How to Have a Headstone Replaced
There are dozens of reasons why a headstone (or grave marker) might have to be replaced or updated. Over time, wear and tear can break down the integrity of the stone—especially in areas with extreme weather. An error might have been made in the spelling of a name or date of birth. A shared plot often leaves room for an additional name in the future, but the spouse may change his or her mind about burial plans. You might also wish to upgrade a smaller headstone into something more elaborate as your financial situation improves.
Changing a headstone is a fairly easy process (especially when compared to moving an entire grave), but it does come with its costs. Because you are talking about a large slab of rock that can weigh hundreds of pounds and is often embedded into the ground, there are excavation and removal costs. So, too, will you need to purchase the new headstone and coordinate things with the cemetery officials.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what you can expect when you request a change of headstone.
- Have a conversation with the cemetery. Although you might own the plot of land where the deceased is buried, the cemetery still belongs to someone else. All permissions will have to go through the proper channels. Depending on how the cemetery is run, they may charge removal fees, replacement fees, and/or oversee everything on their own terms. Expect to work with them throughout the process. (There are some cemeteries that will allow you to replace a headstone yourself—in these cases, you will most likely work with the headstone provider to set up an installment plan. Because of a headstone’s size and weight, it is rarely a good idea to tackle this job yourself.)
- Choose a new headstone. You can either purchase the headstone from the cemetery itself or a third-party provider. Make sure you take the time to select one you will feel good about for years to come (to avoid the hassle of another replacement). The time of delivery for this headstone will need to be coordinated with the cemetery, since you won’t want to intrude on someone else’s funeral in progress.
- Pay attention to size. Most headstones are placed on top of a concrete base, which ensures that they remain upright and level. If you will be transitioning from a smaller headstone to a larger one, you may need to have this base pulled out and replaced. This kind of endeavor will cost more, so be careful about any major size changes.
- Arrange for the removal of the old headstone. The cemetery may be willing to take care of the headstone for you (usually for a fee), or you could even take it home. Because of the value of this kind of object – especially if it is made of marble or quartz – you may find a use for it in your garden or sell it to a place where it can be recycled.
Replacing a headstone does not have to be a hassle. Although you may have to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops to get everything finalized, the result – a beautiful tribute to your loved one you can be proud of – is usually well worth the effort.