Dealing with a Death in Turkey

Dealing with the death of a loved one is always distressing. It can also be stressful, time consuming and expensive. The stress, time factor, and expense are often worsened by distance, language, and differences in procedure.

If you need this guide, it’s probably too late to say that it’s much better to reduce all these problems by way of forward planning. This includes speaking to the person concerned as to their wishes and speaking to a local funeral director as to what can (and cannot) be done and the likely cost involved.

This is particularly important as many foreigners still put in their Wills, or tell their relatives, that they wish to be buried ‘back home’. It is my belief that many would change their minds if they knew the cost and trouble that this wish is likely to cause their loved ones.

Finally, we realise that in this guide we use some terms – such as deceased and body – which can sound a little callous. No disrespect is intended but there are few expressions that capture the right balance between brevity and respect.

Preparation for your death in Turkey

We know that’s a bit of a depressing heading. Nobody wants to think about their death, much less prepare for it, but it’s still a good idea.

First off, tell your family what you want: your wishes as to burial or cremation, whether you want the family to be present etc. Preferably, do this in writing so there are no misunderstandings and the recipient can show the document to doubting relatives. This saves a lot of anguish.

It is better not to put these things in your Will. When you die, these issues need to be dealt with quickly: possibly days before anyone has access to your Will. If you prefer to put these things in your Will, make sure that all the key players (such as your wife and children) have a copy of it and you tell them that it contains important instructions as to your wishes about burial etc.

If you have a pet – or dependent children – in the same document, make clear what you want to happen to them. Action will, obviously, have to be taken immediately.

Make a Will (possibly more than one) and tell your family where it is. Better still, send at least one of them a copy of it.

It is also very helpful if your friends and your family know the whereabouts of certain key documents.

As far as the death itself is concerned, these documents will include:

  • Any residence card
  • Your passport
  • Any medical insurance policy or card
  • Your social security card
  • The names of both of your parents – even if you’re 90
  • The name of your bank and your account number

There are other documents – many documents – that are needed to deal with the inheritance of your assets. See our Guide to Inheritance in Turkey for details. It is helpful if they are kept together and the whereabouts of the documents is known to your family, your local lawyer and a trusted local friend.

I refer to the location of documents being known by a local friend because, in many cases, all your family and other relatives will be living hundreds or thousands of miles away and so be unable to act quickly at the time of your death.

Many people are nervous about entrusting information such as this to friends, even friends they have known for a long time. In this case, the best thing to do is usually to tell your lawyer where the documents are stored. Then tell your family that you have done so and give them the lawyer’s contact details.

You should also give the lawyer (or the friend) the means to get access to the house when needed. This doesn’t normally involve giving them a key but, more often, telling them which of your friends and neighbours has the key and giving the friend or the lawyer a letter to those neighbours, asking them to assist them and to permit them to remove the documents.

Having said all of that, the good news is that the process of dealing with a death in Turkey is always far more straightforward than it is in most countries.

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