How to Buy a Cemetery Plot in Advance: Step-By-Step

Contributing writer, cemetery historian

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Funeral costs, memorial costs, caskets, space, and cremation can all add up. Thinking about all of this on top of a cemetery plot can become quite onerous, especially if your family is doing so after your death.

However, many people consider buying a cemetery plot ahead of time as a personal preference or religious beliefs. If you want to know how to buy a cemetery plot, there are questions you’ll want to ask.

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It’s not necessarily an easy decision, but it’s one we all have to make. Buying your cemetery plot and/or prepaid funeral plans are two valuable things that you can do to ease your family’s pain after your death. After a death occurs in a family, it’s an emotional time.

Anything pre-planned can help your loved ones during one of the most difficult and heartbreaking times of their lives.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Cemetery Plot

You have decisions to make, like where you want to bury your body, for how long, and in what kind of state. Below are the kind of questions you may want to ask yourself before selecting where you want to spend forever — or at least as close to forever you can get.

  • Do you want a casket burial/interment or will you be cremated?
    • If you want to be buried, do you want an upright grave marker or a flat lawn stone? If you want an upright gravestone, you may not be buried in a section of the cemetery that is reserved only for flat lawn stones.
    • If you want to be cremated, do you want your urn to go into a niche, a columbarium, or buried in the ground?
  • Are you considering interment in a public or private mausoleum?
    • If you are and you have decided on the cemetery you want to be interred in, the first thing you should do is check to see if there is space available.
  • Do you want to be buried in a specific religious section?

Choosing your final resting place

Once you feel like you’ve got a grasp on what you want, you will likely need to choose your cemetery. This is a grave decision—pardon the punthat should be taken to heart. After all, you’re going to be there for a long time.

You may already have a cemetery or memorial park in mind. Or maybe you haven’t even thought about it. Perhaps you like more than one location and need to choose between them. 

Family ties 

One thing to consider is where your family members are buried or will be. For example, you may want to be buried in one cemetery, but your parents have already bought their grave plots in another one. You want to be buried next to them, but you like the other cemetery better. What do you do? 

You may also want to be buried in another place entirely – like in another state. Say you grew up in Massachusetts but eventually relocated to California. Will you choose a cemetery close to where you are on the West Coast? Or do you want to be buried in your original hometown on the East Coast?

The following questions can help you decide:

  • Is there a cemetery (or cemeteries) you’re considering as your final resting place? 
  • Where are your loved ones buried? Do you want your grave near theirs? Is that space available?
  • Will the cemetery accommodate your religious beliefs?
  • If there are specific things you want, such as a type of headstone, will it fit the cemetery’s rules and regulations?

Visiting the cemetery

Contact the cemetery(ies) you’re interested in. If you know for sure where you want to be to be buried, great. If you are deciding between two or more, set up an appointment at each one. That way you’ll be able to compare the cost of a burial plot, plot availability, grounds maintenance, and more. You’ll also find out what the staff is like, which can make a difference, too.

When you meet with the cemetery’s office manager, here are the steps you can take and questions to ask.

1. Find Out Which Lots Are For Sale

Even when you know which cemetery you want to be buried in, you’ll need to find out if there’s still space available. After that, you’ll have to ask to see where those available burial plots are located. 

As with any type of “real estate,” one of the most important things while selecting your gravesite is location, location, location. You may be relieved to hear that the cemetery has plenty of space open...only to discover the eligible gravesite space is against the outer fence or wall. 

Another disappointing situation would be if the perfect spot is indeed open, but there’s only room for one grave. The thing is, you were hoping to buy plots for your whole immediate family. Your new choice would be to find another section of the cemetery with more availability. Or you may decide to go visit another cemetery altogether. 

When you’re pre-planning, you don’t need to be in a rush. Consider shopping around to find the best place for you and/or your family. Gather all the information you can, and do your research. You’ll find what you’re looking for when you see it. 

2. Ask for the Price List

Cost is an important factor, whether you’re on a budget or not. This is why it should be one of the first questions on your list when you visit a cemetery. Ask for a price list of all of their services. When you have everything spelled out in front of you, it can be a lot easier to take in all the information.

Because you’ve decided to purchase your burial plot (or casket or urn entombment), you’ll save money in the long run. Like everything else, cemetery services will likely go up in price as time goes on. If you pre-purchase your burial plot now, you could end up saving a lot of money compared to what you would spend years down the road.

3. Request a Tour of the Cemetery

You’ll want to see the locations in person. Maps are great, and you should take one of those, too. But a site can look completely different when you see it in front of you. 

  • Ask for a map of the cemetery so you can find a grave, and get your bearings.
  • Request a list of the cemetery’s rules and regulations.
  • What services does the cemetery offer? Do they cost extra?
  • What general grounds maintenance does the cemetery provide?
  • What religious sections are in the cemetery?

4. Are There Any Stipulations for Burials in Certain Sections?

Say you’ve found the right place, but now you have to sort out what is available and what is allowed. Despite it being the ideal spot, there are additional regulations you will have to meet in order to be buried there.

Here are some of the questions you should consider when looking:

  • Does this section of cemetery allow upright gravestones?
  • Is the section only for flat lawn stones?
  • Are there any other regulations for grave markers in the section (double or large-sized markers)?

5. What Are the Cemetery’s Rules Regarding Grave Decorations?

When the time comes to hold a funeral or an interment, it would be good for your family to know what is appropriate and what is not when visiting your grave. Many cemeteries may allow fresh flowers, but not allow vases or stakes to keep flower decorations up. Others may not even allow fresh flowers. Make sure to keep notes handy about these options for you and your family.

  • Are artificial flower arrangements allowed or only fresh flowers?
  • Can you decorate the gravestone or gravesite however you want?
  • Will grave decorations remain until the family wants to remove them, or does the cemetery clear them off periodically. 

6. Do I Have to Purchase a Grave Marker Through the Cemetery? 

Another thing to consider is grave markers. Some people may not like the options available through the cemetery and may want to install one through a third party or buy it online. It is important to ask if the cemetery has restrictions or regulations that must be followed regarding gravestones.

They may have existing contracts with another company, and you may want to purchase one online outside of their network. These are things to consider, as well as buying monuments instead of grave markers.

7. Specific Requirements For In-Ground Burials

After selecting all the external portions, there is still the matter of in-ground burials and the additional materials required. Some cemeteries may require grave liners and burial vaults, which are also expensive.

As with grave markers, you will want to ask if you are able to buy a vault from a third party.

8. Options for Mausoleum Entombment or Cremation Urn Niches/Columbariums

Should you want to eschew the entire burial option, there are still ways to have people visit you at a mausoleum. All of these require similar but valuable questions as mentioned above. Here are some that you’ll want to have in mind:

  • Is there space available in the public mausoleum?
    • Does the cemetery have a public mausoleum?
  • Are there urn niches available in the public mausoleum?
  • Are there columbariums on the grounds?
  • If I decide I want to be cremated and buried in a traditional grave, what are the requirements for burial?

Buying a Cemetery Plot is a Gift of Ease

Remember, no matter where you decide to spend the rest of eternity in, this decision is a gift to your family members. The ones who will have to handle the funeral and burial arrangements will appreciate having one less thing to decide. It will be one less plan to make and will save them the cost, too. 

Please note that the terms “burial” or “interment” may be used as general terms for ground burials, mausoleum entombments, urn interments, etc.


Sources

  1. Consumer Information, Federal Trade Commission. “Buying a Cemetery Site.” 
  2. Brown, Pamela and Yan, Holly. “Cemetery denies SpongeBob monuments for slain Army sergeant,” Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. CNN.com. www.cnn.com/2013/10/22/us/spongebob-gravestone-controversy/index.html

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