Standiford Memorials
Cemetery Concerns

 General Concerns  Grave Openings
 Lot Purchases  Your Perpetual Care Rights
 Casket Purchases  Cremation
 Vault Purchases  Cemetery Funeral Homes
 Memorial Purchases  Pre-Need Arrangements

General Cemetery Concerns
The death care industry is a very complicated one. Unfortunately, many families must deal with the industry at times of great pain and it is this very fact that is of such concern. Knowledge of the industry will help you make better choices. Our web site is intended to answer some of the many questions you have. The majority of the cemeteries in the state of Maryland have been purchased by corporate America. This one single fact has drastically altered the death care industry in Maryland. The cost of dying is as high if not higher than it has ever been. Prior to the takeovers costs were reasonable. The opening of a grave was about $400.00. Today, the average cost to open a grave site is $1,000.00 and it is rising. The cost of the internment rights has also changed dramatically. Many cemeteries are charging $2,000.00 for one single internment right. Prior to thetakeovers you could have purchased 2 internment rights for $600.00. Those days are gone forever.
When making arrangements for a funeral be sure to make only those arrangements which are absolutely necessary at that moment. At-need buying is not a good idea because you are not in a frame of mind to make your best decisions. Be sure that you have been given all of the proper documents. If you have purchased internment rights make certain that the paperwork for these rights has been given to you. The location of your family burial lot is important to you. Be sure that the documentation provided specifically designates the location that you have selected. Make certain that you or someone that you designate has actually visited the lot so that you know exactly where your lot is. Someone in the cemetery may attempt to require you to stop in to the cemetery office the day of the funeral. They want to sell something. You do not have to go. Your authorized funeral director or family member can sign any papers that may be required.
Remember that Maryland does have a Cemetery Oversight Committee. Shown below you will find the address and the phone number of this Oversight Committee. The Oversight Committee exists to help you in the event that you have any problems and/or disputes with anyone in the death care industry. If you feel that you are being treated unfairly or if you feel that your cemetery has violated any of your rights be sure to give them a call. Your voice will be heard. The Cemetery Oversight Committee has established a two week grace period from the date of the burial during which no seller of burial goods and products can approach you to attempt to sell any burial goods and products. If you decide to approach someone about the possibility of such a purchase,
you do still have the right to do so. However, the cemetery cannot make any attempt to sell any goods. If they do
you should report them to the Oversight Committee.

Lot Purchases
The at-need purchase of cemetery lots is one of the most difficult things one can do after the loss of a loved one, particularly if the loss was unexpected. The first rule of thumb is not to do it alone. Sit down with your family and decide who will go with you. Discuss the possibilities for cemeteries and ask your funeral director for advice. Call your local memorial company for advice as well. They will be happy to answer any questions you might have. It is important to do this because you will receive information which will allow you to make better and wiser decisions. Consider the following:

1. The Location of the Cemetery
How often do you expect that you and your family will visit the cemetery. This varies from family to family. If you plan to visit the cemetery more than 6 times a year, it is wise to choose a cemetery that is relatively close to your home. If you expect to visit only once or twice a year, then the proximity to your home is not as important an issue. Ask family members and friends to help you make the decision. Call a local privately owned memorial company and ask for their advice. Most memorialists are willing to answer any
questions you might have.

2. The Type Cemetery
There are basically two types of cemeteries. Memorial parks are cemeteries which require all memorials to be level with the lawn. In many cases, these memorials must be bronze memorials. In some cases, granite memorials are allowed. Traditional cemeteries are those cemeteries which allow upright granite and marble memorials. These cemeteries allow you the choice of a traditional monument. Some cemeteries are in fact a mixture of memorial park sections and traditional sections. These cemeteries allow you the choice depending upon the section in which you buy your lot.

3. The Cost of the Rights of Internment
When you purchase cemetery lots you are not buying land in the traditional sense. You are in fact purchasing the right of internment, which simply means that you are purchasing the right to use the land to bury your family members. It is important that you understand this issue. If you need a lot on which you can bury 4 family members you must in essence purchase 4 rights of internment. This could be 2 grave sites in which you can bury two people in a double depth site or it could mean 4 actual grave sites in which you can bury 4 family members, one per site. Do not assume that if you purchase two sites that the cemetery will allow double depth burials. This must be determined before you sign any contract of purchase. Be sure that your contract does specify the number of internment rights you will have. Also, ask for specific information as to future costs of opening grave sites. Will there be any additional costs associated with the opening and closing
of your grave sites in the future? The cemetery must disclose this information to you now.

4. The Type of Memorials Allowed
Decide with your family the type memorial you prefer to have. Select a cemetery that will allow you to have what you want. If you want a bronze memorial for your loved ones select a memorial park. If your family is more traditional and wants to have a traditional upright memorial be sure that the cemetery you select allows upright memorials. If your cemetery has both traditional memorial section and bronze memorial sections be sure that your lot is located in the section that allows the memorial that you want. It is wise to actually visit the site to verify that it is what you want. If you do not feel up to visiting the site yourself send a relative or a friend whom you trust to visit the site for you. Once again if you have any questions call your local memorial dealer
for advice.

5. The Costs of the Internment Rights (Lots)
If your cemetery is owned and operated by one of the corporate giants, you will find that the cost of lots is very high. You can expect to pay any where from $600.00 per site to as much as $2,500.00 per site. Many privately owned cemeteries will have two grave lots in the range of $1,000.00. If you can find such a price and if the lots are located in an area of the cemetery where you can have the type memorial you want, then you would be wise to purchase these sites. Many cemeteries offer package deals which include vaults, memorials, future grave openings and even caskets. Generally speaking, it is not wise to purchase package deals. You will be told that you will save money but in most cases you do not. In most cases you still pay more than you should pay. Therefore, avoid package deals.
I generally recommend that families purchase only the internment rights from the cemetery. You can compare the prices of the cemetery for vaults. In most cases, cemetery vault prices are higher than privately owned funeral homes. If you funeral director is owned by corporate America this may not be the case. In that case compare vault prices with the cemetery and the funeral director. You might want to purchase the vault
from the cemetery in such cases. After considering all of the above issues, make your decision with the help of family members. Please remember that if you have any questions or concerns call your local memorial dealer.
You can feel free to call my office as well. We will be happy to advise you.

Casket Purchases
The purchase of a casket is an important decision. You have the right to purchase a casket from a funeral home, from a cemetery or from a third party casket seller. In the state of Maryland there are only a few casket stores. Across the country there are many third party casket stores. Check in the yellow pages in your area and call several casket stores if they are available in your area.
When you visit the funeral home to make arrangements, you should see a display of caskets. By FTC regulations, all funeral homes must display all of their casket designs in the same manner. The lower priced caskets must be displayed in the same manner as the other higher priced caskets. Price lists should be available to you to show you all prices so that you can compare and make your decisions.
You can check with your cemetery if you wish to see if they sell caskets. If they do compare their prices with the prices of the funeral home as well as the third party sellers. Make your decision based upon quality and price. If you purchase your casket from outside of the funeral home, the seller will have it delivered to the funeral home within 24 hours or sooner.
As a general rule if the price difference between the funeral home and other parties is not substantial, I would recommend that you purchase the casket from the funeral home. If the price difference is substantial, exercise your right to purchase from the company of your choice.

Vault Purchases
The purchase of a vault is a little bit different from the purchase of a casket. The first thing you should determine is if there are any requirements in your cemetery. Find out if your cemetery requires a vault or a concrete liner. Most cemeteries do because it protects the grave itself from sinking. The difference between a vault and a liner is rather simple. The concrete liner is nothing more than a concrete box with a concrete lid which is placed on the liner after the casket has been lowered in to the liner itself. It is sometimes sealed but often it is not. A vault is made from metal or concrete and is made to be sealed once the casket is placed inside. More expensive vaults guarantee once sealed that moisture will not penetrate the vault itself. For some people this protection is important. This is an personal and an individual decision.
My personal opinion is that a concrete liner is sufficient. You can purchase this liner from a funeral home, a cemetery or a third party seller of caskets and vaults. Compare their prices for similar liners or vaults. Make your decision based upon the price information that you receive.
If you are thinking about purchasing a liner from a cemetery ask them if they wil
l be using a newly delivered liner or if they will be using a liner which has been on-site for some time. Some cemeteries stock pile these liners. Remember that they are made of concrete and like your sidewalk it can deteriorate if allowed to sit out in the elements for extended periods of time.

Memorial Purchases
The purchase of a memorial is an important decision. It should not be made during the process of arranging a funeral. You are too emotionally involved. You need time to think about what is best for you and your family, not only financially but also emotionally. The selection of a memorial signals another phase in the coping process. It is always best to way until the funeral is over. In the state of Maryland by law no funeral home, cemetery or memorial dealer can approach you until after a period of two weeks has passed after the funeral has taken place. This period was established to allow you the personal time you need to cope with your loss. During this period you do have the right to request information from anyone. You can initiate the purchase of a memorial if you choose to do so.
I recommend that you use this time to talk with family members. Discuss what you would like your family memorial to be. When you are ready call us at Standiford Memorials. In Maryland we hope that you honor us with a call. We will be happy to send to you our Guide to the Selection of a Memorial which we have prepared to help make the selection process an easier one for you. If you are outside of Maryland, we welcome your call as well. We will send our Guide to you and in many cemeteries across the country we can help you with your memorial needs. If your cemetery is owned by corporate America make sure to call us because we can help you save literally hundreds of dollars.
We use our special computer programs to design and produce your memorial. This allows us to show you exactly what your memorial will look like before it is even started. It also allows us the opportunity to incoporporate any special and personal ideas you might have. Be sure to let us know about any thoughts you might have. We can help design a memorial for your family which will include any personal requests.

Grave Openings
Less than 10 years ago grave openings averaged about $400.00. Today many cemeteries charge approximately $1,000.00 or more simply to open and close one grave. In your area there might be a company that specializes in opening and closing graves. You actually do have the right to have a third party company perform the opening and closing for you. As time goes on I believe that more and more companies will be formed to provide this service for families, simply because the cost has sky-rocketed. The rising cost of grave openings is not because of rising labor costs. This is a trend which was started more than ten years ago by corporately owned cemeteries.
When you inquire about the possible purchase of lots in any cemetery one of your questions should be how much they charge to open and close a gravesite and what does that charge include. Ask if there are any additional charges involved such as permits and or document fees. If there are the cemetery must disclose those prices to you. Consider the cost of the lots and the cost to open and close the grave site. Compare these costs with other cemeteries. Make decisions based upon this information.
At some point in time you may be approached by a cemeterian to pre-pay for opening and closing of all of your grave sites. They may offer discounts for such pre-payment. I recommend that you not prepay any of these openings. This issue is discussed further in the section about pre-need planning. Be sure to go to the pre-need planning section of this document in order to find out exactly why it is not a good idea to pre-pay.
Most cemeteries will require that payment for the opening and closing be made before the opening actually takes place. This is standard operating procedure. Discuss this with your funeral director. Many funeral directors will handle this for you and will include it in their bill to you. This is recommended if the funeral home offers this service. If they do not, you will have to make arrangements for the payment. I recommend that you designate a trusted family member or friend to handle this for you. Invariably, when you go to the cemetery to make payment, they are prepared to deliver a sales pitch to try to get you to buy other graves, grave opeings, caskets, vaults, memorials and the like. In Maryland they are not allowed to do so. However, my experience is that such sales pitches are still occurring. Protect yourself by sending someone to represent you. The only reason to go to the cemetery is to pay for the opening and if need be to verify the site to be opened. If the cemetery presents any problem, tell them that you will contact the Cemetery Oversight Committee. This will usually get them to change their tune.

Your Perpetual Care Rights
In the state of Maryland all cemeteries are required to escrow 10% of the sale of all cemetery lots in a perpetual care fund. The fund is to be used for upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery and its roads. In general, you will find that the only service provided by the cemetery after a burial is the cutting of the grass. They are required to maintain the gravesites and to level them as needed. An inspection of the cemetery grounds will give you a very good idea as to the perpetual care services provided by your cemetery. In many cases cemeteries will not provide some needed services unless they are requested.
Many cemeteries will lead you to believe that you will lose perpetual care rights if you do not buy a memorial from them. This is absolutely not true. You have the same perpetual care rights regardless of whether you decide to purchase your memorial form the cemetery or from a memorial dealer. When you inquire about the purchase of a lot ask the cemetery what their policy is. If they insist that you will lose perpetual care rights then you should wish them good day and you should find another cemetery. If you already have purchased your lots call us at Eternal Justice, Inc. We will advise you. Rest assured that you have the same perpetual care rights regardless of your decision about the purchase of a memorial. No such tie-in arrangement is allowed by law. If you have any questions and/or concerns please call us.

Cremation
Cremation is just as popular today as it was 20 years ago. In some areas it has grown in popularity and in other areas the popularity of cremation has diminished. This is a personal decision which must be made by the family. Cremation can be handled by most funeral homes. There are some funeral companies which specialize in cremations only. Check with them and find out exactly what their services are and what to expect. The funeral director will provide information as to what you can do with the cremated remains. You can have cremated remains placed in a grave site in your cemetery. If you choose to do this beware that your cemetery may treat this the same as a regular burial and they may charge the same hefty fees for opening the grave site. You can have cremated remains placed in a cremation urn for safe keeping at home. You can also have the cremated remains spread over a site as determined by your family. Before you spread cremated remains check with your funeral director or a memorial dealer to be sure that you follow local laws. There are some laws in many areas which govern the spreading of ashes. Make sure that you know what they are before you spread the ashes. Cremated remains can also be placed in special cremorials which are memorials made for the purpose of holding ashes. Call us if you need further information.

Cemetery Funeral Homes
Corporate America has as one of their goals to place a funeral home in many of their cemeteries. The concept was started so that families could have the convenience of having the funeral and burial in the same location. Many of their advertisements lead consumers to believe that they can save money by using the services of a funeral home in the cemetery. Unfortunately for consumers, this has not been the case. On the contrary, studies have shown the cost to consumers to be much higher.
My experience tells me the very same thing. Therefore, I do not recommend funeral homes which are corporately owned, whether they be in the cemetery or out of the cemetery. Many funeral homes have been purchased by corporate America with the provision that the previous owner remain to operate the home. This gives the illusion that the funeral home is the same as it was. However, although the personal service may be there, the pricing is not. These funeral homes are just too expensive. An average funeral might cost between $8,000.00 and $10,000.00. The same funeral in a privately operated funeral home could be obtained for less than $5,000.00
In the state of Maryland pre-need arrangements are treated differently depending on whether you are making the arrangements with a cemetery or a funeral home. I recommend that no pre-need arrangements be made with a funeral home within a cemetery because they might not be required to escrow 100% of your funds. Funeral homes in Maryland are required to escrow 100% of all funds. Cemeteries are not. You are not protected to the fullest extent by making these arrangements with a cemetery.

Pre-Need Arrangements
It is a very good and wise decision to make pre-need arrangements. It makes your life much easier when the time comes to bury a family member. It also takes the burden off of other family members when decisions are made in advance after careful planning. I strongly recommend that you consider pre-need planning. However, there are some important considerations.
The most important consideration is with whom you should make pre-need arrangements. If your funeral home is owned and operated by a local family, you can be safe by making pre-need arrangements with them. According to Maryland law they must escrow 100% of your funds which means that your investment is well-protected. When you make the arrangements with them be sure to find out where the escrow account will be held and be sure to follow up to get documents to prove that the escrow account has been set up. As long as you follow up and receive proper documentation, your pre-need arrangements will be fine.
If you live in an area where all funeral homes are owned by corporate America, you can still make pre-need arrangements. I recommend that you create your own escrow account with specific provisions as to how the money is to be spent. You must designate proper family members or a friend to act as your representative. Your bank can assist you in setting up the escrow account. Your attorney can help as well. This will allow you to set aside the funds to handle the costs of the burial in a safe manner. You will not have to worry about losing your funds because some corporate structure is experiencing financial difficulties.
In the state of Maryland cemeteries do not have to escrow 100% of pre-need funds. They can actually use some of the funds for operating costs. This is not in your best interests. This one fact alone should be enough to convince you not to make any pre-need arrangements with your cemetery.
If you live outside the state of Maryland, I would advise you to check with your local government and state government to verify the laws as they apply to pre-need arrangements.


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