Who has the right?

As cemeterians we are always explaining the difference between owning actual property and burial rights…but what about inurnment rights in a family cremation bench or private estate when a customer purchases one for installation in your cemetery?

Cremation allows for many more opportunities than traditional casketed burials, when it comes to final placement and memorialization. The right to use cemetery land for the permanent memorialization of cremated remains has always been a part of what the cemetery sells when it sells the burial rights to the land.

Now, many cemeteries have community columbaria. Cemeteries sell the right to place urns in their columbarium, just like land we sell the right to be buried in, ownership remains with the cemetery. Because cemeteries own the columbarium they mandate that they are the only ones to open and close it, again, just like the earth for casketed burials.

What happens when cemeteries sell a private estate designed to hold ashes? What rights do cemeteries have vs. purchasers of a monument that essentially comes with burial rights of its own? Does perpetual care cover them? Can they open the niche themselves? Do they need you anymore?

Cemeteries have great responsibilities. We are caretakers of a sacred place, the final resting place of generations. When cremated remains are delivered to a cemetery the cemetery assumes the responsibility of securing them. We record the inurnment as having occurred and retain the cremation certificate for our records. For these reasons and more, the cemetery has the right to set guidelines for the use of their land, the style and use of the monuments placed in it and to set the standard when it comes to securing the cremated remains inside a niche.

Families purchasing a monument that serves double duty as a final resting place have the right to use their monument within the guidelines of your cemeteries rules and regulations. Set policies that preserve their rights to memorialize in a way that doesn’t compromise your cemeteries ability to meet its mandates and you will create mutually beneficial relationships between your cemetery and the public.

Be up front with your clients about your expectations and policies that effect the use of their monument. If perpetual care funds can’t be used to maintain individual monuments in your state make sure the purchaser understands that. If you have guidelines that instruct how a monument should be sealed or that limit the number of urns that can be placed in a monument in a particular section of the cemetery explain that. The purchase should be told that just because the cremains are inurned in their private niche, doesn’t mean they can remove the urn if they want to later. Layout your expectations for the appropriate use of the site on which the monument will be installed when the burial rights/memorialization rights/land use rights are purchased.

The popularity of cremation has brought with it many new questions that need to be addressed in our profession. Be proactive and set policies that are beneficial to all parties involved and assume your role as caretaker.

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