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QUESTION: I live in Michigan, my wife passed on 9/19/2012, I bought two plots at the cemetary and she was burried in one of them.  this past march 2015 the cemetary informs me that my wife is buried in another persons plot.  I met with the Cemetary and asked for them to at least provide me with the proof of someone else owning one of my plots.  the Cemetary couldn't give me any other info than to hastily draw on a piece of paper how the plots are numbered, they had no real plot maps, and they seemed as confused as I was about who owned what plot.  they want to move her to my other plot and give me the next plot down, but I fear that this is just them jumbling plots around and my kids will go thru the same nightmare as I'm going thru now.  I think they double sold the plots I bought.  What are my legal rights and what steps should I take?  I cant afford an attorney nor should I have to pay for their mistake.

ANSWER: Do you know who owns this cemetery? There have been some cemetery scandals in recent years, emptying the trust accounts which would invite the double selling. Good for you for holding your ground. Tell them they absolutely may not move your wife and you'll sue them if they try to. (They don't know you can't afford an attorney.) And you have no assurance the new plot they want to give you wasn't already sold to someone else.

The Dept. of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth regulates cemeteries. I would file a complaint with them describing the problem and the fact that the cemetery has no plot map. Ask that dept. to require the cemetery to map out all plots so this won't happen to others in the future. Send a copy of your complaint to the cemetery, too. It wouldn't hurt to send a copy to the Dept. of Consumer Affairs in the AG's office.

Depending on who owns the cemetery, it may be worth it to go to the media as well. Do let me know.

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

QUESTION: Midwest Memorial Group

31300 Southfield Road #1
Beverly Hills, MI 48025
(248) 290-0338

This is the company who owns & operates 28 cemetaries in Michigan, including the cemetary where my wife is buried (Oakview Cemetary, Royal Oak, Mi).  I will definately file the complaint.  I did contact our local news and they wanted to report on this story, but my family didn't want me to do that, it would cause us more stress.  The Cemetary told me that another woman owns my wifes plot, can I be sued by her or the Cemetary for refusing to allow them to relocate my wife? I told them do not move her, and that a judge will have to decide what to do.  The Cemetary called me again yesterday wanting to know what I am doing and what my attorney's phone number was!!  I feel like I'm dealing with "used car salesmen".

Answer
I can't tell if David Shipper owns the Midwest Memorial Group, but he does own 28 cemeteries that had been raided of trust funds by Clayton Smart. He used to work for Loewen, and prices were high.

Tell the cemetery about your complaint and that you want a full plot map of the whole cemetery as there's no way to tell if your plot was already sold, too. The other woman's family can't sue you. It was the cemetery that made the mistake. Probate courts are hesitant to disinter a body once it's buried. The other woman will have to make accommodations. If one of her family is on the far side, maybe they can do a double-depth interment to keep the family together.

It's too bad your family won't allow the media to shine some light on this kind of mischief. It would likely help others.

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Lisa Carlson

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

Organizations
Funeral Ethics Organization (www.funeralethics.org) Funeral Consumers Alliance (www.funerals.org)

Publications
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

Education/Credentials
Masters degree in Administration and Special Education

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

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