Establishing a Family Cemetery
One of the oldest and longest-standing funeral traditions is that of buryingfamily members in a private cemetery on your own land—but it’s a tradition few people uphold today. What was once a common practice started to disappear as national regulations intervened and required that burials were overseen by local health and sanitation codes. The prevalence of convenient funeral homes also provided an affordable alternative. The result is that these days, burying a loved one anywhere but an official cemetery is a tricky business.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a family cemetery on private land. Although you will be restricted by the laws in your particular state and county, there are steps you can take to begin establishing a private cemetery.
You Need Large Enough Land
One of the biggest restrictions when it comes to disposing of human remains is having a large enough area of land to set up a cemetery. You typically need a substantial amount of acreage to begin with—and it has to be acreage that doesn’t feed into a water source or is too close to a neighbor’s border (or even too close to city limits).
You also have to have a professional survey of the land done to make sure it’s the appropriate size and location. This will be certified and filed with the proper authorities. You may have to have the land be separated with a fence or other barrier—or even have it separated from a legal standpoint. Just as you must have a residence rezoned to be a commercial area if you want to start a business, so too may you have to have your land rezoned in order to establish a cemetery.
You Need to Learn Local Regulations
Health and safety regulations oversee how deep graves must be, what kind of materials can be used as caskets, and how many bodies can be buried in one location. Failure to meet any of these could result in a fine or having your cemetery permission revoked, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the details now.
Record all Burials with the County
Every death must be recorded and processed by the legal authorities in your area, regardless of where the individual ends up being buried. Many areas require that a funeral director or other professional do the actual paperwork and filing, which means you may need to find a local funeral home willing to work with you to process each death as it occurs.
You’ll also have to keep your own records regarding your cemetery. Dates of burial and exact grave locations must be recorded and logged with the proper authorities.
Always Offer Full Disclosure
One of the biggest reasons people avoid private cemeteries anymore is that land often changes hands or is sold and bought for financial, personal, or commercial reasons. Changing the zoning on your land will forever alter your ability to sell, pass down, or otherwise build on the property.
Always talk with an attorney before you make this kind of decision. Because a family cemetery is meant to provide peace and privacy, it’s worth the investment to avoid the hassle of doing something wrong or being tied to land you don’t wish to keep indefinitely.