How to die in Croatia: Part 2 (What you should do before you die in Croatia)

Cemetery in Grožnjan, Istria

We speak to people every day who want to live in Croatia for the rest of their lives. If you live in Croatia for the rest of your life, then that means there is a good chance you will also die in Croatia.

In the first part of this series, we wrote about all the bureaucratic things that happen immediately after a person dies in Croatia. In this article, we are going to focus on what a foreigner may need to prepare while they are still alive to avoid chaos when they die in Croatia.

If you want to learn how to organize and attend a funeral in Croatia, view the third part of this series here.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to prepare in case you die in Croatia

#1 Write a Croatian last will

Foreign wills are not recognized in Croatia. If you want your wishes to be respected, you must create a will in Croatia that abides by this country’s rules and regulations.

Your last will in Croatia is called oporuka. By defining who is going to inherit your assets in case of your death, you can make the whole inheritance process easier for whomever will sort out your business after your passing.

To write the last will, you must be older than 16 and capable of reasoning.

Once a will is produced, it can be added to the Croatian register of wills. This is not required but is recommended as it adds an extra layer of insurance that your will is not disputed after death.

Private, public and oral wills

In Croatia, you can pick whether you’d like to leave a private, public, or oral will.

A private will is the most common. It can be written privately on your own or in front of witnesses.

A public will is written with the help of authorized bodies. If you don’t know how to read or you can’t read, this is the only will you are allowed to leave in Croatia. Authorized bodies are a judge or court adviser of municipal court, Croatian consular representative outside of Croatia or a notary public.

[Read: How to get something notarized]

You can save your written will at a desired private place or give it to a natural or legal person, court, attorney, notary public or Croatian embassy or consulate.

An oral will can be given in exceptional cases, if you are not able to compose any other type of will. It must be heard by two witnesses. However, keep in mind that oral will expires 30 days after your exceptional scenario ceases to exist.

[Read: How to create a legally binding contract in Croatia (including wills)]

#2 Name a beneficiary on bank accounts and HZMO

It is smart that you name someone as a beneficiary for all Croatian accounts you use including bank accounts and pension funds (HZMO). This way, the person you define will inherit the associated rights in case of your death.

If you want to do this, you must define a beneficiary in your last will. However, you are not obliged to name anyone. If you don’t pick someone, the question of inheriting accounts will be solved at the legacy hearing after death. The inheritance rights will probably be given to one or more of your closest family members.

If the deceased has unpaid pensions in their account, HZMO will freeze the account after death until an heir is defined. After the final decision on inheritance and the heir’s bank account is delivered to HZMO, the pension will be paid.

There is a possibility to define an authorized person at HZMO who will receive a pension on your behalf. This can be done if the pension is received by mail. A request for power of attorney must be submitted to the competent regional office of HZMO. An authorization is valid for one year.

The right to inherit a pension of the deceased

Family members of the deceased have a right to pension if the deceased:

  • Had at least 5 years of work experience (radni staž) or 10 years of retirement experience (mirovinski staž)
  • Met the conditions of the length of retirement experience for acquiring the right to a disability pension
  • Was a user of an old-age, early old-age, or disability pension
  • Was a user of the right to professional rehabilitation

If the deceased passed away due to an injury at work or an occupational disease, their family members acquire the right to inherit a pension regardless of the retirement experience of the deceased.

A family member has the right to a pension from the day when the conditions for acquiring the right to inheriting the pension are met if the request for exercising the right is submitted within 6 months from the day the conditions are met. If the request is submitted after this period, they have the right to a pension from the first day of the month after submitting the application and for six months back.

A request for the pension of the deceased must be submitted to the HZMO office according to the place of residence of the deceased.

If the residence of the deceased was abroad, then the regional organizational unit where the deceased was insured in Croatia for the last time is competent.

#3 Decide if you will be buried or cremated

Regardless of whether you live in Croatia or not, you can be either buried or cremated here. You don’t need Croatian roots or any other connections with Croatia. However, you should decide whether you’d like to be buried in Croatia or abroad in advance.

For the burial of a foreign citizen in Croatia, it is necessary to get a certificate from the cemetery or parish in the city where the burial or cremation is planned. An approximate cost of a burial depends on the city. In Zagreb, it is ~2,000 euros.

Cremation is available only in Zagreb (Mirogoj cemetery) and Osijek. In Zagreb, the cremation price is ~930 euros. In Osijek, the cremation price is ~465 euros.

The deceased can be buried outside of the cemetery and the urn can be kept outside of a cemetery (for example, at home) with special permission from the local-self government. If you want to spread the ashes, you can do it at special places inside Croatian cemeteries. In Zagreb, this is done in the rose garden of Sunčana staza (Sunny Trail) at the Crematorium.

However, according to the Funeral act, funeral activities also include the organization of spillage of the ashes of the deceased in nature (sea, rivers, forests, mountains, meadows, etc.). If you want to spread the ashes in nature, you must get a special permit from the local self-government. In 2016, the Vatican declared that Catholics are not allowed to spill the ashes of the deceased or keep the urn at home.

#4 Find a plot at a graveyard

Cemetery in Grožnjan, Istria

If you decide to be buried, you must purchase your plot at a cemetery (called groblje). First, you have to check whether there is a free space at the desired cemetery. Once you find out this information, visit them and buy a plot.

You may also search for graveyard plots for sale on Njuškalo. The section for Graves and Tombs (Grobna mjesta i grobnice) is available here.

[Read: An English guide to Njuškalo (Croatia’s Craigslist)]

#5 Pick a funeral company

A funeral company is required in Croatia. It is good to be familiar with available authorized funeral companies (pogrebno poduzeće) or funeral carriers (pogrebni prijevoznik) in the city and the services they offer in advance.

Funeral companies in Croatia transport the body of the deceased from the hospital or home to the morgue (mrtvačnica) where it remains until the funeral or cremation. They also organize the burial or cremation and everything that goes with it.

If the funeral is going to be organized outside of Croatia, you can hire a funeral company to transport the deceased abroad. Learn more about the transportation of the deceased from Croatia to a foreign country in this post.

Large cities usually have many funeral companies to choose from. Inform yourself about optimal prices and the quality of services from someone you know. In small places and villages, there is usually only one funeral company that takes care of everything related to the funeral.

It is really important that you identify a funeral company in advance. For example, when a person dies in a hospital, they must be transported within 24 hours after the death. Otherwise, your family will pay a fee for each additional day. Because of potential situations like this, it is good to be prepared.

#6 Join a funeral aid organization

Residents of Croatia can become members of a funeral aid organization (posmrtna pripomoć). This organization organizes funerals for its members and helps their family members. When organizing a funeral, they don’t involve family members of the deceased. This allows them to go through the process with less stress.

Membership in a funeral aid organization also brings other benefits. It covers basic funeral expenses including a coffin with accompanying furniture, tombstone, transport of the deceased, obituaries, and burial expenses.

If you become a member of a funeral aid organization, inform your family about it. At the moment of need, they will have to provide your ID card to the organization. After this, the organization will settle the rest.

Learn more about the funeral aid organization in Croatia here.

#7 List an emergency contact

In Croatia, there is no official way to define a family member or close friend as an emergency contact in case something happens to you. This doesn’t sound good if you are a foreigner with Croatian residence who is here without family.

However, there are some ways that may work. If you have a family doctor, you can ask them whether it would be fine to leave a phone number of someone close to you for cases like this. If you are staying in a hospital, you can leave a phone number for the staff. They will ask you for a contact person anyway.

You can also leave an “in case of emergency” number in your wallet or purse. It’s also recommended that you designate a friend who lives in the same city who can notify your family back home.

#8 Decide if you want to donate an organ

Everyone who dies in Croatia is considered a possible organ donor. Croatian laws don’t require permission from the family of the deceased for organ donations. However, the opinion of the family opinion is always respected.

If you are a Croatian citizen or foreign national with permanent residence in Croatia, you can donate organs freely. For everyone else, organs can only be directed to a spouse, partner, or immediate family member with written consent.

If you have a Croatian donor card that states that you are an organ donor and your attitude towards it, inform your family, so they know in case of emergency.

[Read: How to be an organ donor in Croatia]

#9 Decide if you want to donate body to science

In Croatia, it is possible to donate your body to science to help future doctors and scientists improve their medical knowledge. If you choose to donate, you must inform your family members about the decision as soon as you make it.

It is possible to donate a body to the Zavod za anatomiju (Department of Anatomy) of the Medicinski fakultet (Faculty of Medicine) in Zagreb or Rijeka. View more information on body donation in Zagreb here and Rijeka here.

Before you die, you must submit the application form izjava o donaciji tijela (statement on body donation) stating that you want to donate your body to science. The application form for the Rijeka’s Faculty of Medicine is available here.

In case you’ve missed it, view part 1 of our series on how to die in Croatia (what happens right after death) here. If you want to learn how to organize and attend a funeral in Croatia, view the third part of this series here.

View our other related posts

Obiteljska mirovina by HZMO
Načini isplate mirovine by HZMO

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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