Choosing a Cemetery
You will need to choose a location for burial or cremated remains if the deceased has not previously paid for a cemetery plot. You may wish to have a trusted friend or family member assist you in gathering and reviewing the information.
What types of cemeteries are there?
Traditional cemeteries have upright monuments and may have private mausoleums and/or a chapel. They may be either nonprofit or for-profit ventures.
Memorial parks or memorial gardens have memorials placed level with the ground. Both have beautiful landscaping and attractive features. Like traditional cemeteries, they are either nonprofit or for-profit ventures.
The national cemetery is for veterans, spouses and dependent children. For more information and to determine eligibility, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs' Web site.
In addition, many states have established state veterans cemeteries. Eligibility requirements and other details vary. Contact your state for more information.
Who owns/manages a cemetery?
Cities, religious groups or private organizations. Each owner will have different policies for managing the cemetery.
What are the options when choosing a grave?
A single grave
Lots that accommodate two or more graves, depending on what is available.
Many cemeteries allow for the burial of two caskets in a grave or have sections where this is available. Double depth means that one casket is placed in the grave at an approximate depth of seven feet. When a second interment is required, the second casket is placed on top of the first casket at standard depth.
Does the cemetery require a burial vault and/or grave liner?
Both a vault and a liner are outside containers into which the casket is placed.
Burial vault: This is designed to protect the casket and may be made of a variety of materials including concrete, stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper, bronze, plastic or fiberglass.
Grave liner: This is a lightweight version of a vault, which keeps the grave surface from sinking in.
Most, but not all, cemeteries require you to purchase a grave liner, which can be several hundred dollars. In most areas of the country, state or local law does not require that you buy a vault/container to surround the casket in the grave. However, many cemeteries require that you have one or the other so that the ground will not sink. Either a grave liner or a burial vault will satisfy these requirements.
Ask if you can you use a vault purchased elsewhere.
What are the options with monuments (an upright marker) and plaques (a flat marker)?
Ask what the cemetery's policies are on types and placement, then choose within your price range.
Monuments come in three grades of stone rated according to their density (light, medium, and dark with dark being the most-dense).
WHN Tip: If the deceased veteran is being buried in a private cemetery, it's possible to have a veteran marker or headstone, thanks to Public Law 107-103, the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001, signed by President Bush on December 27, 2001. For more information, see our article Planning a Funeral: Military Honors and visit the Department of Veterans Affairs' Web site.
What are the cemetery's policies on flowers or wreaths at the graveside?
Do you offer year-round grounds maintenance?
Perpetual care on a cemetery plot is sometimes included in the purchase price; clarify this before you buy a site or service. If it's not included, look for a separate endowment care fee for maintenance and grounds keeping.
What's the price difference between a burial and entombment?
Earth burial, the most common means of disposition in the United States, includes a casket, cemetery plot, opening and closing of the grave, a grave liner or vault and a memorial or marker.
Entombment, or placing the casket above ground in a mausoleum, may be more expensive than a burial, depending on the cost of mausoleum space.
What is the final cost for burial and what is included in that cost?
Most cemeteries will have a breakdown of costs either at their administrative offices or online.
Fees can include monuments, interment, recording fees, land size by child or adult, grave liner, opening and closing the grave, etc.
The cost of a grave site can range between $600 up to $5,000 in some cemeteries.
WHN Tip: The costs and fees associated with cemeteries can add up fast, track them carefully.
Burying Cremated Remains
See our Choosing Cremation article.
The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional advice. These tips are from experts and people who have shared their real life advice; always check with appropriate professionals you trust in making your purchasing or life-related decisions.
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