Choosing a cemetery… the choice of a cemetery for burial is an important factor in your funeral arrangements. It is a good idea to compare a few cemeteries if possible, visit them to take a look around, and ask questions about the costs and options.
Here are 13 questions to help you when choosing a cemetery.
13 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Cemetery
1. How much does the plot cost, and what additional fees are there?
The first part is a pretty standard question, but you’ll want to follow up with second part to make sure you get the complete picture of your cemetery costs. Depending on their pricing structure, you may encounter a rate that initially seems high but includes everything – opening, closing, maintenance, etc. Or you may hear a rate that sounds like a bargain, but doesn’t include several fees which will be tacked on later.
2. What types of options are there for plots?
Often the cemetery will sell a variety of different plot sizes and locations. The more attractive locations will sometimes cost more. Plot sizes can vary, from a small area for the burial of a cremation urn to to a full-size casket burial plot to large areas sectioned off in reserve for your family.
3. Will it be this exact plot, or “one like it”?
If the cemetery sells different tiers of burial plots at different price points, they may show you the best example from each level. You don’t want to be shown a nice looking plot and pay for it, only to arrive for the burial and find that you’ve been provided a space in the back corner behind the utility shed.
4. What are the costs for opening and closing the grave?
This goes back to the first question, but it’s important to ask. Opening and closing the grave involves quite a bit of work, and the cemetery needs to be compensated for it. They will either include this cost in a package, or it will be a separate fee. In any case, you will want to know up front.
5. Are there any one-time or annual maintenance fees?
You may encounter a groundskeeping or maintenance fee. Ask about what this includes – is it a one-time charge, or will it be annual?
6. Who is responsible for maintaining the gave site?
Some cemeteries include all the groundskeeping, while others expect the family to come by and maintain the gravesite.
7. Are there any restrictions on what type of casket to use?
The FTC regulates the funeral industry and requires that cemeteries allow you to use the burial casket of your choice, whether or not you purchased it from the cemetery or associated funeral home. However, cemeteries can impose limitations or requirements on what they allow to be buried. For instance, “green burial” cemeteries only allow eco-friendly caskets or burial shrouds, and some cemeteries require a vault or liner (see below). Ask about their requirements and restrictions, and confirm with the cemetery that any casket you purchase online or from a different funeral home will meet those requirements before purchasing.
8. Is an outer burial container, grave liner, or vault required?
A burial vault or grave liner provides a barrier that is placed into the grave before burial. This ensures that, after the casket is buried and begins to deteriorate, the ground does not cave in. Outer burial containers, grave liners, and burial vaults are desirable because they help keep the cemetery grounds looking good. However, it can be an additional cost, so be sure to ask about this, shop around, and compare prices.
9. Is there a permit associated with or required along with the plot?
Depending on local laws and regulations, there can be some paperwork (and, of course, fees) associated with the purchase or use of a burial plot.
10. Do you have a relationship with the funeral home I am using?
If the cemetery and funeral home are associated, you can sometimes save on transportation fees or packaged deals.
11. What types of markers do you allow?
There are many, many options for headstones and grave markers. Before you start your search for the right marker for you or your loved one, find out from the cemetery if they have any restrictions. Some cemeteries are “memorial parks” that only permit flat markers of bronze or granite; others have rules concerning the height, colors, or materials of the headstone.
12. Are there any costs associated with marker/headstone installation?
If you’re purchasing the headstone from the cemetery, they may add fees for installation. There is almost always a fee associated with the installation of a marker purchased elsewhere (this is fair, as it requires additional work for the cemetery). You may be able to get the manufacturer of the monument to install it for a lower fee, or even for free. Start by asking about these options at the cemetery.
13. What are the plans for further developing the cemetery?
Cemeteries are famous for staying the same. However, there are times when they need to expand, get creative in finding more space, or change things around in order to improve the quality and aesthetic of the cemetery grounds. Ask about their plans for the future.
Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Cemetery
- You can purchase a headstone or grave marker from any vendor and the cemetery is required by law to accept it (as long as it conforms to the cemetery’s aesthetic standards)
- Prepaying burial expenses can save you money in the long run
- Be careful about prepaying for monuments or markers beforehand; you will want to be sure that they will still be in business 5, 10, or even 25 years down the road
- You may want to considerer purchasing additional plots for family members, so that you can be buried close by if desired
- Take the time to visit the cemetery to see the location of the plot and the standard of maintenance