Real Estate Blog

Does A Burial Plot Last Forever

When you purchase a burial plot, it is essential to know that it will last forever. Right? Well, it depends. There are laws and regulations in place that dictate how long a cemetery plot can remain active. If you are interested in purchasing a burial plot or if you own land with burial plots on it, this post is for you.

Purchasing a Cemetery Plot

When buying a cemetery to lay to rest a family member, many assume that the land will remain perpetually. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In most cases, when you purchase a cemetery plot, you buy it for a certain period, such as 100 years. Laws on this vary from state to state. For example, some states allow cemeteries to reclaim the land after a certain period if it is not maintained or visited.

Expiration Dates on Cemetery Plots

Many factors influence expiration dates on cemetery plots. Some of them are:

  • Size of the cemetery
  • State or local laws regulating cemeteries
  • Cemetery's contract terms
  • Maintenance fees paid by plot owners
  • Who owns the land
  • Whether the cemetery is an active graveyard
  • The age of the gravesites
  • Location and condition of burial plots

For most states, the size of the cemetery and the number of years since a burial must pass before a plot can expire. The expiration date for cemetery plots is typically between 25 and 50 years, but in some cases, it can be up to 75 or 100 years.

Contract terms of private cemeteries affect expiration date. For example, if the cemetery requires that gravesites be maintained at least once a year, it is more likely to have an expiration date.

Another crucial factor determining the expiration date is the age of the gravesites. The burial plot may be considered a historical cemetery if it is more than 100 years old. If a cemetery is designated as a historical site, the expiration date on a grave will become indefinite. In these cases, the grave cannot be disturbed unless there are exceptional circumstances or if all consenting parties agree to do so.

In addition to age, the state or municipality where the burial plot is will have applicable laws. Some states, such as Tennessee, restrict how long a cemetery can exist before it must be abandoned or reclaimed. Other states, like California and New York, do not put expiration dates on gravesites but may limit who has the right to use them.

Any cemetery plot ownership is subject to change if the owner repurposes or abandons the property. In this case, gravesites may have to be moved to another location.

What is a cemetery easement?

A cemetery easement is an agreement between the landowner and the cemetery for the right of access and use by cemetery employees or other authorized personnel. It means the landowner cannot interfere with the cemetery's operation, blocking access to existing gravesites. The easement also allows the cemetery to maintain control of any expansion or burial activities on the property.

For example, in North Carolina and in Texas, all cemetery plots must have an easement attached to them, while in other states, it is optional. If purchasing a burial plot in a state where an easement is required, you will need to discuss the terms and conditions of the easement with the cemetery prior.

What if I want to sell land that has burial plots on it?

The set period for land with burial plots is the same as any other land. The only difference is that you must consider the regulations of the cemetery when selling the land. In some cases, you may need to receive permission from the cemetery before putting it up for sale or transferring ownership of it.

Can Anything Happen to a Grave After Decades or 100 Years?

While a burial plot is technically permanent, graves can be disturbed or altered for various reasons. For example, cemeteries may encounter space restrictions over time due to overcrowding and may need to move existing graves. Additionally, in some instances, graves may be moved in an area slated for development, such as a roadway or public park.

Grave markers can also damage over time due to natural weathering, wear, and tear, or vandalism. Depending on the cemetery's policies, maintenance may be performed to preserve the grave marker—such as replacing inscriptions that have worn away—or it might be up to the deceased's family to take care of such matters. Even if a grave marker is lost or destroyed, it does not mean that the burial plot itself has been disturbed; the grave remains in its original location regardless.

Finally, plot holders must remember that cemetery easements can also be transferred in the event of a property sale. The land may be sold and redeveloped without disturbing the burial plot itself. However, a new development may impact the surrounding area, interfering with a family's ability to visit and pay their respects at the grave site. In some cases, this may require the purchase of a new plot in an alternate location.


What are the burial plot ownership terms for a green burial?

A green burial is typically a cemetery plot owned in perpetuity, meaning it does not have an expiration date and will remain with the family for as long as it takes to bury the deceased. It is important to note that green burials are typically located in natural burial grounds, so there may be additional regulations and restrictions on how the land can be used.

For example, some green burial grounds may limit the types of headstones allowed, and some may require that any new graves be placed in a specific area. Additionally, many green burials are more expensive than traditional burials due to the special care that must go into protecting the natural environment.

Are there any restrictions on how I use my burial plot?

Depending on the cemetery, restrictions or regulations on how you use your burial plot may exist. For instance, some cemeteries may prohibit certain types of monuments or headstones, while others may mandate that graves are at least a certain distance apart. Additionally, most cemeteries do not allow recreational activities on their land, such as camping or picnicking. It is essential to read the cemetery's rules and regulations before purchasing a plot to ensure that you comply with any restrictions.

A burial plot ownership doesn't always mean that the plot will last forever. Depending on whether you purchase a traditional burial or green burial and the cemetery's rules and restrictions, there could be expiration dates or other limitations attached to your plot. Additionally, it is essential to remember that after decades or 100 years, natural disasters or land use changes may affect how you use your grave site.

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