- Active and Operating Cemeteries
- Abandoned, Private, and Family Cemeteries
- Burial Goods, Vaults, and Monuments
- Cremation Issues
- Pre-Need Arrangements
- At-Need Arrangements
- Perpetual Care
- Religious and Nonprofit Cemeteries
- County and Municipal Responsibilities
- Pet Cemeteries
- Veterans' Cemeteries
- Contact Information
1. Where can I find Maryland law and regulations relating to cemeteries?
Title 5, Business Regulation Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, contains the Maryland Cemeteries Act, which establishes the Office of Cemetery Oversight. The regulations adopted by the Office of Cemetery Oversight may be found in the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), Title 09, Section 34. Copies of the Annotated Code of Maryland and COMAR are available at most Maryland public libraries. In addition, these materials may be reviewed on the Office of Cemetery Oversight website at:
2. Does Maryland law provide for the resale of cemetery lots that appear to have been abandoned by the owners?
No, owners of burial rights may sell these rights to another owner with permission of the cemetery. Often, however, there is no ready market for such sales. Cemeteries have no obligation to buy back these burial rights, although they usually will ratify a sale and purchase between two parties.
3. Does Maryland require a regulated cemetery to have written rules and regulations?
Yes, Maryland requires a registered cemeterian or cemetery permit holder to maintain in the cemetery's office, for inspection by consumers, a current and complete listing of the rules and requirements of the cemetery including those related to memorials, interment, memorial services, burial space embellishments, and hours of operation.
4. Does the Office of Cemetery Oversight regulate disinterments and re-interments?
No, requirements regarding disinterments and re-interments may be found in Section 10-403, Criminal Law Article, Annotated Code of Maryland. Authorization is required by the state's attorney of the county in which the cemetery is located, and a burial transit permit must be obtained from the Department of Health.
5. If there is no Maryland law to govern a cemetery procedure or practice, are there any restrictions on a specific procedure or practice?
Yes, if Maryland law is silent on a specific issue regarding a burial procedure or practice, a cemetery is required to act in accordance with the "usual and customary practice" of the cemetery industry in Maryland.
6. Does a law exist that regulates the amount of space between graves and/or memorials?
Maryland law does not dictate the amount of space between graves and/or memorials. Each cemetery has rules that govern the placement of vaults and memorials.
7. Are cemetery sales counselors regulated by the Office of Cemetery Oversight?
Sales counselors in cemeteries regulated by the Office of Cemetery Oversight must be registered with the office. Similarly, monument sellers working for monument dealers that are regulated by the Office of Cemetery Oversight also need to be registered.
8. Has Maryland developed any standards of ethical conduct for those engaged in the operation of a cemetery?
Yes, Maryland has adopted a code of ethics and professional standards for any person who holds a registration or permit to operate a cemetery or to provide burials goods in Maryland. This code of ethics and professional standards is set forth in COMAR 09.34.04.
9. How can ownership of a cemetery lot be transferred?
Subject to the rules of the cemetery owner and to the terms of any contract made with the cemetery owner, the interest of an owner of a burial lot or crypt:
- may be disposed of during the lifetime of the owner of the burial lot or crypt with the consent of the cemetery owner;
- may be disposed of by specific reference in the will of the owner; and
- otherwise passes to the heirs of the owner, as defined in Section 1-101 of the Estates and Trusts Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.
10. If I move more than 75 miles from the cemetery in which I own burial rights, can I participate in an exchange program to a new, conveniently located cemetery?
Some, but not all cemeteries offer an exchange program for burial rights if a person moves more than 75 miles. An inquiry regarding the availability of this option should be made by a consumer at the time of negotiating for the purchase of burial space.
1. Who may request access to a burial site on private property for purposes of restoring, maintaining, or viewing the burial site?
A person who is related by blood or marriage or who has a cultural affiliation with a person interred in a burial site may request that the owner of the burial site or of the land encompassing a burial site grant reasonable access to the burial site for purposes of restoring, maintaining, or viewing the burial site.
2. Does the owner of a burial site or land encompassing a burial site who permits a person access for purposes of restoring, maintaining, or viewing the burial site have any liability to the person for injury to the person or the person's property?
Except for willful or malicious acts or omissions, the owner of a burial site or land encompassing a burial site is not liable for damages, in a civil action to a person, who enters onto the land for the purposes of restoring, maintaining, or viewing the burial site, for injury to the person or the person's property.
3. Does the Office of Cemetery Oversight perform or assist individuals with genealogical research?
No, the Office of Cemetery Oversight is a regulatory agency that does not conduct genealogical research of any type.
4. Does the Office of Cemetery Oversight regulate abandoned cemeteries?
The Office of Cemetery Oversight does not regulate abandoned cemeteries, family cemeteries, or non-operational cemeteries.
5. What are some groups or organizations that may provide assistance in cemetery preservation, clean-up, or maintenance?
Local schools (that have students with community service requirements to fulfill prior to graduation), community associations, garden clubs, local sheriff's offices (that may have workers under a community service sentencing program), local historical and genealogical societies, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites, Maryland Historical Trust, and Preservation Maryland are some groups that may be able to provide assistance for cemetery preservation, clean-up, or maintenance.
6. May human remains or gravestones, monuments, or markers be removed from an abandoned, private cemetery?
Human remains or a gravestone, monument, or marker may be removed from an abandoned, private cemetery if the removal is authorized in writing by the state's attorney of the county in which the cemetery containing the human remains or gravestone, monument, or marker is located and the human remains or gravestone, monument, or marker is placed in an accessible place in a permanent cemetery (Sections 10-402 and 10-404, Criminal Law Article, Annotated Code of Maryland).
7. Is it illegal to sell and develop a family cemetery for residential, commercial, or agricultural use?
Cemetery property may not be sold for use for another purpose without first obtaining a court judgment for the sale of the cemetery for another purpose. If a court is satisfied that it is expedient or would be in the interest of the parties to sell the cemetery for use for another purpose, the court may pass a judgment for the sale of the cemetery on the terms of the notice that the court sets. The court is required to order that as much of the proceeds of the sale as necessary be used to pay the expenses of removing any human remains in the cemetery, buying burial lots in another cemetery, and reburying the human remains. (Any remaining proceeds shall then be distributed to the parties in accordance with their interests.) When a judgment for the sale of a cemetery for use for another purpose has been entered, the buyer of the cemetery receives title to the land free of the claims of the owners of the cemetery and of the holders of burial lots in the cemetery (Section 5-505, Business Regulation Article, Annotated Code of Maryland).
8. If a cemetery is sold for use for another purpose, can the lot owners remove the monuments or memorials on the lots they own?
Yes. All monuments or memorials that are capable of being removed from the burial lots on which they are placed are considered to be the personal property of the lot owner and may be removed by the lot owner when the lot ceases to be used for the purposes of burial. In Baltimore City, a trustee appointed to sell an abandoned burial ground must pay the expenses of moving and relocating markers on new lots if there are sale proceeds left after human remains have been removed and buried. In other jurisdictions, if a lot owner chooses not to remove a monument or memorial after the cemetery has been sold for another purpose, the lot owner is not entitled to be reimbursed for his or her cost.
1. Does Maryland law require the use of a vault for a burial?
No, Maryland law does not require the use of a vault for burial. However, since the use of a vault helps preserve the integrity of the gravesite by retarding subsidence, a cemetery has the option of requiring the use of a vault for interments. Most cemeteries in Maryland, absent different religious traditions, require a vault or outer burial container.
2. What is a double-depth interment?
A double-depth interment is the use of one burial space for the burial of two individuals. The grave is dug deeper than a normal grave to accommodate the placement of one vault and casket on top of another vault and casket. Often cemeteries have special sections and special vaults for double-depth burials. The operating custom and practice is that the top of the vault (single or double depth) should be 18-24 inches below the earth's surface.
3. Does a person have the option of converting a single depth interment burial space to a double depth interment space?
This process is governed by the rules of the cemetery. If the cemetery permits a single-depth interment burial space to be later used for a double-depth interment, there may be additional charges imposed for increasing the depth of the space and, potentially, for the disinterment of the person previously interred as part of that process. Additional fees for a second opening and closing of the gravesite and related procedures may be imposed for a double-depth interment.
4. Am I required to purchase a monument from the cemetery where I purchased my cemetery lots?
Generally, a monument may be purchased from the cemetery, from a funeral director, or from an independent monument company. Installation must be in accordance with cemetery rules and regulations whether or not the cemetery actually installs the monument.
5. Am I allowed to purchase and install a bench next to my family's gravesite?
Subject to the rules of the cemetery owner and to the terms of any contract made with the cemetery owner, you may be permitted to install a bench next to a gravesite. However, most cemeteries require the installation of granite or marble benches to be placed only in specific areas of the cemetery; for example, near the road or near or under trees or in a garden.
6. Does Maryland law require that I purchase a monument or marker for my grave?
Maryland law does not require the purchase of a monument or marker; however, the rules and regulations of a cemetery will generally require that the marker or monument be placed on a grave, if one has been purchased.
7. If I want an upright marker, can the cemetery require me to get a flush marker?
A cemetery has the right to designate the types of markers or monuments that are permitted. The potential purchaser of a cemetery lot should determine which types of monuments or markers are permitted by the cemetery prior to deciding whether to purchase a lot in a specific section of a specific cemetery.
8. Can a cemetery refuse to permit a person to place specific types of markers, monuments, memorials or other decorations of their choice on a gravesite?
Yes, permissible gravesite markers, monuments, memorials, and other decorations are governed by the rules and regulations of the cemetery.
9. Who is responsible for damage to memorials or markers once they have been installed in the cemetery?
The cemetery is responsible for repair or replacement of any memorial or marker that has been damaged or improperly set by the cemetery's employees. If the memorial or marker has been purchased from and installed by an independent monument dealer and the damage is due to defects in workmanship or materials, the independent dealer is responsible.
10. Who is responsible for replacement after the theft of a memorial and/or marker once it has been installed in a cemetery?
Unless the owner of the memorial or marker is able to show negligence on the part of the cemetery which resulted in the theft of the memorial or marker, the owner of the marker will be responsible for its replacement.
11. Can I purchase a marker from an internet monument dealer or a dealer from another state?
A consumer may purchase a monument or marker from an independent monument or marker dealer. Each cemetery has the right to set standards for the monuments or markers which will be permitted in the cemetery. Therefore, a consumer should determine that the cemetery will approve the installation of the monument or marker prior to finalizing the purchase, particularly from an out-of-state vendor.
12. If a memorial is obtained from someone other than the cemetery, may the cemetery provide less care to it than to memorials which it has sold directly?
No, a cemetery is prohibited from stating, implying, or providing less care to a memorial or the burial space to which the memorial is attached if the memorial is obtained from someone other than the cemetery.
1. Do cremains need to be interred the same way as a body?
Cremains may be interred in a burial space or inurned in a mausoleum niche. Cremains may also be scattered.
2. What is a scattering garden?
A scattering garden is an area within a cemetery reserved for the scattering of cremains. Some type of memorial for those whose cremains have been scattered may be incorporated as part of the scattering garden.
3. May cremains be scattered on private property?
Maryland law does not prohibit the scattering of cremains on private property with the permission of the property owner.
1. Are cemeteries that sell only burial space on a pre-need basis required to establish a pre-need trust fund?
No, a cemetery that only sells burial space on a pre-need basis is not required to establish a pre-need trust fund.
2. Can a pre-need burial contract be cancelled if a person moves?
A buyer may cancel a pre-need burial contract for pre-need goods which have not been delivered or pre-need services that have not been performed if the buyer:
- permanently moves more than 75 miles from the cemetery specified in the pre-need burial contract; and
- gives the seller written notice, under oath, of the move and includes the buyer's new permanent address.
This right to cancel does not apply to burial space. It only applies to goods (such as vaults and monuments) and services (such as the opening and closing fee).
3. Can a buyer cancel the pre-need purchase of a casket?
A buyer may cancel the pre-need purchase of a casket at any time prior to the time the buyer needs the casket. In this case, the buyer is entitled to a refund of 100% of the money paid under the pre-need burial contract for the casket.
4. Does the state of Maryland require consumers who own cemetery lots to be informed when the cemetery is sold to another owner?
If the consumer has also purchased pre-need goods or services, Maryland law requires each buyer of a pre-need burial contract to be advised of the buyer's options under state law in regard to the pre-need contract when a seller of pre-need goods sells its business, files a petition in bankruptcy, or ceases to operate.
1. Is it necessary for me to prepay for 100% of the purchase of burial goods and services before a burial can take place?
Generally speaking, the cemetery will require that 100% of the purchase price of burial goods and services be paid prior to a burial. If, however, proof of an insurance annuity or trust fund can be provided, the cemetery may accept an assignment of the proceeds. Also, many cemeteries allow utilization of credit cards for payment, although there is no obligation that they do so.
2. Am I making a real property purchase when I purchase a cemetery lot?
No. It is a right of interment, not real property, which is purchased from the cemetery. The purchaser is acquiring the right to make interments in the lot so long as the lot remains part of a cemetery. Thus, purchasers of cemetery lots do not record such purchases at a courthouse.
1. Why should a cemetery establish a perpetual care trust fund, even if one is not required by law?
The purpose of a perpetual care trust fund is to provide a funding source for long-term maintenance of the cemetery. When a cemetery is actively selling lots, some of that income may be used for current maintenance. However, as the cemetery becomes full and lot sales decrease and eventually end, the importance of a source of income for continued maintenance becomes clear. The challenge is to match the perpetual care income stream with the cost of cemetery maintenance in perpetuity.
2. Does Maryland law require regulated cemeteries to have a perpetual care trust fund?
Each regulated cemetery that offers or sells burial space in which perpetual care is stated or implied is required to have a perpetual care trust fund. In addition, any regulated cemetery created after October 1, 2001, is required to establish a perpetual care trust fund. This applies to for-profit and nonprofit cemeteries established after October 1, 2001.
3. Does Maryland law establish minimum deposit requirements and minimum contributions to a perpetual care trust fund?
Current Maryland law requires an initial deposit of between $10,000 and $50,000 to begin a perpetual care trust fund. Once begun, the cemetery is required to deposit into the fund at least 10% of the actual selling price of each right of interment in a burial lot, above-ground crypt, or niche or, if the burial space is sold at a discount or given away at no cost, at least 10% of the imputed fair retail value of the cemetery lot, above-ground crypt, or niche.
4. May a regulated cemetery use both the income from the trust fund and the corpus of the trust fund to provide perpetual care?
No, regulated cemeteries may only use some or all of the income from the perpetual care trust fund for cemetery maintenance. Incursions into the corpus of the perpetual care trust fund are not permitted.
5. Does Maryland law restrict the use of the perpetual care fund income by regulated cemeteries?
Yes, income from the perpetual care trust fund may only be used for the perpetual care of the cemetery, including: the maintenance (including the cutting of grass abutting memorials or monuments), administration, supervision, and embellishment of the cemetery, its grounds, roads, and paths; and the repair and renewal of buildings including columbaria and mausoleums and the property of the cemetery. The perpetual care trust fund income may not be used to care for memorials or monuments.
6. What issues should be considered by a cemetery in establishing a perpetual care fund?
Some of the issues that should be considered are:
- Current annual maintenance costs;
- Projected annual inflation factor;
- Projected cost of repairs;
- Fees and expenses of the trust;
- Need for growth of the trust fund;
- Types and diversification of trust fund investments;
- Percentage of cost of burial space vs. per square inch/foot calculation for contribution;
- Minimum start-up deposit to trust;
- Individual vs. institutional trustee;
- Recordkeeping; and
- Periodic review of income generated by the trust, anticipated future needs and trust fund contribution calculations.
7. What happens if the money paid for perpetual care is not being used to provide proper maintenance and care in a regulated cemetery?
If the Office of Cemetery Oversight determines that the income generated by a cemetery's perpetual care trust fund is not being properly used to maintain and care for cemetery property, the office may direct the cemetery to use the income for that purpose and may impose sanctions on the cemetery.
8. In Maryland, although 10% of lot sales is the required minimum amount to be placed in the perpetual care trust fund, do regulators specify a maximum amount?
No statutory requirement regarding the maximum amount based on lot sales that may be placed in a perpetual care trust fund exists in the state of Maryland.
1. Are nonprofit cemeteries regulated by the Office of Cemetery Oversight?
Most nonprofit cemeteries are regulated by the Office of Cemetery Oversight. The exceptions to regulation by the office are bona fide religious, nonprofit cemeteries.
2. Are church cemeteries regulated by the Office of Cemetery Oversight?
Bona fide religious, nonprofit cemeteries are exempt from the registration and permit requirements of Title 5, Business Regulation Article, Annotated Code of Maryland. However, all exempt cemeteries (except those in which no burials have taken place within the previous five years) are required to file with the Office of Cemetery Oversight, once every two years, a statement that includes:
- The name and address of the cemetery;
- The name and address of the organization that owns and operates the cemetery; and
- The name and address of the individual responsible for oversight of the cemetery.
3. Does the director of the Office of Cemetery Oversight have any authority in regard to complaints against exempt cemeteries such as bona fide religious, nonprofit cemeteries?
Yes, the director may receive and attempt to negotiate a settlement to resolve complaints concerning exempt cemeteries in connection with the operation of a cemetery or the sale of pre-need goods.
4. If I want to be buried in a religious cemetery, but I am not of that faith, can I be denied my burial rights in that cemetery?
A bona fide, religious cemetery may restrict purchase of rights of interment to members of the religious faith that owns the cemetery or the particular section in a cemetery where diverse religions or nationalities are permitted.
1. What action may a county or municipal corporation take in regard to a burial site that is in need of repair or maintenance?
Any county or municipal corporation that has within its jurisdiction a burial site in need of repair or maintenance may, upon the request of the owner or with the permission of the owner of the burial site, maintain and preserve the burial site for the owner.
2. How may a county or municipal corporation fund the repair, preservation, or maintenance of a burial site?
To maintain and preserve a burial site or to repair or restore fences, tombs, monuments, or other structures located in a burial site, a county or municipal corporation may:
- Appropriate money and solicit donations from individuals or public or private corporations;
- Provide incentives for charitable organizations or community groups to donate their services; and
- Develop a community services program through which individuals required to perform community services hours under a sentence of a court or students may satisfy community service requirements or volunteer their services.
Does the Office of Cemetery Oversight regulate pet cemeteries or crematoriums?
No, the Office of Cemetery Oversight does not regulate pet cemeteries or crematoriums. However, the office does regulate numerous cemeteries that have sections for pets.
Does the Office of Cemetery Oversight regulate veterans' cemeteries in the state of Maryland?
The Office of Cemetery Oversight does not regulate the five state veterans' cemeteries, nor does it regulate the three U.S. veterans' cemeteries located in Maryland. Information regarding Cheltenham Veterans' Cemetery, Crownsville Veterans' Cemetery, Eastern Shore Veterans' Cemetery, Garrison Forest Veterans' Cemeter,y or Rocky Gap Veterans' Cemetery can be obtained by contacting the Maryland Department of Veterans' Affairs at 410-923-6981. Information for Annapolis National Cemetery, Baltimore National Cemetery, and Loudon Park National Cemetery can be obtained by contacting the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs at 800-827-1000.