Tips for Consumers - Cemetery Oversight
- What am I entitled to as a consumer?
- What is a pre-need burial purchase?
- What is perpetual care?
- What is the Office of Cemetery Oversight?
- What is some other information that I may need to know?
- What is the Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors?
- How can I get more information or register a complaint?
- What are some helpful consumer tips for cemetery, monument, and funeral home purchases?
1. What am I entitled to as a consumer?
In Maryland, buyers and prospective buyers are guaranteed certain rights when shopping for or purchasing burial space, goods, and services. You are entitled to:
- Receive and keep as a buyer or prospective buyer, a current general price list which includes specific prices for:
- Ground opening and closing;
- Extra depth interment;
- Interment of cremated remains; and
- Mausoleum entombment.
- See a balanced presentation of various cost options for those burial goods offered for sale.
- Know whether the cemetery offers perpetual care or has a care fund for memorials.
- Know that less care cannot be given to a burial space if memorials are purchased from someone other than the cemetery.
- Know that interest or finance charges are not allowed for pre-need burial contracts that do not provide for goods or services to be delivered or performed before death.
- Have disclosed to you in writing before signing the contract:
- The itemized cost for each service to be performed.
- A statement of the cemetery's policy on use of independent retail monument companies.
- A copy of an authorized document indicating the specific location of any plot purchased.
- Receive a copy of a signed contract, which includes the date, the name of the buyer, seller, and each individual other than the buyer to whom pre-need goods or services are to be furnished, a description of pre-need goods or services to be provided, and the amount of the buyer's financial obligation.
- If a pre-need sales contract was signed in your home or anywhere else other than the place of business of the seller, you may cancel the contract by written notification if received by the seller within three business days.
- Cancel a pre-need contract if goods and services have not been delivered or performed and the buyer moves more than 75 miles from the cemetery. This cancellation does not apply to burial spaces in the ground or in a mausoleum.
- Cancel the sale of a casket at any time prior to needing the casket for a deceased.
2. What is a pre-need burial purchase?
A pre-need contract is for a purchase made prior to death and may include burial goods and services such as opening/closing of graves, caskets, vaults, and memorials (upright monuments or flush markers). A contract is entered into with a cemetery or burial goods business, such as a retail monument dealer or retail casket company.
3. What is perpetual care?
Perpetual care is the maintenance of the cemetery and its grounds and buildings, including mausoleums but not memorials. Any cemetery that states or implies that it offers perpetual care is required to set aside funds with a trustee who can only be used for these maintenance purposes.
4. What is the Office of Cemetery Oversight?
The state Office of Cemetery Oversight was established in Title 5 of the Business Regulation Article of the Maryland Annotated Code by the Maryland Legislature in 1997. The purpose of the office is to provide high standards of performance in the industry, enhance healthy economic competition, promote consumer confidence in pre-planning arrangements, provide a responsive complaint process for consumers, and operate a fair and effective regulatory enforcement system.
Each cemetery and burial goods business, such as a retail monument dealer, is required to obtain a permit with the office before doing any business in Maryland. An individual who sells goods and services at a cemetery or monument dealer is required to be registered by the office. All commercial or non-profit cemeteries must be licensed, while only religious cemeteries and their employees are exempt.
You may make funeral arrangements "at need," which means the purchase of funeral services and merchandise is made after the death of an individual.
Only a licensed mortician, funeral director, or the surviving spouse of a licensed funeral home owner may meet with you to make any funeral arrangements. You may ask to see their license. Be sure that it is current.
6. What is the Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors?
The Maryland State Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors was established by the Maryland Legislature in 1902. The mission of the Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors is to uphold Title 7 of the Health Occupations Article of the Maryland Annotated Code by developing policies and procedures that protect consumers in the state of Maryland.
The board licenses morticians, funeral directors, apprentices, surviving spouses of licensed funeral home owners, funeral establishments, courtesy card holders, and corporate charters. It enforces standards for the profession, investigates complaints, and takes disciplinary action when necessary.
Consumers may contact the board to:
- Find out important information concerning licensees
- File a complaint
- Obtain a copy of the law and regulations
- Discuss any matter concerning funeral service
CEMETERIES / MONUMENT DEALERS / CREMATORIES
Maryland Office of Cemetery Oversight
Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation
500 N. Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD 21202-3652
Maryland State Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors
Department of Health
4201 Patterson Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21215-2299
- Pre-arranged funeral and burial planning may be helpful, but don't feel rushed to purchase. Compare merchandise and services and their prices with other sellers.
- If you are told that something is required by law, ask to see the law in writing.
- Anything promised should be obtained in writing on the company's stationery and signed by someone with authority. Insist that any promise made to you by the seller be in writing.
- If you decide to enter into a contract, find out about refunds and cancellation rights, and get it in writing. The law requires this be done by the seller.
- Before making a final purchase, make sure you feel comfortable about your decision. Consult with others such as your family, financial adviser, and attorney for their views.
- Do not purchase anything you can't financially afford.
- You may cancel the purchase of a casket at any time before it is actually needed for use, and receive a full refund with accumulated interest.
- For further information, or to register a complaint, contact the Maryland State Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors (if about a funeral home), or the Office of Cemetery Oversight (if about a cemetery or monument dealer).