they do not represent. This should effectively end the monopoly currently held by the few large insurance companies who woare associated with just the one funeral provider. It could also be a requirement for hospitals to offer a list of funeral directors. Consumer groups are also demanding that penalties should be levvied on companies who do not abide by the new law.

Currently Ocaso, Santa Lucia and Mapfre have a 60% share of the sector, which is estimated to be worth 1'000 million euros per year.

The industry has long defended the high costs associated with funerals due to the facilities they are legally bound to provide. Changes to the law will mean that funeral directors will no longer need to provide a certain number of cars or personnel and not be required to have a chapel of rest. This measure intends to encourage the creation of new, smaller companies and to increase competition, thereby reducing the average cost of a funeral.

The procedural side of the business, which currently involves much paperwork and taxation, is also due to change to streamline the system.

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