How to Move a Grave to Another Cemetery: Step-By-Step

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While relocating a grave to another cemetery might sound like something out of a scary movie, it’s more common than you think. There are many legitimate reasons to relocate a loved one’s body between cemeteries, and it’s also becoming a more straightforward process. 

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Whether you’re interested in transporting a loved one’s body to another grave or you’re simply curious, we’ve created a complete guide to moving a grave. With these step-by-step tips, you can ensure everything happens without a hitch. 

Moving someone’s grave helps many families find peace and closure after a loss. It can also be a practical step taken due to space challenges or cemetery disruption. Though this isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, here’s how to ensure your loved one “rests in peace,” no matter where their grave ends up.

Can You Move a Grave to Another Cemetery?

The simplest answer to whether you can move a grave to another cemetery is yes. There are several reasons for exhuming a body, and the most common is to simply relocate the casket. 

That being said, the process will cost you. It’s in no way inexpensive, and it can be time-consuming depending on local guidelines. Regardless, many families choose to move a grave to another cemetery for a variety of legitimate reasons:

  • Family relocation: One of the most common reasons to move a grave is because the family is relocating somewhere new and wishes to bring their loved one with them. 
  • Family plot: If the family has a burial plot, the grave might be relocated to bring them closer to home. 
  • Crowding: If the cemetery is too crowded, the family might wish to choose a new plot so the entire family can be buried together. 
  • Genealogy: During genealogical research, the family might discover a “lost” family member and wish to be closer to them. 
  • Unmarked graves: For older burials, the gravesites might not be marked or clearly recorded. After learning more, the family might wish to relocate this loved one to give them a proper burial. 

While there are questions to consider, like how long you own a cemetery plot and whether this is a cost-effective decision, many families choose to relocate graves for highly personal reasons. Luckily, it’s possible to do this without disturbing the dead or others laid to rest at the cemetery. 

ยป MORE: Grief is never linear. This post-loss checklist is here for you.

 

How Much Does It Cost to Move a Grave?

It should come as no surprise that relocating a grave is an expensive process. Not only does it require quite a few legal steps, but you also need to be mindful of the cemetery rules. Because you have to hire a variety of professionals and transportation companies, it can cost a pretty penny.

In general, you can expect to pay between $8,000 and $20,000 to relocate a grave. The factors to keep in mind are the distance traveled, the age of the grave, and the local laws. If you’re transporting a loved one between states or overseas, for example, the process will be more costly. 

Not only will you need state permits in many places, but you’ll also need to have a funeral director present. Depending on the type of burial, there might be additional costs just to have the body exhumed. All of this is before even calculating additional transportation costs, as well as the new plot. 

Steps for Moving a Grave to Another Cemetery

If you decide to move a grave to another cemetery, you’ll need to be prepared for a multi-step process. Depending on where the graves are located, you’ll also need to consider different laws and requirements.

1. Contact a funeral home

While you can technically complete this process on your own, it’s a good idea to contact a funeral home. In some states, you’ll actually need to have a funeral director present for steps of this process. Either way, having a funeral director to guide you is always a good idea.

Why bother with a funeral director? They’re professionals versed in local requirements and providers. They’re a great resource for every step of relocating a body, and they can guide you in the right direction.

2. Apply for an exhumation license

Before you begin, you’ll need what’s known as an exhumation license. This is a license or permit in order to dig up a grave and remove the body. The rules for applying for this depend on the state and possibly your city. 

To start your application, contact the cemetery where your loved one is buried. You’ll need to be authorized to act in the interest of the deceased. This typically means you need to be the legal next-of-kin. You’ll need the authorization of the grave plot owner and burial authority. 

You’ll also need to pay a fee to apply for this license. The costs vary depending on the state, and you can find more information on your government’s death and bereavement departments.

It’s important to note that if the cemetery is associated with a religion, like a church cemetery, you’ll need additional permission. This will need to be requested from the church or religious group. These officials have the right to deny your request.

3. Arrange transportation

Before you begin exhuming the grave, you’ll also need to arrange any transportation. This should be figured out before you proceed with the move. This usually involves hiring a hearse through the cemetery or local funeral home. 

With this in mind, you’ll also want to ensure the next cemetery has arrangements ready to go so the transportation is as seamless as possible. As you can see, this is a multi-provider process. 

4. Exhume the body

After you’ve arranged transportation, the next step is to exhume the body. This can be a time-consuming, complicated process. The exhumation will be done by the cemetery. In some cases, a funeral director or local health official will need to be present. 

It’s up to you whether you wish to be present at the exhumation. This can be a difficult process to watch, and many people choose to leave this to the professionals. 

5. Transport the body

Now it’s time to transport the body to its next resting place. This is usually done in a hearse or in an overland carrier if it’s going a long distance. If you’re in need of a new casket for the deceased, the body should go to a new funeral home prior to going to the new gravesite. 

Transporting the body is often the most time-consuming process, and it can also be costly depending on the distance traveled. This is when having a funeral home really helps with the organization process. 

6. Bury at the new gravesite

Last but not least, the body is ready for its final resting place. This final step is similar to a traditional burial, and the family might choose to hold another memorial service or graveside service at the new site of the grave. 

Most cemeteries will require a new headstone, vault, and more, so be sure to include this in your overall costs. There also might be new, ongoing costs associated with this cemetery. To honor your loved one after transporting their body, consider what to leave at a grave to show your respect. 

Alternatives to Moving the Grave

If you decide moving a loved one’s grave isn’t affordable or efficient, there are other ways to honor their legacy no matter where you are. Because this is an intense, challenging process, many families opt for a more accessible alternative. 

One idea is to place a headstone in a new cemetery. You can acknowledge that the remains are located elsewhere while still honoring them in this location. Though you’ll still need to purchase a grave plot, this is affordable compared to the costs of grave relocation.

Similarly, a family plaque is another heartfelt option. This is a place to share the names of deceased family members, and this plaque can be kept at a family home, local park, or cemetery. 

Finding Peace with the Right Gravesite

When it comes to disturbing the dead, there are sometimes very legitimate reasons to relocate a grave. Though this is something often associated with gravedigger films, it can actually be a respectful, kind process. Whether you’re relocating the grave to be closer to family or you’re responding to cemetery overcrowding, the steps above are the perfect starting point. 

Talking to your loved ones about where they want to be buried, as well as where you’d like to be buried, is a great way to prepare. In a perfect world, we would all be buried in the perfect location the first time. Unfortunately, things change, but we can always respond accordingly. 


Sources

  1. “Average Cost of Moving a Grave?” FSN Funeral Homes. FSNfuneralhomes.com.

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