How To Pre-Purchase a Cemetery Plot or Mausoleum Space

It is almost always less expensive and less stressful to purchase cemetery plots or crypts in advance, rather than purchasing them after a death has occurred. If you are interested in being buried or interred alongside family members, you may want to consider purchasing multiple plots or crypts not only to save money, but also to ensure that the cemetery will be able to meet your needs when the time comes.

Interment rights for cemetery plots or mausoleum crypts

When you purchase a plot or a crypt in a mausoleum from a cemetery, you are not purchasing the land you’ll be buried on but rather the right to be buried in that place. This is known as “interment rights.” A person who has interment rights for a plot or crypt may opt to be interred in that place or may designate someone else to be interred in that place. At most cemeteries, written permission from the interment rights holder is required for someone other than the interment rights holder to be interred in that place. In addition, at most cemeteries interment rights are fully transferrable from the original rights-holder to a third party.

To learn about the types of plots you can purchase at a cemetery, see our article Types of Plots.

To learn about the types of mausoleum crypts you can purchase at a cemetery, see our article Types of Mausoleum Crypts.

Right of first refusal when purchasing cemetery plots or mausoleum crypts in advance

Right of first refusal is the right to be offered a deal before that deal is offered to anyone else, even if you refuse the deal. In the case of cemetery plots and crypts, the cemetery retains right of first refusal for plot or crypt buy-backs. This means that if you purchase interment rights to a plot or crypt and then decide you no longer want the interment rights, you must offer to sell the rights back to the cemetery before you make this offer to anyone else, though the cemetery is under no obligation to purchase the rights from you.

If you are purchasing a group of plots or crypts, most cemeteries do not offer right of first refusal for surrounding plots or crypts. This means that the cemetery has the right to sell any plots or crypts surrounding the plots or crypts you’ve purchased without first offering to sell them to you. However, many cemeteries understand the people cannot always financially afford to purchase all the plots or crypts they would like at once, and as a courtesy they may inform you if the plots or crypts surrounding yours are being sold, at which point you might be able to purchase those plots first. In this way, you may have the ability to purchase the surrounding plots or crypts that you want at a later date.

Other costs when purchasing a plot or a space in a mausoleum

In addition to purchasing interment rights, you may be purchasing a range of other things, including:

  • Endowment care or perpetual care, which is a government-required fund that the cemetery must put money into and use for cemetery care and maintenance costs
  • Opening and closing the grave, which is the actual digging and filling of the grave
  • Installing the headstone or grave marker
  • Annual maintenance fees

Payment options

Most cemeteries will allow you to either pay the full amount of the plot or crypt at the time of purchase, or pay on an installment plan. Five-year installment plans are common, though the number of years of an installment plan will vary from cemetery to cemetery. If you will be paying with an installment plan, you’ll want to check if there are any fees or hidden costs associated with the plan, such as interest or other charges.

Understanding the terms of the agreement

In addition to understanding the specific agreement regarding the purchases you’re making, you should also have a solid understanding of the terms of the agreement in general. According to the terms of the agreement, if you move cities can you transfer the funds you’ve paid to another cemetery? If you change your mind can you cancel your plans? Would there be a fee for canceling or transferring plans?

Personal issues when purchasing cemetery plots in advance

Before making any purchases, it may be wise to discuss your plans with your family members and to make sure that the arrangements you’re making meet everyone’s needs. It may also be a good idea to consider what will happen to the plots or crypts you’re purchasing if family relationships should change (marriages, divorces, re-marriages, etc.).

To figure out the best cemetery for your needs, see our article Deciding What Kind of Cemetery You Want to be Buried In.

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