Information was updated on 12.05.2023

In Bulgaria, burial is a regulated process for which there are quite a few requirements. This article aims to guide you through the process required to bury a deceased loved one.

1. Death notice

In order to bury your loved one, you must first prove their death. This is done by establishing the death and writing a death notice which describes the date, time and cause of death.

Who makes the death notice?

If the death occurred in a hospital, the death shall be established by the deceased person's doctor, the doctor on duty responsible for his or her treatment, a pathologist, or a forensic specialist.

If the death occurred outside a hospital, you need to call the deceased's general practitioner or the emergency services on this phone number – 112, so that an ambulance can be sent and the death established by a doctor or paramedic who will make the death notice. If necessary, the doctor may call the police or another medical expert.

The death notice will be made in 3 copies:

  • One is sent to the municipality, district, town where the death occurred.
  • A second one is sent to the local regional health inspection
  • A third remains in storage with the doctor/hospital

2. Obtaining a death certificate

After the death has been established and a death notice was made, you need to obtain a death certificate. You will need it in order to bury your loved one. It serves as permission for burial.

The death certificate is issued by the municipal civil registration office (ГРАО) of the municipality where your relative died. It must be issued no later than 48 hours after the death.

The death certificate is issued free of charge.

A copy of the death certificate can only be issued to you if you are an heir of the deceased person (e.g. spouse, child, parent).

To issue this certificate, you need to go to the Civil Registration Office (GRAO) of the municipality in which your loved one died and submit the following documents:

  • Application form, which will be given to you at the municipality;
  • Death notice prepared by a doctor - it is sent by the doctor to the municipality;
  • Identity document of the deceased person - ID card, passport;

If your relative does not have Bulgarian citizenship, the municipality will retain all identity documents and foreign travel documents of the deceased, if there are any. These documents and a copy of the death certificate are sent to the nearest district police station. However, if you are planning to bury your relative abroad, the official who issued the death certificate will hand over these documents to the persons who will accompany the deceased during the transfer.

  • Your ID as the applicant;
  • Bring a document that proves your relationship to the deceased - birth certificate, marriage certificate, certificate of heirs, etc.

3. Arranging the funeral in Bulgaria

Funeral agencies

To organize the funeral of your loved one, you can use the services of a funeral agency. Note that these agencies require payment of fees. The fee varies depending on the funeral agency - from 600 leva to 3000 leva and depending on the services you want to be included.

Funerals by the municipality

The municipality in which the person died will bear the cost of the funeral after being notified of the death when the deceased person:

  • Has no relatives;
  • was homeless;
  • was placed in a social services institution (e.g. a home for the elderly, a centre for persons with disabilities, etc.) or registered with the Social Assistance Directorate as a person with insufficient financial resources;
  • if there is a prosecutor's order for a municipal funeral;

The municipal funeral services include:

  1. issuing a death certificate;
  2. printing of 5 obituaries;
  3. securing the ark;
  4. carriage of a deceased person;
  5. providing a tombstone;
  6. excavation and closure of a gravesite

When should the funeral take place?

Burial shall take place no sooner than 24 hours after the determination of death. You have up to 48 hours to arrange a send-off and say goodbye as you see fit before you are legally obliged to bury your loved one.

Burial after 48 hours is permitted only if arrangements are made for the deceased to be stored in a specialized refrigerated chamber or embalmed.

Conditions for cremation

If you want to cremate a loved one, you will need the following:

  1. The death certificate.
  2. The written permission of the doctor or paramedic who established the death, declaring that he finds no evidence of violent death and authorising the body to be cremated
  3. Declaration by a relative in which they agreed to have a cremation. You can download a sample here.

The family relationship must be proven with a document such as an original marriage certificate, birth certificate or certificate of heirs.

4) a copy of the deceased's identity document.

Cremation takes place:

  1. If, while alive, the person himself/herself has requested this, by a declaration with notarization of the signature by a notary.
  2. At the request of their relatives in the following order of priority:
  • spouse;
  • the deceased's children, if they are adults;
  • Parents;
  • brothers and sisters;
  • grandchildren and great-grandchildren;
  • descendants of brothers and sisters;

Cremation is compulsory for a deceased who has died of a contagious disease.

Cremation of deceased foreign nationals shall be carried out when no written request for the deceased to be sent to their country has been received and written consent of the respective diplomatic mission has been given.

Cremation of the deceased should take place no earlier than 24 hours and no later than 8 days after the determination of death.

Here you can find the contacts of the Crematorium in Sofia.

4. Transfer of the deceased outside of Bulgaria

To transfer the deceased abroad, contact the embassy of the country concerned to obtain information on how the transfer can be carried out.

At the embassy, you must submit the following documents:

  • the death notice translated and certified by an official translator;
  • a translated death certificate with an apostille.

The embassy should issue you with a document to take the body abroad.

Along with this, you must also ask for permission from the director of the regional health inspection of the municipality (RHI) where the deceased died. You can find the addresses of the RHI in the country at this link.

You need the following documents to request permission from the RHI:

  • Application form, which they will give you on the spot.
  • A copy of the death notice, which you can request from the doctor or medical facility that established the deceased's death)
  • Copy of the death certificate;
  • A copy of the deceased person's identity document; (ID card, passport)
  • Permission for cremation if you are going to have one;
  • Contract with a funeral agency (if you use the services of such an agency);
  • Document for a paid fee to the health inspection – 20 leva;

Once you get permission from the Director of Health Inspection, you will also have to pay additional fees for the transfer, depending on which country you want to take the body to.

The transfer of the deceased shall only be carried out in a specialised transport designed for this purpose.