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Funerals/Right to Bury Contract / Cemetery


QUESTION: My parents purchased 2 plots and received a Right to Bury contract for the two plots.  Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that the two plots had already been sold.  Mom & Dad went back to the cemetery and purchased FOUR plots.  After Mom passed away Dad received a notice from the cemetery for maintenance and upkeep for $10 per plot.  Dad ignored the request and passed away a year later.  Now the trust is receiving notices about paying $20 per plot and demanding that we provide the names of the other two who will be buried in the remaining two plots.  Since I am the one least known to the cemetery board and the individual who keeps soliciting for donations I have taken responsibility to contact the cemetery.  This way he cannot be as aggressive with me as my siblings.  I now have the file and Dad does not have a copy of the second Right to Bury contract.  I have contacted the cemetery and was supposed to be mailed the correct contract -- he forgot.  I called again -- he sent me someone else's contract!  I called again and he is supposedly putting the correct copy in the mail to me.  This is getting more ridiculous by the day.  Now, the catch is that the "association" makes the rules for the cemetery and they have allegedly threatened to not allow us to bury in the other two plots.  Additionally, when I requested a copy of whatever it was that sets forth this association, I am told that the gentleman that sold the plots probably forgot to give the card of instructions (?) to Mom and Dad -- meaning that they cannot produce a signed acknowledgement of yearly maintenance.  I have asked many times what happens when the four children are deceased or no  other family member is able to be contacted to solicit for "donations" and I get a lame answer of "we probably won't be around at that time".  So what then?   More than likely my brother and his wife will be buried in those two plots but the only reason he wants names is so he can start billing them for the donations.  I asked about bylaws and have learned that the cemetery was "chartered" for 100 years -- through 2058.  

What are we legally responsible for and what happens when this "charter" ends?  

Thank you so much;


ANSWER: What a MESS! Did your parents buy six plots or two additional ones for a total of four?

What is the name of the cemetery? I'd like to do a little research.

There is a cemetery board in

You should probably file a complaint with them . . . unless it is a religious cemetery which I don't think the state board has any authority over. If it is run by an "association," then I think the state cemetery board will be helpful.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: A mess indeed.  The Board member knows my siblings from when they used to attend the same church so that's why I decided to get involved.  He wanted to deal with my brother but I told him no, that I was handling this.

Initially they purchased two plots but when they returned to pick out two plots in another area, they went ahead and purchased four.  The cemetery is Sand Hill Cemetery in Ponchatoula, LA.  I found history on usgwarchives website dating back to the 1800s.  

I have been told that mom and dad didn't purchase the land but merely the right to be buried.  I've never heard of that before.  

My brother sent me a SECOND NOTICE from the Sand Hill Cemetery Association, Inc.  Subject:  Membership Donations

Dear Friends:

Last fall you were notified of our annual request for donations to upkeep the cemetery grounds.  You may have over looked the need to make a donation to keep your membership in the association active.

Already in year 201 we have been cutting grass and cleaning the cemetery grounds.  Your donation is urgently needed.  Again we remind you that cemetery policy has set a donation amount of $20 per plot for maintenance.  Our by laws state that active membership is maintained when 5 years of consecutive donations have been made.  If an individuals (their typo) has not given as prescribed, their membership may be reinstated with a 2 years donation for the previous years (2011 & 2012).

Please give this matter your immediate attention and forward your donation.  Thank you.

Officers & Directors
Sand Hill Cemetery Assn., Inc.

I always thought donations were a request and not mandatory.  Then again, what happens when they decide $20 is no longer enough.  They are now revising their by laws to allow "double" ground burials.  Only for new burials where the initial burial is 8 feet down then 2 feet of dirt and then the second burial.  Here's my perception of the catch:  When Mom passed in 2009 we had to pay for the grave to be hand dug--this was handled by the funeral home at that time.  In early 2011 when Dad passed away, the cemetery took back the grave digging from the funeral home and charged us $250 more than what the funeral home charged.  The cemetery will make it's money by charging outrageous digging fees in order to continue making money.  How else does a cemetery continue to make money when it no longer has plots to sell?  I would have thought that the cemetery would have to have provided in their business plan funding for upkeep and maintenance on the property.  To make matters a little interesting, the area of Mom and Dad's plots are nothing more than . . . SAND.  

I can't wait to hear your thoughts!  Thanks!


The "right of interment" is standard language now, a change from the old "deed" language used years ago and really much more accurate.

Since this was established prior to 1962, there was no requirement to have a perpetual care fund. Frankly the $20 is pretty modest for up-keep. Yes, a LOT of cemeteries are in trouble for maintenance without adequate funding.

As for the huge opening and closing fee, you might ask to see their bylaws. When the other two plots are utilized, you may have the right to insist that the funeral home do the digging.


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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.


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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

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