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Support during difficult times

by SOPHIE MCCARRICK [email protected]

For foreign residents in the Algarve, dealing with the loss of a loved one is a difficult process to go through, especially when individuals faced with this situation are unaware of services available to them and the necessary actions to take.

With hopes of addressing funeral procedures, options available and support systems offered to foreigners living in the Algarve, the Servilusa Funeral Agency organised and held a conference on February 29 at the Hotel Eva, Faro.

The event was attended by, among others, the British Vice-Consul, Angela Morado, the President of the Municipality of Faro Câmara Macário Correia and afpop Chief Executive Officer Michael Reeve.

Servilusa is Portugal’s largest funeral company that operates all over the country with a total of 53 agencies, 300 employees, 100 vehicles and a 24-hour call service for clients.

An international department is available to foreign residents of the Algarve, with Servilusa providing specialised technicians in languages such as English, French, German, Spanish, Ukrainian, Russian and more.

Services offered by Servilusa include the organisation of all documentation necessary according to the legislation in force, flight arrangements if necessary, preparation of the deceased and legalisation of documentation with embassies including the British, Ukrainian, United States of America, Russian, German, French, Italian, Moldavian, Bulgarian, Polish, Austrian and Chinese, among others.

Support for foreigners

Servilusa International Services Manager Vanda Castro told the Algarve Resident: “Given the high number of tourists and foreign residents in the Algarve, the seminar had the objective to give consulates a series of legal knowledge and tools to manage a death. I think it is important for Servilusa to form a connection with the international residents so they are aware of

their options.

“Sometimes the consulates are the first ones to receive the notice of a death, and they need to give that information to the families. Also, the consulate needs to deal with legal procedures, because they act in the name of the family with the local authorities. The seminar was very successful and I believe it will be necessary to repeat a meeting like this again in the near future.”

The seminar also presented the opportunity for António Santos, architect of the new Faro Crematorium, to talk about the plans.

With an average of 5,000 funerals taking place annually in the Algarve, Faro Câmara aims to make the process of bereavement easier for the region by building the Algarve’s first crematorium at Faro’s new cemetery in Penha, which an expected completion date of January 2013.

Plans from other Câmaras including Loulé and Albufeira for the construction of crematoriums in their municipalities have also been announced (see Algarve Resident edition November 25, 2011 and February 24).

Michael Reeve told the Algarve Resident: “At afpop, we generally aren’t called to assist at such times of bereavement, however we do what we can to help our members prepare for such eventualities in Portugal.

“afpop provides very extensive and comprehensive information about pre-death planning, the procedures to be followed at the time of death through to burial or cremation, the planning and execution of wills and the winding up of a deceased person’s estate and inheritance issues in our Information Bulletin system, which is available to all afpop members.”

He added that discussions are taking place between afpop and Servilusa about presenting a similar seminar to all members and non-members in the coming months.

Declaring a death

Within 48 hours of the death of any individual on Portuguese territory, it must be declared at any registry office of Civil Registry.  

Dependant on the given circumstances, the steps that a family dealing with a death then needs to take will vary.

If a person passes away at a hospital then a death certificate will automatically be issued by a doctor from the hospital and if they have any doubt concerning the cause of death, an autopsy will be performed.

However, if a person dies at home, family will need to contact a personal doctor to issue a death certificate. In cases where the deceased does not have a family doctor, the local authorities will have to be contacted to transport the deceased to a medical institute where a post mortem will be carried out.

Once a death certificate has been obtained, the original must be delivered to the Civil Registry and families will need to make authenticated copies for various purposes including any legal issues that may occur following a death, for insurance companies when making claims, for knowledge of the cause of death after an autopsy and for possible other situations that may occur when evidential support will be required.

Planning the funeral

Families will need to make contact with a funeral agency, where the decision between a cremation funeral or a burial funeral will be made, however, in many foreign cases, repatriation of the body to the deceased’s country of origin is required and arranged.

When all necessary decisions regarding the funeral and ceremony are made, the chosen funeral agency will carry out the family’s wishes.

According to Portuguese law, if the deceased is to remain within Portugal then a corpse must be buried or cremated 72 hours after the verification of death or 48 hours if there has been a medico-legal autopsy performed.

If these deadlines are unable to be abided by, it is necessary that evidence is provided to confirm that the body is being kept in a cold storage facility.

Angela Morado explained at the seminar that the British Consulate deal with many British people who have passed away in the Algarve.

In these situations, for families left behind there are a number of organisations in the UK that can help bereaved families and friends overseas come to terms with their loss, whether the death was natural or otherwise.  

If the death was a result of murder or manslaughter, families and friends of victims have the option of support from the Victims Support National Homicide Service, who will allocate a named caseworker who will provide confidential help.

Charities such as Support after Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM abroad) can also help families and friends deal with problems and difficulties that arise from death overseas under suspicious circumstances.

All families suffering a loss are provided with specific support dependent on their case and also given a guide for bereaved families’ booklet.

For more information please contact Servilusa on 800 204 222 (free national number) or e-mail [email protected] or visit (In Portuguese only, with English section). Other contact details are the British Consulate in Portimão on 808 203 537 or see  or afpop on 282 458 509 or email [email protected] or see

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