While cremation urns and urn vaults may be used to store cremated remains, most cemeteries require that they also be interred. This can create a problem for families that wish to spread the ashes of their loved one over a scenic spot or specific area. Fortunately, there is an option: home burial. A growing number of states now allow family members to bury cremated remains on private property as long as certain guidelines are followed. However, it’s still crucial to check local regulations before proceeding with this option since some areas restrict home burial or require special permission from zoning authorities or homeowners’ associations. Certain states even it altogether: Alaska, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.
Rules for home burial
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put together state-by-state guidelines on home burials . They include the following:
· The site must be at least 150 feet from any occupied structure other than the dwelling in which you live;
· You may bury one adult per three-tenths of an acre; that’s about 300 square feet or roughly equivalent to 5×5 plot;
· It is illegal to keep cremated remains on your property if they are not buried. This includes scattering ashes on unoccupied public lands without a permit. “If someone suspects that you have not buried ashes on your property, this could lead to an investigation and criminal charges,” warns the FTC.
· You should also be aware that a home burial does not give you perpetual rights to the land, even if it’s part of your property or if you own it outright. “For example, if someone buys a cemetery plot from a private owner – whether public or private property – they can buy with full rights for use as a cemetery forever,” notes the FTC. But all other forms of property revert back to their original owners if no one else claims it after three years . Even so, remember to contact local authorities before starting any outdoor project involving excavation on your land. Otherwise, you might accidentally unearth a loved one!
Home burial costs
Costs for a basic home burial can vary depending on where you live. “To bury an urn containing ashes at the site of my parents’ cabin in northern Minnesota, for example, would cost $2,000-$3,000 or more,” says Keller. Costs are typically higher where the land is undeveloped and less accessible to heavy machinery than it is near cities. The average cost of high-end grave sites with headstones at many cemeteries throughout the US runs between $1,500 and $4,000 or even more , which may include administrative fees for opening and closing the grave itself. If you choose to buy cemetery property rather than rent (which requires periodic payments that can run into the hundreds of dollars), you may also be liable for yearly property taxes.
“Many cemeteries offer pre-planned options, which include grave sites and even mausoleum space (for urns or larger containers),” says Keller. It’s important to note that prices vary quite a bit from one cemetery to another. Some charge by the square foot, while others base their rates on market value for comparable types of land within the region. “The most common and widespread is that of a single depth crypt with basic granite marker,” adds Keller.
Other options include:
· Mausoleums – These are above-ground structures used as family vaults contain niches installed in one or more walls to hold urns or larger containers. The structure is permanent and will likely outlive all of its occupants. Mausoleum prices vary depending on the size, quality of materials used and features included.
· Natural burial – Also referred to as green burial, this more eco-friendly option uses biodegradable materials for grave markers, which are often incorporated into the surrounding landscape itself by replanting native species with trees and shrubs.
Since there is no embalming involved in this kind of interment, you can rest assured that toxic chemicals aren’t seeping into the soil . However, since the body is typically buried in a shroud with no casket or vault, costs tend to be lower than what you might spend on more traditional burial services, such as a casket and vault.
· Space in columbarium (a special building housing remains of the deceased) – You can usually buy individual spaces to rent or own; prices vary by location. Columbariums are often found inside larger, full-service funeral homes where they charge for this service on top of all other fees. “If you want to be buried with your family you must buy multiple spaces,” adds Keller.