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Funerals/Family Cemeteries


QUESTION: I have a family cemetery on my land (in NC). It was started 140 years ago. I now have non-relatives in the community wanting to be buried in the cemetery. They seem to think they can just install a marker and claim their spot. There is no written agreement of any kind regarding the cemetery. Some of my relatives are demanding we allow this, some are saying absolutely not. Who has the legal right to decide who can be buried in the cemetery?

ANSWER: Unless there is a formal cemetery association, you the land-owner gets to decide. Is it recorded with the deed? If not, draw a map of the land showing where the burial ground is. At that time you can also say that is is available only to those related to XXX and their spouses and children or something like that. How fortunate you are to have that. It's a nice bit of heritage.

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QUESTION: Thank you for your answer. Someone unrelated to the family has already been buried in the cemetery without permission. Who is is liable from a legal standpoint, the relatives of the deceased who made the funeral arrangements, or the licensed funeral director?

That's a tough one. Probably the funeral director was told it was all right by the family and he didn't bother to check. I think the relatives are liable. How long ago did that happen?

How much space is there left for future interments? If there is plenty of space but the idea of a non relative is not acceptable, would you be okay with leaving the body there if the marker were moved to another cemetery?


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Lisa Carlson


Funeral Law. Having written a 512-page book on funeral law for consumers with state-by-state information, I am very conversant with consumer rights in this regard: What are the laws on disposition of cremated remains? Is embalming required? Do I have to use a funeral home? Can I have a home wake? Is it a state law to buy a vault? I prepaid for a funeral but changed my mind. They won`t give me all my money back. What can I do? . . . If you have an immediate need for information because a death has just occurred or is about to occur, you may call me at 802-482-6021.


I have monitored the funeral industry on behalf of consumers for over 20 years. I have been a guest speaker to funeral trade organizations, consumer workshops, and social service professionals. I am regularly consulted by lawyers and legislators as well as journalists.

Funeral Ethics Organization ( Funeral Consumers Alliance (

Caring for Your Own Dead (1987) Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love (1998) I Died Laughing: Funeral Education with a Light Touch (2001) Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death (2011) with co-author Joshua Slocum

Masters degree in Administration and Special Education

Past/Present Clients
Available as an expert witness for funeral-related court cases.

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