Can a cemetery reject a burial wish?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My father is getting in bad health and just recently had a stroke on top of everything else. He is wanting to buried next to his grandfather when it is his time but the place that he wants to be buried is now run by a 'private organization' and their requirements are that you have to pay for the plot and burial, etc., AND they want monthly 'contributions' and even though part of my family is buried there they are saying that they are only allowing their 'contributors' to be buried there now. Is this legal?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Unless your father previously signed a contract or other document giving him the legal right in the cemetery—such as by being a member of a local funeral or memorial society, for example, the new private owners are unfortunately able to set their own rules.

But it doesn’t sound as if those rules are very wise. But bear in mind that if the new owners are intent on running the business their own way, they are also free to negotiate. Chances are, they would rather have some assurance of payment than none. If may be worth your while to sit down one more time with the new owners and explain your keen desire to honor your father’s wish, but need to do so at a reasonable charge. You might be surprised that they’ll become willing to bend their own rules and fee structures.

But if you do this and are not so pleasantly surprised, there are a couple groups to which you can turn for possible help. Once is the local funeral and memorial society. These are groups aimed at keeping down the burial costs—and some of them also lobby for consumer rights. You can find the local group through the Funeral Consumers Alliance.

If that group is unable to help, consider contacting the state agency responsible for monitoring and licensing local cemeteries. You should be able to find it by searching your state’s name plus “cemetery” plus “regulate.” Contact the agency armed with written documentation of what you believe are the cemetery’s sharp practices.