When someone dies, the surviving relatives must have the all-important acta de defunción (death certificate). Without it, you won’t be able to change the name on properties, sell vehicles, or access bank accounts.
You’ll also want to check to see if any places have life insurance policies. For example, Elecktra has an optional insurance policy through Banco Azteca you can get when you buy something on credit. It stipulates that in the event of death of the credit holder, all outstanding transactions are paid in full. But you won’t be able to clear up any of these without the death certificate.
The funeraria can help you obtain some of these documents, although some you’ll need to go in person to retrieve or make the application.
To get this vitally important document you’ll need to go to the local Registro Civil and present:
- Certificado de defunción expedido por el médico certificante en original (the original death certificate signed by medical personnel)
- Identificación oficial vigente con fotografía, de un declarante, que en todo caso será un familiar del difunto, quien deberá comparecer al levantamiento del acta de defunción (Photo ID of the family member who has come to make the request for the death certificate. You may need to provide proof of family relationship with a marriage certificate in case of a spouse or birth certificate if you are the child of the deceased.)
- Acta de Nacimiento del finado (Birth certificate of the deceased)
If the body is of a fetus, you obviously won’t have a birth certificate. Therefore you’ll need to only present the medical examiner’s certificate. Without the death certificate, the baby’s body can not be released for burial.
If the deceased is not Mexican by birth you may be asked to present Carta de naturalización mexicana (Naturalized citizen letter) or proof of permanent residency. Be prepared to also present the original birth certificate of the deceased along with the apostille and the translations done by el perito traductor (official translator). Since there is such a short window of time from death to burial, it’s better to have these documents in order before they are needed in the event of a death.
For bodies that are to be cremated:
- Permiso para cremación del Sector Salud, sólo en caso de que el cadáver vaya a ser cremado, original (If the body is to be cremated, you’ll need the cremation permit from the Health Department.)
If the person died under suspicious or criminal circumstances, you must provide:
- Oficio original del Ministerio Público que autorice la inhumación o cremación del cadáver en caso de muerte violenta u ocurrida en la vía pública. (In the event of a violent death, or death in a public area, you’ll need the authorization for burial from the Public Ministry. This is to ensure that the body is no longer needed for any criminal investigation.)
If the person died in a municipality or state other than where he/she is to be buried you’ll also need:
- Permiso de traslado del sector salud y el del municipio que autoriza el traslado del finado, cuando vaya a ser inhumado o cremado en Municipio o Estado distinto de donde ocurrió el deceso, original. (If the deceased is to be buried in a municipality or state that is not the same as where he/she died, then you’ll need a permit to transport the body.)
- Certificación del acta de defunción levantada por el Registro civil del lugar donde ocurrió la muerte o bien el tanto de interesado del acta de defunción, cuando el finado proceda de otro Municipio o Estado al de donde se va inhumar o cremar, original y copia. (If the person died in another state or municipality, you’ll need the death certificate issued by the corresponding municipality or state.)
If the person died in a country other than Mexico you’ll also need:
- Acta de Defunción apostillada o legalizada del país donde ocurrió el deceso, por el traslado del cadáver, con traducción al español si esta en otro idioma, por perito autorizado por Registro Civil o por Cónsul mexicano, original y copia. (The original death certificate from the issuing country with an apostille seal, translated by an authorized translator)
- Permiso de traslado validado por el consulado mexicano, en su caso, cuando se trate de cadáveres procedentes del extranjero, original y copia. (Original and a copy of the permit to transport the body from the Mexican consulate in the country of death.)
Delays in burial might occur if the deceased is an organ donor. If the body is rapidly deteriorating, it may need to be buried before the 12-hour minimum. If the body is cremated or buried fewer than 12 hours or more than 48 hours after death, you must provide:
- una autorización del Sector Salud o del Ministerio Público (Authorization from the Health Department or Public Ministry)
There is no cost for el acta de defunción. However, certified copies of the document do have a fee. It’s better to get a copy or two in case something happens to the original. This document can even be requested online in some states. For example, you can go to this site for documents issued by the state of Guanajuato.
If the deceased is a citizen of another country, you will need to contact the appropriate consulate and report the death. They can help you complete the necessary paperwork. You’ll need to provide proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate or passport and the original Mexican death certificate.
For U.S. citizens, you can find more information here.
For Candadian citizens, you can find more information here.
If you wish to have the body sent back to your home country for burial, the funeraria can help you get the appropriate permits. Some funerarias even provide body transport as part of their service at no additional cost.
If the deceased worked at least 10 years with a valid social security number in the United States, the family may be entitled to some benefits after his/her death including a lump sum payment of $255 USD. You can find out more information about reporting a death to Social Security here.
If you are a permanent or temporary resident in Mexico and you become a widow or widower, you need to report that change in status to immigration. You’ll need to take a letter detailing the change in status, your ID and the death certificate to the immigration office to register the change.
4 responses to “Death in Rural Mexico — el Acta de Defunción”
Thank you for writing this! I’ve sent it off to others for just in case
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Thank you for this incredibly useful information. I’ve put off getting my husband’s Canadian birth certificate, as it’s a major PITA to do from abroad. But now that I know that I’ll need it, I’ll get to.it after the current whatever-this-is.
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great info. Just one small correction, it is acta de defunción, not acto. Thanks for sharing
Good catch! Thanks!