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Funerals/Second Right Interment


We recently buried (in a crypt) our Mother in WV.  Our younger sister is now talking about being cremated and being interred with our Mother.  Can she do this without the consent of our Mother?  Our father is also deceased.  Mom had a prepaid burial and the contract (to my knowledge) does not state whether or not someone else can be buried with her.  I would assume someone would have to approve this.  Thank you.


Multiple rights of interment (burial) can be confusing.

Generally, a right of interment (or a right to do anything on someone else's property, like mine the minerals or take the water or oil) is originally sold by a land owner and recorded in the form of a contract or a deed. That contract spells out what can and can't be done, for example, limiting the number of times something can be interred in the property or defining additional or prohibited actions.

It's increasingly common for cemeteries to offer second/multiple rights of interment with the rise in cremation. Because it wasn't that common until fairly recently, many cemeteries didn't have this included in their contracts and are still catching up, so just because it's not in the contract doesn't mean the option isn't available.

The place to start with your question is the owner of the crypt - probably the cemetery - in West Virginia. It's unlikely that your family owns the crypt outright (but they may), and instead they own the rights of interment. Because the contract has been exercised, the cemetery is required to have a permanent copy of the contract in their files.

When you contact the cemetery, explain your circumstances and ask if they sell a second right of interment for what you want. If they do, you'll then need to find out who owns the second right; if your mother owned it originally, it would have passed with the estate.

If there are multiple heirs, the cemetery will have some way of deciding who owns the current right - i.e., all the siblings may have to sign something giving that second right to the younger sister - and then the business can proceed with a contract between the cemetery and the younger sister. You'll also want to think through what may happen if younger sister gets the right but then changes her mind down the road. An attorney may be required to write this up if it's beyond the cemetery's ability to guide you.

NOTE: there may be specific State laws that prohibit what you want, and the cemetery will be aware of them. Also, because the contract does not specifically state that a second right of interment is offered, the cemetery does not necessarily have to offer it: some cemeteries have a policy of no second rights, so be prepared for this.

Good luck getting what you want.


PS - I am not a licensed attorney and am offering my own opinion free of charge; you may need to consult a licensed professional help in your State as appropriate.  


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Cynthia Beal


Typical questions include 1) Where can I go for a natural burial? 2) What types of coffins, urns and other "packaging" are best for natural decomposition? 3)How do I plan for a natural funeral? 4) Do I have to be embalmed? and other questions in this vein. I'm available to answer general consumer questions about natural burial, home and natural funerals, and sustainable cemetery management. I answer questions about general cemetery matters, and offer suggestions about how to deal with remains, cremated or buried, interment rights, rules for cemeteries and plot owners, covering conventional as well as alternative options. I also answer questions from professionals, home funeral guides, and family members about how to manage a natural funeral either in the mortuary or at the home, how to best use natural coffins and urns, and how to convert cemeteries to natural, sustainable practices. I will answer questions from volunteer cemetery managers about how to offer natural burial in their rural, Pioneer, or non-profit cemeteries. If I don't know an answer I'll refer the questioner to someone who does. DISCLAIMER -- I am a certified pre-need sales person in the State of Oregon. I am not a licensed attorney, tax adviser, estate planner, funeral director, embalmer, accountant, public official, or any other professional that may be associated with issues the question brings up and any answers I provide should not be relied upon if such expertise is required by the asker (as per the All Expert suggestion). I provide my own personal opinions, based on my experience in business, Nature and its systems, and with human beings after 55 years of life on the planet.


Natural burial and sustainable cemetery management experience: I'm the founder of the Natural Burial Company and a member of the Cemetery Association of Oregon. Over 25 years in the natural products industry, and over a decade of running the Natural Burial Company, founded in 2004. I've done some consulting for existing and start-up natural cemetery operations. I'm currently an instructor at Oregon State University, facilitating the creation of a program in sustainable cemetery management and stimulating research in cemetery-oriented processes and functions, and I own two historic cemeteries the feature natural burial, based in Oregon.

ICCFA - International Cemetery, Crematory and Funeral Association Green Business Network Funeral Consumers Alliance

American Cemetery Magazine; Funeral Business Advisor; Real Goods Source Book; American Funeral Director Magazine, etc.

There is no degree in natural burials or funerals, and no accredited education provided for sustainable cemetery management. We're developing a program at Oregon State University but it hasn't fully launched yet.

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