What’s a Family Plot? And Who Can Be Buried in One?

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Making choices about a loved one’s burial involves considering a range of factors, from the type of grave marker you wish to buy to the cost of your loved one’s burial casket.

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You may also want to consider future plans. For example, maybe you want your burial spot to be close to your loved one’s when you eventually pass. Maybe other family members share that desire.

Some families believe it’s important that their bodies remain close together when they pass on. Luckily, if this is a priority for your family, you have the option to buy a family plot.

What is a family plot? How much does a family plot cost? This blog will answer all your questions and more, helping you better determine if this is the right option for your family.

What is a Family Burial Plot in a Cemetery?

A family plot is an area of land that a family can purchase from a cemetery in advance. A family plot ensures that members of the family will theoretically share neighboring burial spaces. 

Some people choose to purchase family plots because their religious or cultural values include an emphasis on the closeness and importance of family. However, others may simply choose to purchase burial plots because they personally find the idea of remaining physically close even after death appealing.

A family might decide to buy their own plot out of considerations for future generations. For example, maybe they want members of future generations to have one convenient spot they can travel to when they want to visit deceased family members.

Common alternatives to family plots include:

Companion plots

A family plot is an area of space large enough to accommodate the bodies of several family members.

A companion plot is smaller and can typically only accommodate two bodies. People often pre-purchase burial plots to ensure they and their spouses remain in close proximity after death.

Urn gardens

If it’s relatively common in a given family to cremate the bodies of deceased loved ones, they might opt for an urn or cremation garden over a family plot. As the name implies, an urn garden is an area of a cemetery, usually featuring distinctive landscaping, in which a family can bury the urns of those who’ve passed on.

An urn garden is typically smaller than a family plot. It may appeal to families that want to remain close when they die but don’t want to purchase a large area of space in advance. After all, saving money is among the most common reasons that people opt for cremation over burials in the first place.

Mausoleums

A family plot is technically a burial space. However, burial isn’t the only option for families who want to stay close at the same cemetery. You may also be able to purchase shared space for above-ground interment in a mausoleum.

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Who’s Allowed to Be Buried in a Family Plot?

Different cemeteries have different policies regarding most aspects of their operations. These may include policies regarding who you can bury in a family plot. It’s important to ask about these policies when contacting cemeteries when you want to purchase a plot for your loved ones.

In general, it’s often the case that anyone who qualifies as family can share the same plot. They don’t need to be blood relatives.

For example, maybe you want to know that your family plot will serve as a burial space not only for yourself, your spouse, and your children but for your children’s spouses as well in the future. A cemetery will usually allow this.

An important note

In some instances, a family plot doesn’t have to be part of an established cemetery. It can instead be a private family cemetery on your own property.

This is an option worth keeping in mind if you can afford (or already own) the land for a family cemetery and want to exercise complete control over it. If your family does already own sufficient land for a cemetery, this approach may also help you save money.

Just be aware that several states require families to secure special permits before establishing their own cemeteries. You should thoroughly research the laws in your state (and consider consulting with an attorney) to make sure this is an option.

How Much Do Family Burial Plots Typically Cost?

Many factors can influence how much a burial plot costs. This is true of any burial plot, whether it’s a family one or not.

The following points will give you a better sense of how much you might pay for a family plot depending on your specific goals.

The type of cemetery

Consider whether you want to buy a plot in a public or private cemetery when you start budgeting. For a single burial plot at a public cemetery (not necessarily a full family plot), prices typically range between $525 and $2,500. They range between $2,000 and $5,000 for a single-space plot at a private cemetery.

Naturally, those costs will be greater for a family plot. For example, if a private cemetery charges $5,000 for a single-space spot and you want a family plot large enough to accommodate six family members, you’ll probably pay at least $30,000.

Buying a plot at a public cemetery will likely save you money. On the other hand, public cemeteries are more prone to overcrowding, so finding a large enough plot may be a challenge. Also, private cemeteries tend to offer amenities that public cemeteries don’t, such as maintenance.

Family size

The more people you wish to bury in the family plot, the more space you’ll need. That means more money spent.

Pre-owned options

Some people pre-purchase plots but later choose to sell them to other families. These are often less expensive than most family plots.

However, it can sometimes be difficult to find someone selling a pre-owned family plot that meets your standards.

Future costs

Remember to include inquiries into cost breakdowns when making a list of questions to ask when buying a cemetery plot. You should ask a cemetery’s management about any future costs you may incur for a family plot, such as maintenance fees. Cemeteries frequently offer “plans” for family plots, with different prices based on the different services and amenities you select.

All that said, if you’re thinking about pre-purchasing a family plot, you should consider certain key factors before deciding to go ahead and purchase one. They include the following:

The plans of future generations

Again, the initial cost of a family plot may not be the only expense you need to budget for when choosing whether to buy one. For example, sometimes family plots come with annual maintenance fees.

It’s not uncommon for cemeteries to pass those fees down to the children and grandchildren of the family members who originally bought a plot when they die. Interviews with family members who find themselves in this position indicate they’re not always thrilled with the responsibility. 

For instance, sometimes, members of future generations move away from the part of the country where the family plot happens to be. This makes the responsibility of paying maintenance fees and generally managing the family plot one they wish they didn’t have.

This isn’t meant to suggest that you shouldn’t buy a family plot. Often, members of future generations appreciate inheriting a family responsibility that helps them feel some connection with their roots. You simply need to discuss the matter with your family to determine if a family plot will be a blessing or a burden to those who have to manage it in the future.

The plans of current generations

Interviews with those who must now manage family plots their parents or grandparents purchase also reveal that, sometimes, one member of the family may have a grand vision for a family plot in which everyone will remain close, while not considering that others don’t share that vision.

In one interview, a woman explained that the family plot her grandmother purchased never became the shared space she’d envisioned. Some of the graves that she had set aside remain empty due to family disputes. Her plans did not coincide with those of other family members.

Additionally, the granddaughter who now manages the family plot can’t convince her husband, who has different religious roots, to consider it as a burial spot for his body, and her sons have absolutely no interest in the idea.

Once more, these points shouldn’t necessarily deter anyone from buying a family plot. For many families, it absolutely is the right decision. To know for sure that it’s the right decision for yours, though, you need to ask yourself and others some important questions first.

Family Plots: Staying Close Forever

Hopefully, this post has given you some valuable insights into the pros and cons of family plots. Still, what’s most important is that you thoroughly discuss your plans with all relevant parties if you think a family plot is something you’d want to purchase.

If you're looking for more on burial plots, read our guides on questions to ask when buying a cemetery plot and direct burials.


Sources

  1. Winerip, Michael. “Keeping the Family Plot.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 1 April 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/fashion/04genb.html

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