Things to know when buying a burial plot

  • There are four different types of burial plots: single, double, family, and urn plots.

  • The cost of a burial plot can vary from $200 to $2,500, depending on cemetery location, plot type, whether the cemetery is private, and the plot’s location within the cemetery. 

  • Make sure you ask for a full price list from a cemetery and go over it carefully for hidden charges.

  • Some religious cemeteries have their own strict requirements.

The passing of a loved one can come with many hard decisions. If your loved one didn’t leave any final wishes concerning their funeral, for example, you will have to make some choices quickly about how and where they should be buried. Making a right decision can feel impossible, especially in the midst of your grief. Remember to take a moment to breathe, and try to keep in mind that the funeral and burial are important ways for you to mark their passing and honor their life, which can be a source of comfort to you and your family.

When choosing the burial plot that is right for your loved one, there are many important considerations. Are other family members buried in an estate plot, and should your loved one be buried there too? Will you need an urn plot if you are choosing cremation? Did a particular location appeal to them more than other cemetery sites, and if so, how can you honor their wishes by having them laid to rest there?

Before making a decision, you should know that there are several different types of burial plots. Single plots are designed for one person or the ashes of multiple people, depending on the urns’ sizes. Double plots, also known as companion plots, can accommodate two caskets.

Family plots, or estate plots, are designed to host multiple members of the same family. These plots are larger and typically have a large headstone that covers the ground. Individual plots and headstones are then placed for each family member.

Some cemeteries also offer urn plots, for the burial of cremated ashes, either in a designated urn garden or alongside buried caskets. To do this, you need to purchase a single burial plot that can accommodate the urns you wish to bury.

Choosing the right burial plot

When making funeral arrangements, it is a good idea to start researching cemeteries in your local area. You can also get together with your family and think about places that mattered the most to your loved one, places where you think they would have been happy to rest.

If you are able to establish a shortlist, look up the license status and the good standing of the cemetery manager at the locations you have written down. This ensures that the cemeteries you have chosen can work for you. If you are happy with what you find, discuss which plots you can purchase with your funeral home. They will liaise with the cemetery manager and get you all the practical information you need to put your mind at ease.

Some people find visiting a burial plot more difficult than they expected, bringing up some really challenging feelings. Bringing along some emotional support can go a long way in helping you make rational decisions. 

Visiting a burial plot with a close friend or relative, or even with the cemetery manager, may help you address aspects of the site you may not have thought about: Is the burial plot well located within the cemetery? Does it have a view? Is it close to heavy foot or car traffic? Is its location within the cemetery due for construction or expansion in the near future? These are important considerations that a friend or relative can help you consider.

Once your visit is complete, ask for a complete price list, which will include the cost of the burial plot, interment fees, and maintenance charges, along with the cemetery bylaws. The bylaws are a crucial part of this process, as they can be dealbreakers. For instance, the funeral home may list prohibitive fees in the fine print that you would not know of had you not requested the document. Consider reviewing them with a property lawyer to ensure your personal and financial interests are protected. 

Keeping religion in mind

Some cemeteries have stringent rules when it comes to religious burials. While Christian cemeteries vary from relaxed to very strict, you may run into issues if you are in an interfaith family. Consider asking the cemetery manager what their policies are. 

To be buried in a Jewish cemetery, you may need to provide a letter from a rabbi with the appropriate authority to prove that you or your loved one are Jewish or of Jewish descent.

Among the strictest kinds of religious cemeteries, Muslim cemeteries will not allow the burial of a non-Muslim person, though some do allow the burial of the child of an interfaith couple. 

If you are unsure where to situate yourself religiously, your best bet is a sectioned cemetery. These cemeteries are sectioned off based on denominations and are typically the most religiously flexible.

How much does it cost?

The cost of a burial plot varies depending on its location, the cemetery’s status (public/private), plot type, and the plot’s location within the cemetery. 

For a public cemetery plot, prices range from $200 to $2,000 depending on whether the cemetery is in a rural or urban area. 

A single burial plot in a private cemetery in a rural area costs between $2,000 and $5,000. The same plot in a densely populated urban area can climb to $25,000—and $50,000 or more for a couple’s double-depth plot. Keep in mind that double-depth plots are usually cheaper than side-by-side plots since you would need to purchase two full plots for those.

Prices for urn plot in a public cemetery range from $350 to $500, while an urn plot in a private cemetery can run from $1,000 to $2,500.

Burials are expensive. Thankfully, you can pay for these services directly out of the estate.

While these are the basic costs of purchasing a burial plot; other charges may include those of the grave maker, the grave liner or burial vault, the interment fee, and the burial permit. The cemetery manager should answer any questions you may have regarding the rates for these services. 

Burials are expensive. Thankfully, you can pay for these services directly out of the estate. However, because the money from the estate may not be available immediately after your loved one’s passing, someone will need to pay the costs up front (to be later reimbursed by the estate). Either the funeral arranger, a trust officer, or an estate attorney can cover the costs. Keep in mind that, should the estate not have enough assets to cover all the expenses, the financial responsibility will fall on you to pay the difference. 

Choosing a burial plot can often feel overwhelming, especially in the moments immediately following the death of your loved one. Remember that you are not alone. Someone, be it a relative, friend, or professional, will be with you at every step of the way to help you make decisions that will not put you in financial hardship, that will help you honor the life of your loved one, and that will bring you closer to the closure you need to carry on with your life.

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.