Can Dad's family keep Mom from being buried beside him?

3 answers | Last updated: Nov 16, 2010
Jdg1966 asked...

Hello, I lost my dad last year to cancer. He was buried in a family cemetary in Grantsville, WV. My parents were married for 49 years and dated for 6 (54 years together) my dad's family is extremely upset because my mom will not "sign" over the land down there to them. They keep sending my mom letter's under her maiden name - this last letter they sent her was that the "cemetary committee" - this is the first we have ever heard of this - stated that she is not a _____ (our last name) and she needed to find a final resting place as she can not be buried beside dad. Is this allowed?

Expert Answers

Rebekah Peoples, CFSP, CPC, Is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is passionate about serving others and believes that giving clients honest, accurate information empowers them to create tributes and services that are meaningful and appropriate. Her tips about funerals and life can be found at

This is a tough issue and I'm sorry your family is going through this on such a sensitive subject. There are a couple of considerations in your question. What is it that your dad's family is asking your mom to "sign" over? In West Virginia, it may be a deed or a certificate of burial right. If that's the case, she may have a legal right to be buried there. You have a state cemetery association in West Virginia and they're very helpful. Call someone on their board of directors and they will be able to advise you accurately according to the state laws and your options. Their website page, which contains the names and phone numbers is [] (

There are a few things you may want to think about:
1. If your mother does have a legal right and she is buried there against their wishes, will it create a different problem? The law says that they can't prohibit you from visiting your parents' graves, but they may try to make it uncomfortable for you to do so.
2. Is there some way you can find out why they are opposed to your mother's future burial there? It may be a concern that can be cleared up more easily than you realize. If you're not comfortable contacting them, maybe another family member who is, can do it on your behalf.
3. The other options are to have your mother buried in a different cemetery, which of course involves spending money to buy a grave.
4. If you don't want her buried in a different cemetery than your father, there is a more drastic option - your father's casket (and burial vault if there is one) could be disinterred and moved to another cemetery, where your mother could be buried next to him. There are significant costs involved with this, such as the cost of the disinterment, transportation of the casket (and vault) to the new cemetery, purchase of the new graves, and digging the new grave to "re-bury" the casket.

When you deal with cemeteries and family conflicts on where to bury someone, there are a lot of personal emotions involved. Peace of mind about a final "resting place" is important. I wish you and your family well and hope that a resolution comes easier than you expect.

Community Answers

Mashbash53 answered...

Great answers and suggestions. I guess each state differs in the laws or the churchs or owners of the cemeteries. Our single daughter, at 21, passed away 9/08 and we were forced to buy a plot. just wasn't something we would have thought about while in our 50's. We bought two and she is in one of them. Our names,as the parents and her's are on the headstone. My husband plans on being cremated. So I guess that leaves one space for my coffin/vault when the time comes. We were told we can bury his ashes if we want on top of our daughter but I believe pay to "open" the grave. Others have just put a few of the ashes in the area and put the rest, maybe where that person loved to hunt, fish, play, etc. Anyway, just wondering why they, the couple didnt have their own plots? Joyce

Ca-claire answered...

Wow - JDG - has there always been contention about your parent's marriage in your father's family? Are you intercepting the mail for your mother, or did she share this with you? What are your mother's wishes? Were your parent's happy for their married life - I would assume so, since they were married for so long.

Since it's a 'family' cemetery, who does the committe consist of? Good advice to contact the state cemetery association. Once you know the facts, consider your mother's wishes, then help her with the decision.

Best wishes in this difficult situation.