Selecting a cemetery is an immensely personal decision with ramifications for the individual, next-of-kin, family, the community of mourners, and for future generations. A cemetery must simultaneously honor the decedent in a respectful manner and provide a peaceful and dignified place for visitors and mourners to gather. It must fulfill these functions now and perpetually into the future.

Selecting a cemetery is a difficult process because it is a unique decision that is made only once during a lifetime, the decision tends to have significant associated expense, and the consequences of the decision are not fully known until after a death has occurred. Making the decision process more complicated cemeteries offer varying levels of services, types of burial options, and memorialization options. In order to ensure that the cemetery is operating according to all local and state requirements, all agreements made with a cemetery and all purchases made with a cemetery should be in writing with copies retained by both the buyer and seller. Purchases must include specific burial location designations and should explicitly define what goods and services are included. Most cemeteries operating according to Rules and Regulations or Association Rules, when selecting a cemetery, it is wise to ask to review the rules that will govern the rights and limitations property owners are afforded.

The most important factors to consider when selecting a cemetery include:

  • Burial options available
  • Geographic location and proximity to family, friends and the funeral home
  • Type of memorialization allowed
  • Military benefits
  • Type of care (perpetual versus ongoing)?
  • Religious affiliations / religious restrictions
  • Available facilities (staffed office, restrooms, maps)
  • Visitation hours
  • Who owns the cemetery? For how long?

While value is an important factor, cost should not be. The least expensive may not be the best option. Because of the perpetual nature of the cemetery’s obligation, the cemetery must charge a fair price, not too high and not too low. If the costs are too low, the cemetery may not be able to provide the promised level of care and service.

Specific Questions to Ask When Selecting a Cemetery?

Each type of cemetery is designed and organized to reflect the religion, culture, traditions, and habits of the community it serves. The changing differences in both burial traditions and legal regulations has led to the creation of many different types of cemeteries.

  • What types of burial are offered? In Ground? Mausoleum Entombment? Cremation Niche
  • What is the range of costs?
  • What the cost of the cemetery committal service?
  • What type of memorialization is allowed, per section?
  • Are there are any restrictions?
  • Is the cemetery a perpetual care cemetery? If so, what does perpetual care cost?
  • What is the current balance of the Perpetual Care Fund?
    * An improperly maintained cemetery may cause emotional pain for visitors and may result in unexpected financial maintenance costs. A cemetery must be financially managed in a prudent and responsible manner. An active management and board or association is key to ensuring long term financial responsibility.
  • Are there governing Rules and Regulations? If so, is a copy available?
  • Are there bundled packages?
  • Is pre-payment offered? at what interest rate? are costs guaranteed?
  • What funeral homes frequently come to the cemetery?
  • How many burials does the cemetery perform, on average, per year?

Ancillary Information about selecting a Cemetery

A significant amount of information can be gathered via the internet, email and phone however a visit to the cemetery grounds is an essential part of selecting a cemetery. The general look and feel of the cemetery grounds cannot adequately be gauged from static images. When visiting the cemetery, assessments should be made on a holistic level for overall care and maintenance and a myopic level looking at any specific burial sites of interest. Topography and elevation should be kept in mind as low areas tend to gather more standing water. Burial sites near roadways may be more accessible however they may not offer seclusion or privacy. Once the cemetery has been selected, property may be purchased directly from the cemetery or through a private sale.