Reclamation of Interment Rights
Developed in 1998 by the Government and Legal Affairs Task Force of the International Cemetery and Funeral Association
Many older cemeteries have used their undeveloped acreage and are exhausting their inventory of unsold interment spaces. Yet large numbers of interment spaces which were sold in previous decades remain unused and apparently abandoned by the interment right owners. The concept of permitting the cemetery authority to reclaim abandoned interment rights has the potential to maximize the cemetery’s use of its acreage, ensuring that property dedicated for burial purposes will be utilized instead of becoming wasted space. Further, this procedure creates a new source of income for the endowment care fund, which benefits and protects all interment right holders, their families, and the community.
- There shall be a presumption of ownership in favor of the person, or the successor-in-interest of such person, in whose name an interment right is listed as the owner in the records of the cemetery office, and who holds an instrument of conveyance from the cemetery authority of the exclusive right to inter human remains in a particular interment space in the cemetery.
- A sold but unused interment right can be reclaimed by the cemetery authority, subject to specified procedures for giving due notice by mail and through publication. These procedures may be initiated when there has been no contact from the interment right owner for a stated period of non-use from the date of sale or from the date of last contact. However, in the case where a memorial has been installed on an interment space, the interment right is not eligible for reclamation.
- Prior to the reclamation of an interment right, the cemetery authority should contact the owner of record by registered mail. Should a response be received from the owner of record or successor-in-interest, the records of the cemetery authority should be amended accordingly, if necessary, and the interment right could not be reclaimed. If the registered letter is undeliverable, or if no response is received within a prescribed time period after mailing, the cemetery authority should then attempt to contact the owner of record by publication.
- A notice should be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the cemetery is located and also in the county of the last known address of the owner of record indicating that the interment right will be reclaimed by the cemetery authority if no response is received within a certain time period. Further, a notice should be posted in a conspicuous place within the cemetery authority’s office and on the interment space attesting to its intent to reclaim the unused interment right.
- Within a specified time period, should no response be received to these notices on behalf of the owner of record or the successor-in-interest, the unused interment right would revert back to the cemetery authority for resale.
- The cemetery authority may include in its publication procedures a listing of multiple interment rights owned by different parties.
- The proceeds derived from the sale of a reclaimed interment right should be apportioned between the endowment care trust fund and the cemetery authority’s operating account, for the benefit of the operation and maintenance of the cemetery.
- Within a specified time period after the cemetery authority has reclaimed the interment right, a person, who proves to the cemetery authority that he or she is the owner or successor-in-interest of such interment right, should be granted a replacement interment right at no charge, approximate in value and location to the one reclaimed, to the extent available.