1. What are
the chief types of cemeteries and do they differ?
The two broad classifications are traditional cemeteries and memorial
parks. In either case, a cemetery may be operated as a business or on
a non-profit basis. It may be owned by an individual or a corporation.
Some cemeteries are mutually owned, and many are the property of towns,
counties, and religious or fraternal groups.
In traditional cemeteries, memorials usually consist of upright monuments,
and private mausoleums are often located on the grounds. This is the
most common arrangement in older cemeteries, where dates inscribed on
monuments go back many years.
Memorial parks and memorial gardens are newer than traditional cemeteries.
Bronze memorials are set even with the ground in both. The main difference
between park and garden types is that the memorial gardens usually have
more landscaped gardens containing a central feature, generally of a
Some traditional cemeteries now include the newer lawn type sections
with bronze or stone memorials set even with the lawn.
Both traditional cemeteries and memorial parks may have chapels, community
mausoleums, crematories, and columbariums.
2. What is a mausoleum and a columbarium?
A mausoleum may be a small privately-owned building, housing the tombs
or crypts for one family, or a community mausoleum which is a large
stately building housing the tombs or crypts of many, many families.
A columbarium is a sepulcher with niches to house the urns containing
the remains following cremation.
3. Is there much difference in lot costs between the traditional
and memorial park type cemeteries?
No, they are very much the same.
4. What should I expect to pay?
This depends on the cemetery, its location, and the site of the lot
you select. Selections made on a pre-arrangement basis, which is to
say, before the need develops, are more advantageous to the family in
5. What are the advantages of buying a cemetery lot or cemetery merchandise
before my family needs it?
There are several. Primarily, it gives the family the opportunity to
make a planned decision together rather than a hasty one at the time
of death. Through pre-arrangement, the lot may be purchased by monthly
payments during your life, thus, from current income rather than cash
at the time of death.
Some cemeteries have pre-construction sales arrangements, which offer
sites generally at a cash shaving. Pre-construction sales are usually
of lots in an undeveloped section of a cemetery.
It is advisable, when purchasing a lot under a pre-construction plan,
to check what provisions are made by the cemetery if a death should
occur in the family before the site is developed. This should be included
in the purchase agreement.
Pre-arrangement also offers advantages to the cemetery by permitting
it to use some of the purchase price to develop new sections in the
cemetery. As noted in the answer to question 7, part of the purchase
price is added to the Endowment Care Fund, assuring continued care of
6. How large a lot is usually recommended in a pre-arrangement purchase?
In deciding upon the size of the family plot, the needs of the family
must be considered. The trend has been toward two, four and six grave
spaces. It is providing for the time of need and not as an investment.
Many cemeteries now have spaces available in mausoleums (indoors and
outdoors) and lawn crypts. In a mausoleum purchase, single, companion
or family units may be purchased.
7. How can I be certain the lot I buy will have perpetual care?
With one or two exceptions, all states have endowment care laws to insure
that the cemetery will be adequately maintained now and in the future.
Today, endowment care for general maintenance of the cemetery is included
in or added to the cost of interment space. Some cemeteries, such as
municipal and church cemeteries, do not have endowment care nor are
required by some state laws to provide endowment care. To make certain,
the terms of the sales agreement should set forth the percentage or
dollar amount that will go into the fund for endowment care. This fund
provides that the principal will not be touched, and that only the interest
will be used for general upkeep of the cemetery.
In many cases, the Endowment Care Fund is under the management of a
bank or trust company. In other cases, the cemetery’s board of
trustees manages the fund.
Another good guide is the appearance of the cemetery itself. Does the
cemetery you are considering appear to be well cared for and have an
atmosphere suggesting good administration?
8. Are there any legal requirements to assure that the cemetery will
continue to maintain my property?
There are various legal requirements to provide funds for cemetery care.
Some are on a square foot basis, which varies from state to state. Many
states require a minimal allocation of 10% or 15% of the lot price to
be placed into an endowment care fund.
9. What services are normally understood to be included in Perpetual
General maintenance of the cemetery only. This includes care of lawns,
trees and shrubs, maintenance of walks, roadways, and utilities, and
costs related to administration and office facilities. It normally does
not cover care of memorials or monuments unless noted.
10. What services or items are generally included when purchasing a
lot in a cemetery?
Normally, only the Endowment Care as provided by law is included. However,
many cemeteries sell additional items or services. These include vaults,
flower and wreath placement.
11. What additional services does a cemetery offer?
Many of them have special trust funds for their lot owners. Each cemetery
has its own name for funds such as “Special Care”, “Remembrance
Fund”, or “Memorial Fund” descriptive of their purpose.
One type of fund covers the special care and beautification of a particular
burial site, as contrasted to the cemetery’s “Endowment
Care Fund” for the general maintenance of the cemetery.
Another type of special fund which some cemeteries have is a “Memorial
Fund”, the income of which is used for preservation, maintenance,
and care of memorials.
Other special funds may cover placement of floral remembrances on certain
holidays or on special dates. Still another special fund may provide
for the care of monuments, bronze memorials or private mausoleums.
Some cemeteries have a chapel available as an additional service.
When considering a cemetery, you should make certain that it has any
special service or fund you might want.
12. Are there any other cemetery expenses after my lot is purchased?
Yes. There is a charge for opening and closing the grave and for recording
the interment on the cemetery’s books. There may be 30 to 50 separate
operations involved in this charge, commonly called the “interment
fee”. It generally varies according to location of the cemetery,
whether rural or urban, labor costs, etc.
13. What is the purpose of the vault or outside container?
There are several kinds of outside containers that may be used to hold
the casket. The type known as a vault may be made of concrete or metal,
and some recently have been made of fiberglass. Vaults not only prevent
crushing of the casket by the earth load, but may be sealed to inhibit
the entrance of water into the vault and casket.
The other type of outside container is commonly called a rough box,
or concrete outer container. Its only function is to prevent the crushing
of the casket by the earth load, which results in the sunken grave in
the cemetery. It does not attempt to seal out water or moisture, and
is generally less expensive than the vault.
Many cemeteries prohibit the use of wooden boxes as outside containers
because they deteriorate. This causes the grave site to settle, increasing
the maintenance cost to fill in sunken graves.
14. If I do not choose to have a memorial placed on an interment,
am I required to do so?
No, not by law, each cemetery can have their own rules and regulations
about when a grave has to be marked but it is advisable to have some
memorialization on the grave, both for remembrance of your loved one
and for the ease in locating the site.
15. May I purchase a memorial from the company of my choice or must
I buy from the cemetery who sells me the lot?
You may purchase from the company of your choice such as Granite Products
or our sister company Twin City Monuments as long as the memorial selected
complies with reasonable specifications of the cemetery.
Many cemeteries point out that pre-arrangements of a memorial before
any interments are made may save insurance money for more urgent needs.
Purchasers should also consider the permanency of the supplier, in view
of the probability of matching a memorial in the future and the necessity
of adding a companion scroll to the memorial or cutting the death date
on the stone.
Some cemeteries require that installation of memorials or monument foundations
be done by their own employees. Some cemeteries may require a deposit
to a memorial care fund which serves as a trust fund for future memorial
16. What prices may I expect to pay for memorials or monuments?
Prices vary greatly, depending on whether a stone or bronze memorial
is allowed and or required. Memorials will have a wide range of prices.
17. Can I take care of pre-arrangements on time payments?
Yes, in almost all cemeteries. Some cemeteries arrange to have the unpaid
balance insured so the deed can be issued without further payment in
the event of death. Since time-payment arrangements vary, specific information
should be obtained from the particular cemetery in question
18. What are the requirements of cremation?
Cremation is a method of preparing human remains for inurnment and memorialization.
Regulations generally provide that the human remains intended for cremation
arrive at the crematory in a suitable or acceptable container as defined
by the crematory.
A committal service is usually held at the chapel at the crematory.
Following cremation, the remains are carefully placed in an urn, or
suitable container. Memorialization is completed through inurnment in
a niche in the wall at the columbarium, in a mausoleum, or in the ground.
19. Are interments permitted in the cemetery before the property is
paid in full?
Not generally. In most cases where arrangements are made prior to need,
interment may be permitted in accordance with the agreement or contract.
Otherwise, most cemeteries require that the burial space be used, if
not the entire lot, be paid before interment.
20. What are the rules and regulations of cemeteries?
Every cemetery has its own requirements for the orderly operation of
the cemetery and the mutual protection of the lot owners. They are generally
quite lengthy and are available upon request. All purchased made in
a cemetery are subject to its rules and regulations. This is generally
set forth in the cemetery lot deed or certificate of ownership of burial
Each cemetery endeavors to control its operations in a uniform matter.
This applies particularly to regulations concerning size and types of
memorials and monuments, and to regulations concerning the decoration
of graves, such as whether artificial flowers or other types of decorations
are allowed. Many cemeteries prohibit artificial flowers during the
mowing season because of the increased cost of maintenance and possible
damage to mowing equipment.
21. Are cemeteries which are owned by a religious group operated
differently from others?
Not generally, but you should check with that particular cemetery.
22. May more than one body, or the remains of more than one, be interred
in one space?
This differs according to each cemetery’s rules and regulations.
The particular cemetery should be checked.
23. May special arrangements be permitted for veteran interments
in private of family lots?
Most veterans prefer to be buried in the family lots, and these arrangements
are the same as for others.
Some counties, and some cemeteries provide special arrangements for
24. Do I have the privilege of selling my lot if I care to do so?
Yes, in most cases you may sell your lot in accordance with the cemetery’s
rules and regulations, which should be checked.
In most instances, you may act on your own behalf, selling it to friends
or relatives or through advertising.
Be sure the lot sale is transferred on the cemetery’s records,
and a new deed or certificate of ownership is issued. There is usually
a change for issuing a new deed or certificate and changing the cemetery’s
25. If I own a cemetery lot and am transferred away from the city,
what arrangements, other than selling, are available?
A lot exchange transfer may be available to you if your lot selection
was made with a cemetery which is a member of a lot exchange plan of
one of the national associations, such as the National Association of
Cemeteries. These arrangements can be made when you are moving to an
area where there is a reciprocal member of the plan.
26. What are some of the state and national associations to which a
cemetery might belong?
Almost every state has a State Cemetery Association, which provides
numerous services to the cemeteries and to the public. In addition,
there are several national associations, including the National associations
of Cemeteries, The American Cemetery Association, and the National Catholic
Cemetery Conference, Pre-Arrangement Interment Association, as well
as the Cremation Association of America.
27. Should I notify the cemetery of any change of address if I move?
Yes. All cemeteries want to keep up-to-date lists of lot owners.
28. May more than one deed be issued to a family in a situation where
a large plot is purchased?
Generally there is only one document. However, arrangements usually
may be made for the larger lot to be divided into smaller units. It
is also advisable to keep your cemetery deed in a safe place.
29. What should I look for in order to determine the reliability
and stability of the cemetery here I contemplate a purchase?
A good start is to ask a friend or to check with your local Better Business
For your own information, find out the length of time the cemetery has
been in operation.
The appearance of the cemetery is important.
Inquire if the cemetery belongs to a National, State or Regional cemetery
organization. Membership indicates that the performance of the cemetery
has been checked and found to meet the organization’s standards
of admission to membership.
30. Is there any other information available regarding cemeteries?
Many cemeteries have available literature of various kinds explaining
pre-need arrangements, as well as family portfolios, which provide help
in estate planning.