National Care Planning Council
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    Long Term Care BooksFind books provided by the National Care Planning Council written to help the public plan for Long Term Care. Learn More...

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    Eldercare ArticlesThe NCPC publishes periodic articles under the title "Planning for Eldercare". Each article is written to help families recognize the need for long term care planning and to help implement that planning. All elderly people, regardless of current health, should have a long term care plan. Learn More...

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Guide to LTC Planning

    Guide to Long Term Care PlanningFrom its inception, the goal of the National Care Planning Council has been to educate the public on the importance of planning for long term care. With that goal in mind, we have created the largest and most comprehensive source of long term care planning material available anywhere. This material -- "Guide to Long Term Care Planning" -- is free to the public for downloading and printing on all of our web sites. Learn More...

Choosing a Cemetery

Choosing a Cemetery

In earlier times when our country was mostly rural, loved ones were often buried in a special area reserved for family near the family home or on the family property. And generally, people in rural areas often exercise this option. Today, where most people live within the boundaries of a government community, burying a loved one on one's property would not be allowed. A cemetery is the only option for interment of a body or the secure storage of one's ashes.

A cemetery is a place where one can go to remember loved ones. The grounds and markers are designed to create a memorial to people who have passed on. Larger cemeteries often have well-kept trees and lawns and perhaps even sidewalks or benches. They are typically in neighborhoods that are quiet and if a family member wants to spend some time there the environment is conducive to that.

The concept of providing a memorial to someone who has died is fundamental to humanity. All cultures past and present have some way of identifying a place to remember loved ones by. This is also an important part of providing closure for the grieving process--to have a place to identify our loved ones with.

One of the problems with scattering ashes in a public place or over a body of water is that there is often no ability to identify that place and memorialization cannot take place. It may be important to some members of the family to have a special place. Cemeteries make allowances for cremations by providing places where urns can be placed. Some cemeteries also have special garden areas that allow for scattering of ashes. A memorial plaque can also be installed reminding the family where the ashes were scattered.

Wealthy rulers, politicians, people of status and rich people are the most ostentatious in having memorials in their honor. Consider the pyramids as an example. But even in local cemeteries it seems that families compete with each other by trying to erect grave markers or monuments that are better than the ones around them. Some cemeteries recognize this tendency and will restrict the size or design of grave monuments.

Probably the most important thing to remember in picking a cemetery is picking out a location that makes it convenient for the survivors to visit in the future. A cemetery halfway across the country that is picked simply because it was the birthplace of the decedent is not being considerate to the family that may be hundreds of miles away. On the other hand, if family are scattered all over the country, location may not be a problem.

A second important consideration is also a convenience issue. Many families have parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and children buried in the same cemetery. This makes it convenient for family members who want to remember more than one loved one to do so by visiting only one location. The cemetery where the rest of the family is buried should be the logical choice. Oftentimes a person will pick his or her cemetery plot based solely on the atmosphere of the place and not take into account the convenience issues expressed above. Being considerate to the surviving family is an important issue in picking a cemetery.

There are presently two types of cemeteries. The first is the traditional cemetery that has been used for perhaps hundreds of years and is filled with upright monuments of stone or above ground mausoleums. The second is a newer concept called a memorial park or memorial garden. This is an effort to equalize everyone who is buried by not allowing any one family to erect monuments different from anyone else. The only markers allowed are ground level tablets of a prescribed size. The Memorial Park is designed to resemble a garden where people can repose or reflect in beautiful surroundings. There may be fountains, sculptures, inviting buildings, water features and so on. Some cemeteries use both concepts.

Here are some issues to consider or issues to generate questions to ask when buying a cemetery plot when preplanning funeral arrangements.

  • The plot is not owned, only the usage of the plot for a perpetual interment.
  • Prices will vary considerably but generally be more expensive in urban areas with high land values and less expensive in rural areas.
  • If a plot is purchased but the family desires another cemetery instead, many cemeteries have exchange programs where the equivalent values can be exchanged between cooperating cemeteries, but many cemeteries do not have exchanges or the exchanges may not work as advertised and the family may be stuck with an unwanted cemetery lot.
  • Some cemeteries may be willing to repurchase plots.
  • Grave liners or vaults are not required by law but some cemeteries may require them to prevent the ground from sinking.
  • Generally plots cannot be resold privately to another individual.
  • Most cemeteries that sell memorials place restrictions on the installation of memorials purchased elsewhere. This limits the consumer's choice and drives up the price.
  • Most cemeteries will only allow their own personnel to open and close graves.
  • Cemeteries may use high-pressure tactics to get people to make a decision on the spot.