AN EXCERPT FROM ONE CASE.
Following the death in Spain of my mother-in-law in January, my husband and I found ourselves in a sadly, typical position here for foreigners. I want to re-count our experience having spoken with ChiFRA and requested that ChiFRA have available a trusted funeral director and recommended help for those that need it whether they are ChiFRA members or not. In our case, death was expected following a thankfully short period of illness and my mum-in-law had lived with us for some years.
She died early on a Thursday morning in San Rafael Clinica in Cadiz. The hospital immediately requested our position with regards to removal of the body and who the insurance policy was with. They were shocked to find she had no insurance plan and were worried about who would foot the bill. They wanted to contact a funeral director for us but we declined having heard there were “extra” expenses if we had done so.
We made a phone call to a neighbour and within half an hour a man called me saying that he could organise the funeral etc. and we should meet as soon as possible to organise everything. I explained that we were still in Cadiz but were in the car travelling to Chiclana and would call him once we arrived in the centre. He called again twice during that journey!
Once we arrived in Chiclana we were asked to meet at an insurance office in the town centre and he confirmed he would be there waiting for us. On arrival, he wasn’t and the office knew nothing about it which is not unusual in Spain.
When he arrived, he was badly turned out and frankly, grubby looking. He then made several phone calls chatting in Spanish slang to various “associates”. He was in a hurry to get us a quotation but his associate had to make some calls to get the price. He asked us if we wanted to pay IVA or not which concerned us. We just wanted a simple collection of our mum from Cadiz and price for cremation as we had always planned to take her ashes back to the UK to go in with Dad.
He gave us a quotation for 4,500€ but told us it was a cash price, without IVA and we should go and draw the money now and bring it back to him. The price was what I had expected but I wasn’t happy about not paying IVA. It seemed very unprofessional to be dealing in cash at a time like this with a man that professed to be representing an insurance company here.
I asked him to wait whilst I made a call and I spoke to a ChiFRA committee member who had had experience of funerals. I explained that I didn’t feel happy about how we were being dealt with and that I had a strong feeling that this man was not all that he was trying to appear to be. The committee member told me of an associate called Maria who I knew and Maria rang me immediately after the conversation.
I explained the situation and that I wasn’t at all happy with the disrespectful way we were being treated. It all seemed like a cattle market and it didn’t seem right so I asked for her help. She contacted the funeral director got back to me really quickly.
Suffice it to say I bowed out gracefully from the insurance office, taking all my paperwork with me and promising to let him know if we would go ahead with him or not. I used a non-existent problem with cash as an excuse and my husband and I left hastily.
I received another call from Maria who organised for the funeral director to come to our house along with her so that we could go through what needed to be done; although my Spanish is good, we needed help with the translation. This isn’t something I normally need but in the circumstances it seemed silly to decline as I was trying to offer support to my husband and not worry about verb tenses!
The funeral director was as you would expect in the UK, appropriately dressed, professional and extremely sympathetic. Maria was just fantastic, not making decisions for us or pushing us but making sure we knew what decisions had to be made and what our choices were. We not only received a much lower price (3,000€ including the IVA) and we were told we did not need to pay anything at all until after the funeral. This was an incredible difference in service so much so that I feel strongly that English people here need to know.
I would say at this point that although I had phoned the insurance office, spoken with the man and confirmed that we didn’t require their services but thanks very much for his time, he tried to push me to let him organise the funeral and was proving difficult to get rid of frankly. I thanked him on several occasions and continued declining his services and eventually had to say that my husband was now dealing with it and the choice wasn’t mine. This was the only way I could end the call without being rude.
Maria continued to organise everything but I can’t stress enough the unobtrusive nature of her help. She was supportive and yet not pushy, sympathetic and yet not amplifying an already suitably sad situation and old fashioned though it might seem, in my opinion, suitably attired. We felt that her personality and quiet professionalism rescued us from a potentially awful situation that may well have lived with us for the rest of our lives.
The new funeral director was extremely competent and well-organised even ringing us the following morning, the morning of the funeral, to let us know that severe traffic meant that Mum would arrive ten minutes later than planned. Maria also attended the crematorium with us in order to help with the paperwork so that we weren’t unduly upset and could prepare ourselves to say our goodbyes. This was particularly important for us because we had our three children with us and it was a very difficult time being their first experience of the death of a loved one.
I contacted ChiFRA suggesting that they have a recommended funeral director and use of Maria is a must for those that don’t speak excellent Spanish.
If any member or equally non-member has any questions about our experiences and wants to talk to someone first-hand, I am happy for ChiFRA to give my name and contact number and will always answer anything asked regarding this experience in an honest way.