Pre-Planning: How to Choose a Cemetery

Once you’ve decided what kind of cemetery you want to be buried in, you can begin looking for a cemetery that meets your needs and requirements.

Types of cemeteries

There are four main types of cemeteries

  • Public cemeteries: The most common type, which are for-profit cemeteries (independently or corporately owned)
  • Religious cemeteries: Non-profit cemeteries owned by a religious organization
  • District or municipal cemeteries: Non-profit cemeteries owned by the city or county
  • National or veterans’ cemeteries: Government-run cemeteries for the burial of veterans and their families

Public cemeteries

Public cemeteries can be found through local funeral homes, talking to friends or family members, or searching online. If you’re interested in being buried in a local cemetery, you will likely have a number of choices between cemeteries, which you can potentially hone based on factors such as location, cemetery rules, cost, and style.

To find a public cemetery, use our resource Guide: Finding a Cemetery.

Religious cemeteries

If you are interested in being buried in a religious cemetery, the best place to start is usually with your local church, synagogue, or mosque. The leaders there will probably have a number of local cemeteries that they can recommend, and may be able to help you coordinate with a cemetery or may be able to sell you space in that cemetery.

District or municipal cemeteries

Municipal cemeteries exist in many American cities, however, depending on the size of the municipality, the cemetery may be full, sold out, or dedicated to the burial of residents who die destitute. To find a municipal cemetery in your area, contact your local town clerk or city hall.

National or veterans’ cemeteries

Plots in VA national cemeteries cannot be reserved in advance. However, if you inform your family and the funeral home you’re working with that you would like to be buried in a veterans’ cemetery, they can make those arrangements when the time comes. Burial in a veterans’ cemetery includes a plot, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a headstone, and military honors at no charge. Military honors include folding and presenting the U.S. flag, the playing of Taps, and the attendance of two uniformed military personnel.

Green cemeteries

In addition to traditional cemeteries, there are a number of other options for where you can be buried, such as at a a “green” or “eco-friendly” cemetery or on your own property.

Visiting cemeteries

When you’ve decided the type of cemetery you’d like to be buried in and you’ve found a number of cemeteries that meet your requirements, it’s a good idea to visit those cemeteries to get a better sense of the establishments and the staff.

  • Take a look around. How well are the grounds maintained? How well are the graves maintained? How clean is the mausoleum?
  • Interact with the staff. Do cemetery employees seem friendly, courteous, and helpful?
  • Visit the plot or plots you’re interested in purchasing. Is the plot what you had in mind? Is it in the location you thought it would be? If not, are there other plots available for purchase that might better meet your needs?

For help deciding what kind of cemetery you want to be buried in, see our article Deciding What Kind of Cemetery You Want to be Buried In.

Personal advocacy

When choosing a cemetery, be sure to ask for a full price list of all immediate and future charges. Though cemeteries are not legally required to provide you with an itemized price list, you should feel free to ask for such a price list. In general, the transparency offered by a cemetery is often a good indicator of the ethics and professionalism of the company.

To find a cemetery, use our resource Guide: Finding a Cemetery.

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