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
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.
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
5. The Costs of the Internment Rights
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.
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
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.
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 will 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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.