A burial plot isn’t the type of real estate anyone wants to check out, let alone buy before it’s required. However, buying a plot ahead of time has its advantages, such as the price. It’s not likely to decrease if you wait. It is also hard to think clearly about such questions when they’re needed most—when you’ve lost someone you love, or your loved ones have lost you.
Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Buying a Burial Plot Is a Grave Decision” explains that when you purchase a grave plot, you’re purchasing the right to designate who can be buried there. It’s not the land itself; that’s the cemetery’s property. Your ability to sell or transfer the grave, depends on the cemetery’s rules. Therefore, ask about the fine print.
You also don’t want to spend more than necessary, and prices of burial plots vary a lot. Plots at corporate-owned and religious cemeteries are usually more expensive. Municipal cemeteries are usually the cheapest. Plots generally cost more where land values are higher. A rural grave, plus interment, can cost around $800, compared to an urban grave or mausoleum space that can be priced at $5,000 to $10,000.
If you’re a veteran, you may be eligible for special burial benefits through the Veterans Administration. Along with a spouse and any unmarried children, a vet who resides in one of 42 states with a national cemetery may be entitled to a free burial there. Some state veteran cemeteries also offer burial benefits.
Most cemeteries are regulated by the state, but the oversight is often loose. Based on the type of cemetery, prices aren’t always clear. Prepaid plots typically include perpetual care of the grave, but not the cost of opening and closing it, nor the burial vault or liner. Cemeteries often require a vault or liner to protect the grave surface from collapsing. Burial vaults, typically made of concrete or fiberglass, are sturdier and cost $1,000 to $2,000. If permitted, a cheaper option is a grave liner ($500).
Be sure you and your family understand the costs that aren’t included. A family could receive two bills later—one from the funeral home and another from the cemetery, which they thought was covered.
Couples who’d like to be buried alongside each other have reason to buy more than one plot. However, family plots aren’t as popular as they once were. Parents who buy extra plots will also need to designate who they’re for in writing. This can be done in the will.
Most cemeteries don’t permit automatic transfers, so some family plots may also go unused. That’s because children frequently move away and may want to be buried elsewhere. They may not want to be buried at all and prefer cremation.