Q: Are all cemeteries in Ohio regulated by the State of Ohio?
A: All cemeteries, except for private family cemeteries or cemeteries in which there have been no burials during the previous 25 years, must be registered with the Division of Real Estate of the Ohio Department of Commerce. A private family cemetery is one containing human remains; at least three-fourths of those whose remains are buried in a private family cemetery must have a common ancestor or must be the spouse or adopted child of that common ancestor.
Q: What are “perpetual care” cemeteries?
A: A perpetual care cemetery is a cemetery that has an endowment trust fund. This fund provides annual income for the upkeep of the cemetery. Under Ohio law, most cemeteries are required to place 10 percent of the revenue generated by lot sales and sales of mausoleums into a trust fund. The cemetery may draw off the income and interest earned by the trust fund on an annual basis to offset cemetery maintenance and repair costs. Consumers should be aware that not all Ohio cemeteries are endowment care cemeteries. Family cemeteries, and cemeteries that are owned and operated exclusively by churches, religious societies, established fraternal organizations, or the city, state or federal government, are not required to have endowment care funds. Consumers should check with the cemetery and ask if it has an endowment care trust.
Q: If I pre-purchase a grave plot in a cemetery and then no longer need it, will I get a refund?
A: Ohio law does not require cemeteries to buy back from consumers grave plots and mausoleum spaces that they do not need. Always check with the cemetery prior to buying the lot to see if they will buy it back, sell the lot to another consumer for you, or allow you to exchange the lot for another space in the cemetery.
Q: May a cemetery require that I buy the grave marker only from the cemetery?
A: No. Consumers are free to purchase monuments and markers from independent monument companies and funeral homes. However, the cemetery may impose restrictions on the size and type of monuments and markers they will allow in the cemetery.
Q: Does the law require consumers to buy an outer burial container?
A: An outer burial container is a vault or grave liner into which the casket is placed when it is interred. The purpose of the outer burial container is to prevent the ground from caving in around the casket and creating depressions above ground. The law does not require the use of an outer burial container, but many cemeteries do require that grave liners or burial vaults be used to prevent graves from sinking in.
Q: I bought a burial vault from the funeral home. May the cemetery charge me a higher fee to install the vault since I did not purchase it from the cemetery?
A: No. Under Ohio law, a cemetery may only charge for its actual services and expenses in installing burial vaults. Therefore, imposing a penalty on a consumer who purchased a vault from a source other than a cemetery would be illegal.
Q: If I encounter a problem with an Ohio cemetery, where can I go to complain?
A: The Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolutions Commission has the authority to resolve complaints against registered Ohio cemeteries. The Commission tries to resolve complaints through mediation.If the Commission or the Division of Real Estate believes that a cemetery has violated the law, it will refer the complaint to the prosecutor’s office in the county where the cemetery is situated or to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. A complaint form may be obtained by contacting the Ohio Department of Commerce at 216/787-3100 or by accessing the complaint form on-line at: http://www.com.ohio.gov/real/docs/real_COM3660CemeteryComplaintForm.pdf .
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by attorney T. Scott Gilligan of Gilligan Law Offices in Cincinnati.