Wednesday, February 24, 2016

INTERMENT RIGHTS for Ancestor’s burial plots ~ How to gain ownership

Aid Cemetery sign_Aid Lawrence OH
Aid Cemetery sign, Lawrence Co., Ohio (photo taken by me)
Washington Cemetery_Est 1795_Keene NH_sign
Me at Washington Cemetery in Keene, New Hampshire (photo taken by my husband)
Mt Olivet Cemetery_rock sign
Mt. Olivet Cemetery sign, Detroit, Michigan (photo taken by me)

The subject of interment rights came to me quite by accident.  One of my paternal cousins wanted to place a headstone on her grandmother’s burial site.  Her grandmother is buried with my paternal grandparents and other family members.
 
However, she was told by cemetery staff that she had to get permission from the owner of the plot.  Trouble was, the owners were all deceased.  The staff member told her that if there was a living heir/descendant to the owner, then a notarized affidavit could be filled out and ownership then transfers to the descendant.

Guess who that descendant was?  Yup, me.
 
My cousin obtained the paperwork. I completed it, had it notarized and then returned it to cemetery staff.  Once this was done I, of course, gave my cousin permission to place the headstone for her grandmother.

Prior to this, I had never thought of doing anything like this.   
Have you heard of this procedure or done it yourself?

Here is the form I filled out (with names changed to protect living descenants).

GOULD_Affidavit of Heirs_GrandLawn Cem_Detroit Michigan_Section 5_Page_1

I paid $10 to have the form notarized.  I am now the documented owner of this plot in Grand Lawn Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan.

WHY WOULD THIS BE IMPORTANT?
  • Should anyone want to make changes to any of the gravesites, they would have to get my permission.
  • If the cemetery or the City of Detroit or anyone else should decide to use this land for something else, they would, hopefully, notify the owner of record.
  • When I make requests to have headstones raised (as I often do), they may be more likely to pay attention to me if I own the plot.
  • And the last reason….because it makes me feel good to know that my grandparents and other ancestors are in my care.
I am currently in the process of completing another Affidavit of Heirs for my maternal grandparents burial location at another cemetery in Detroit.  Last time I visited their gravesites, their headstones had sunk so far I could barely see them.  I asked that they be raised and a year later, they had not been. Maybe as the owner they will process my request in a more timely manner.

I called the specific cemetery and they emailed the form to me right away.  Last time I did not keep a blank copy of the form.  This time I have scanned and saved it, as I see that it’s the same form I filled out before.

I’m not sure if all states have the same form, but I’m sure with a phone call to whatever cemetery you have in mind, you can find out.   I did look online and found that using various search criteria brought up mostly information about heirship for estates.

I would love to hear from others who have gone through this process. 
  • Did you have any problems?
Do you think this is something you might do in the future?

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2016   Diane Gould Hall
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  NO USE WITHOUT PERMISSION

22 comments:

  1. I never know that you could do something like this. Now I need to start looking into my ancestors and see what I can do. Thank You so much for the information!!!

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    1. You're very welcome. Glad it was of use.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. I would like to look into the possibility of using empty lots in older family plots. This form and procedure would probably be the starting place after finding out who the owner is. For the older lots that may be difficult to do. Anyone have knowledge or experience in that procedure?

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    1. I don't have any experience with asking about empty plots. But, perhaps someone reading your comment might.
      Thanks for reading my post.

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  3. Haven't done that, although as in charge of parents estates, when my father died, we transferred ownership from gparents to dad to youngest son in the family. No one else has plans to be buried there. Did want to tell you, if you go to your city clerk's office, most likely you can get paperwork notarized for free. Sometimes at you local bank, too.

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    1. Hi Marge,
      Thanks for the tip. I've used the local City Clerk before and also my bank. I think this last time I was in another part of town and just wanted to get it done. There's not a lot of descendants in my family so we don't have any in-fighting amongst us. Glad for that.
      I appreciate you stopping by.

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  4. Diane: This is all new to me and probably most members of our active genealogy club. May I have your permission to read this page to them at a future meeting?

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    1. Suzanne,
      Thank you for asking. I'd be honored if you shared it.

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  5. Interesting - I visited a Chicago Cemetery in September where I noticed that ivy had almost completely covered an obelisk in the middle of an ancestral family plot (great-grandparents and g-g-grandparents). When I requested that the ivy be removed, I only had to tell them that I was a descendant and the closest relative (I knew this because of my research), and they took me at my word and had the ivy removed. You never know what a cemetery's policy is until you ask.

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    1. Elizabeth,
      That's for sure. Each cemetery can be so different. It makes me feel good to know that I'm watching over my family. Even the ones I never got to meet.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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    2. I have made inquiries at a cemetery in Ontario, Canada and was basically told the same info. One must get the consent in writing from all living relatives before anything can be done to the grave. My interest was in who was entitled to the remaining empty plot as 3 plots had been paid for and only 2 are occupied.

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    3. Ilene - I hope you are able to obtain the forms you need. Seems a shame to waste plots, when space is so limited these days.
      Thank you for your comment.

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  6. Interesting. My grandparents and several uncles are also buried at Grand Lawn. We had no problems adding a headstone to my uncle's plot when he was buried a few years back. I'll have to look into ownership for the future.

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    1. Glad you had no problems. Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. Diane,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2016/02/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-february-26.html

    Have a great weekend!

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    1. That always makes my day Jana. Thanks so much!

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  8. Thank you so much for this information. I have my uncles, grandmother, and father at Woodlawn in Detroit, and now I know what to do. Again, my thanks!

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    1. Lynda - You're very welcome. I hope it is as easy for you as this was for me.
      Thanks for your comment.

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  9. Thanks Diane! Something you'd never think of but could be very important. When I went searching for information at one cemetery they wanted me to pay over a hundred years worth of care for the gravesite.

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    1. Debby,
      Oh my. That would certainly not be good. I never thought of that. When I put my post on FB, in a couple of groups, there were some very thoughtful comments and discussions.
      Thanks for your input.

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  10. You don't actually own the plot, only burial rights for the plot. Each cemetery has fairly broad leeway on the plots and what can be done with it. Even then, there are limits many cemeteries can impose - ranging from what you can do to the headstone and gravesite regardless of who paid for the headstone before it was placed in the cemetery. Cemeteries can set limits on headstones in ways most people don't consider. Same for what happens if a person who was supposed to be planted gets planted elsewhere. If a plot goes unused long enough, state law may give the cemetery the option to legally reclaim it. I always encourage people to find out what the cemetery rules and regulations are before they do anything to a headstone or grave or before they purchase burial rights since they may want to do something the cemetery doesn't allow.

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    1. Thank you for your input. I'm sure this is information that we can all use and that many of us are not aware of.

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I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.