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 religious
Some traditional cemeteries now include the newer lawn type
sections with bronze or stone memorials set even with the
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 most instances.
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 the cemetery.
6. How large a lot is usually recommended in a pre-arrangement
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
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
9. What services are normally understood to be included
in Perpetual Care?
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
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
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
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 Twin
City Monuments or our sister company Granite Products 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 care.
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
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 rights.
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
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
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
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 records.
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 Bureau.
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.