Frequently Asked Questions
How soon after or long after must an individual be buried?
This may vary by state so check with your local funeral director. Considerations include the need to secure all permits and authorizations, notification of family and friends, preparation of cemetery site and religious considerations. Some states have limitations on the maximum length of time allowed to pass prior to final disposition.
Does a body have to be embalmed before it is buried?
No, embalming is not required for burial. It is your choice. It may depend on such factors as whether the family selected a service with a public viewing of the body with an open casket; or to enhance the deceased's appearance for a private family viewing; or if the body is going to be transported by air or rail, or because of the length of time prior to the burial.
What are the principal types of cemeteries and how do they differ?
Cemeteries usually are divided into two broad categories: traditional cemeteries and memorial parks or gardens.
A traditional cemetery, the type used for many generations, has upright monuments, usually made of stone. Many traditional cemeteries also have private mausoleums for aboveground interment. Because many have functioned in their communities for over 100 years, traditional cemeteries often contain a great deal of history, such as architecture, statuary and other art forms, as well as the personages interred there.
Memorial parks and gardens are a newer type of cemetery introduced about 75 years ago. They are cemeteries without tombstones: parks and gardens where bronze memorials are placed level with the ground to blend with the beauty of the landscape. In place of traditional monuments are lawns and trees, flowering beds and gardens, and often fountains, sculpture, or memorial architecture.
Some cemeteries have both traditional upright monument sections and garden sections. Both types of cemeteries may offer the aboveground interment in community mausoleums.
Both traditional cemeteries and memorial parks may be operated on a for profit or not-for-profit basis. They may be owned by an individual or by a corporation. Some are owned mutually, and many are the property of states, towns, counties, and religious or fraternal groups. Both may have chapels, crematories, community mausoleums, mortuaries or funeral homes, and columbariums.
What are my choices in ground burial?
Most common are single graves, and lots composed of two or more graves. Not all types of graves are available at all cemeteries. Please check with the cemetery of your choice for availability of specific graves.
How do I choose the right type of grave?
Because it is an important question, many things must be considered. What types of memorial do you prefer? A marker set flat on the ground? An upright monument? How many burials do you expect to take place? Are you arranging for yourself or your family? How much do you want to spend? Answers to these types of questions will assist you to make the right purchase as graves vary by size, location and price.
What options are available besides ground burial?
Besides ground burial, many cemeteries offer interment in lawn crypts, or entombment in mausoleums. In addition, some cemeteries provide choices for those who have selected cremation. These often include placement of cremated remains in a niche of a columbarium or interment in an urn space. Many cemeteries now provide for scattering of the remains in a garden set aside for that purpose, which can include a plaque memorializing the deceased.
Why is having a place to visit so important?
Because it provides a focal point for memorializing the deceased. To remember, and be remembered, are natural human needs. Throughout human history, memorialization of the dead has been a key component of almost every culture. The Washington Monument, Tomb of the Unknowns and the Vietnam "Wall" in Washington, D.C. are examples of memorialization which demonstrate that, throughout our history, we have always honored our dead.
Psychologists say that remembrance practices, from the funeral or memorial service to permanent memorialization, serve an important emotional function for survivors by helping to bring closure and allowing the healing process to begin.
Providing a permanent resting place for the deceased is a dignified treatment for a loved one's mortal remains, which fulfills the natural human desire for memorialization.
What is Opening and Closing and why is it so expensive?
"Opening and Closing" fees can include 50 or more separate services provided by the cemetery. Typically, the opening and closing fee includes administration and permanent record keeping (determining ownership, obtaining permission and completion of other documentation which may be required, entering the interment particulars in the interment register, maintaining all legal files); opening and closing the grave (locating the grave and laying out the boundaries, excavating and filling the interment space); installation and removal of the lowering device; placement and removal of artificial grass dressing and coco-matting at the grave site, leveling, tamping, re-grading and sodding the grave site, leveling and re-sodding the grave if the earth settles.
Can we dig our own grave to avoid the charge for opening and closing?
The actual opening of the grave and closing of the grave is just one component of the opening and closing fee. Because of safety issues which arise around the use of machinery on cemetery property and the protection of property of adjacent interment rights holders, the actual opening and closing of the grave is conducted by cemetery grounds personnel.
What are burial vaults and graveliners?
These are the outside containers in which the casket is placed. Burial vaults are made of a variety or combination of materials including concrete, stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper, bronze, plastic or fiberglass. A graveliner is a lightweight version of a vault.
Must I purchase a burial vault?
In most areas of the country, state or local laws do not require that you buy a container to surround the casket in the grave. However, many cemeteries require that you have such a container so that the ground will not sink. Either a graveliner or a burial vault will satisfy these requirements.
What happens when a cemetery runs out of land?
When a cemetery runs out of land, it will continue to operate and serve the community. Since more and more individuals and families are purchasing their graves in advance, graves which have been sold will be opened when a death occurs, markers will be placed and other services will be provided. Most states have laws that require funds to be set aside from each sale for the long-term care and maintenance of the cemetery. The amount to be set aside varies from state to state. Many states require 10 or 15 percent of the grave purchase price to be placed into an endowment care fund.
What is double depth?
Many cemeteries either allow for the burial of two caskets in a grave or have specific sections where this type of grave is available. Double depth just means that one casket is placed in the grave at an approximate depth of seven feet. When a second interment is required, the second casket is placed on top of the first casket at standard depth.
How much do grave spaces cost, and why aren't they priced the same all over?
Grave prices can really vary. Grave prices are normally set based on their location. Normally, graves in urban centers are more expensive than in rural centers because of the replacement value of land. In addition, within the cemetery, grave prices can vary by the section in which the grave is located. For example, graves in a "feature" section -- where there is a central feature, such as a sculpture for the benefit of lot owners in that section -- may be more expensive than in non-feature sections. The number of interments permitted in a grave may also affect the price, as may the size of the grave. Graves which allow for a monument are more expensive due to the space required for the monument.
What is entombment?
Entombment is the interment of human remains in a tomb or mausoleum. It involves placing a casket or cremation urn in a crypt or niche (individual compartment within a mausoleum or columbarium) which is then sealed.
What is a mausoleum?
Historically, the word mausoleum comes from the large temple-like structure which was erected by Queen Artemisia in the ancient city of Harlicarnassua as the final resting place for her late husband, King Mausolus. Mausolus, from which the word mausoleum is derived, ruled over Caria in Asia Minor and died in 353 B.C. His mausoleum is now regarded as the fifth of the Seven Wonders of the World. The pyramids of Egypt and the Taj Mahal in India are others examples of ancient mausolea.
A community mausoleum is simply a large building designed to provide aboveground entombment for a large number of people. Sharing the costs of the mausoleum with other individuals makes it more affordable than a private mausoleum. Crypts are designed to hold casketed remains. Following a casket entombment, the crypt is sealed, and a granite or marble front is attached. Niches will accommodate urns containing cremated remains. Following an urn entombment, a niche front of granite, marble, bronze, wood or glass is attached.
What are the advantages of a mausoleum burial?
Mausoleum crypts are both clean and dry. They offer a viable alternative for those who simply have an aversion of being interred in the ground. Furthermore, with the growing shortage of available land for cemetery use, mausoleums will allow for a maximum number of entombments in a minimum amount of space.
Isn't a mausoleum only for rich people?
In most cases, the cost of mausoleum entombment is comparable to the costs of interment in a lot with an upright monument.
Are there different types of crypts?
Yes. Single crypts are designed for one entombment only. There are three different kinds of double crypts: tandem crypts permit two entombments lengthwise in a crypt; companion crypts permit two entombments side-by-side; westminister crypts permit two entombments;, the first below floor level, and the second above it. Most mausoleums are built five, six and seven crypts high. The price of the crypt will depend on its location and the type of crypt. For example: upper level crypts are usually less expensive than those located at eye level.
What is a columbarium?
A ccolumbairum, often located within a mausoleum, chapel or in a garden type setting, is constructed on numerous small compartments (niches) designed to hold urns containing cremated remains.
What happens to a mausoleum if there is an earthquake?
Modern mausoleums are steel-reinforced concrete structures, covered with granite or marble. They typically are built to meet all local building specifications, including those regarding earthquakes.
How does a mausoleum protect the body?
Because the casket is placed in a clean, dry, aboveground crypt, the remains are protected from water and the elements of the earth.
Can you actually see the bodies in a mausoleum?
No. When you visit a mausoleum, you see the front of the crypt, which typically is made of granite or marble. The name of the person who has died, along with their years of birth and death, appears on the crypt front. The casket rests behind a solid, sealed panel which is placed behind the granite or marble crypt front.
How many people will a crypt hold?
Crypts come in several sizes. Although "singles" and "doubles" are the most common, some crypts can accommodate up to four caskets.
What is a tandem?
A tandem is a mausoleum space designed to accommodate two caskets lengthwise.
How can a mausoleum help eliminate expenses?
When you select a mausoleum, you eliminate the need for expensive vaults and monuments or memorials which almost always are purchased with ordinary earth burial.
What are lawn crypts?
Lawn crypts are essentially underground tombs, constructed of reinforced concrete, steel and waterproof materials.
What is the difference between lawn crypts and double depth burial spaces?
Lawn crypts are preset. Double depth burial lots are set at the time of need.
May I make the necessary arrangements in advance?
Yes, usually all arrangements may be made in advance. When you plan ahead, you will be able to consider the many options available. You will have the opportunity to make an informed decision about your funeral and cemetery arrangements, and the form of memorial you prefer. You will be able to make choices that are meaningful to both you and your family, and you will gain peace of mind knowing your family and friends will be relieved of the emotional and financial burden often associated with making arrangements when a death occurs. By prearranging your funeral and cemetery services, you benefit by purchasing at today's prices, free from inflationary pressures in the future. Be sure to check whether the contract of your local provider guarantees prices.
What happens if I buy cemetery property here in advance and later move to another area of the cemetery?
Many cemeteries allow for a dollar-for-dollar transfer of property between locations within the cemetery. This is very useful if families are trying to be placed in the same area years down the road. When prearranging, be sure to ask about future exchange privileges offered.
When I buy a grave space do I receive a deed just like when I purchase other types of real estate?
When you purchase a grave space you are in fact purchasing THE RIGHT TO DESIGNATE WHO MAY BE INTERRED IN THE SPACE, rather than purchasing the grave space itself, which remains the property and responsibility of the cemetery. You also have a right to place a memorial where permitted.
What is Endowment Care?
A portion of the purchase price of the grave is contributed to an endowment care fund. Income from the endowment care fund is used to provide regular care and maintenance at the cemetery. Regular care and maintenance activities can include cutting grass, re-grading of graves, planting and caring for trees, maintenance of water supply systems, roads, drainage, etc. The minimum amount to be contributed to the endowment care fund is normally governed by law.
What guarantee do I have that Endowment Care will take care of the cemetery?
While not guaranteed, endowment care funds are very conservatively managed. Income from the fund can only be spent on care and maintenance of the cemetery -- the capital is not touched. Endowment care funds are governed by laws in most states for consumer protection.
Can I re-sell my grave?
It really depends on the rules and regulations of the cemetery and the laws of the state or province in which the cemetery is located. While some cemeteries will re-purchase graves, others have policies regarding sales to a third party.
Is cemetery property tax deductible?
No, the purchase of a grave is not tax-deductible, although the charitable donation of unwanted grave spaces may be deductible as an "in kind" charitable contribution. Check with a knowledgeable tax advisor for details. Even still, the grave is purchased in today's dollars, free from inflationary pressures of the future.
Will a cemetery ever be used for something else? Can the bodies be moved and building built?
Communities afford respect to cemeteries and to the memorialization which cemeteries provide. In order to protect interment rights holders, strict rules govern the use of cemetery lands. Graves are normally considered to be sold in perpetuity which restricts possible re-development.
In a hundred years will this cemetery still be here?
We think of cemetery lands as being in perpetuity. These are cemeteries throughout the world that have been in existence well over a hundred years.
What is a disinterment? What is the process and why does it happen?
Disinterment is the removal of the casket containing human remains from a grave. Laws governing disinterment vary by state or province. Disinterment may be ordered by certain public officials without the consent of the grave owner or the next of kin, for example, as part of police investigation. Individual or families may also request disinterment, if for example they would like to have the human remains relocated to another grave in the cemetery, to a mausoleum or possible shipped to the location of birth. Disinterment requires the grave to be opened. The casket containing the human remains is removed. Depending on the length of time the casket has been buried, a new casket may be required. The grave is then closed.
What does the government give a veteran in regards to a marker?
The United States Government provides headstones and markers for the graves of veterans and eligible dependents anywhere in the world which are not already marked. Flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble, and upright marble types are available to mark the grave of a veteran or dependent in the style consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial. Bronze niche markers are also available to mark columbariums in national cemeteries used for internment of cremated remains. When preplanning cemetery memorial arrangements for a veteran, you should check with your cemetery of choice to see what the particular regulations are regarding memorial types.
If I am a veteran and plan to be buried in a national cemetery, is my spouse eligible to be buried next to me?
Yes, a space for you spouse or any other minor children can be authorized at the time of your death