What is a Perpetual Care Cemetery?
When you search for a cemetery as a final resting ground for you and your family, you are likely to come across the phrase “perpetual care,” “permanent care,” or “endowed care.” Often included as a charge above and beyond the typical cemetery costs, these are included as a way to ensure that the cemetery grounds remain in good care for decades (or even centuries) to come.
A walk through an older, unmaintained cemetery will show you why such funds are necessary—years of neglect can turn a cemetery into a crumbling mess, with graffiti on walls and high rates of crime or foot traffic. Perpetual care ensures that not only will there be money to pay for the regular upkeep of the cemetery grounds, but that there will be a person or business in charge of this task.
How Does Perpetual Care Work?
Perpetual care funds go to many different aspects of cemetery upkeep, including (but not limited to):
Care of individual lots and graves
Maintenance of borders, drives, and walkways
Repair and upkeep of enclosures and buildings
Care of sewer systems
Security and gate access
Future expansion or protection against development
Because this type of service can be expensive (and because cemeteries have limited space and therefore cannot count on incoming money forever), they sidestep the issue by creating a perpetual care fund. In fact, some states actually require this in order to ensure that cemeteries do not fall into disrepair.
By law, the money that comes in for perpetual care is invested in such a way that it will continue to provide the needed repair funds in perpetuity. It works much like any kind of large savings account. By putting the savings in a stock, bond, security, or other investment with a safe, guaranteed return, it’s possible to only take out the interest that accrues. The fund itself remains intact so that it will continue to provide interest for decades to come.
Because there is a high potential for abuse in this kind of situation (a cemetery could take the perpetual care funds but not invest them; they could take the interest out and not spend it on upkeep), this is a highly regulated field. Most states have laws in place to ensure the money you spend on perpetual care is used correctly.
Why Choose a Perpetual Care Cemetery
It might seem like an additional hassle to choose a perpetual cemetery over a regular one, but the benefits tend to outweigh the costs in the end. Because gravesites stand for hundreds of years, it’s nice to know that someone will be tending the area long after your family passes on.
And because everyone contributes to the fund when they purchase a cemetery plot, maintenance becomes a shared responsibility that builds a sense of community. A cemetery is a place of rest for all who lie behind the gates, and knowing you will all be taken care of in the years to come is usually worth the additional price.