All about burial rights
When you buy a space in a cemetery, you are buying burial rights, not real estate. That is, the ground can be used for burial purposes only.
Who owns the burial rights?
Whoever pays for the spaces owns the burial rights. Anyone who owns burial rights in Topeka Cemetery is a lot owner.
If a married couple buys spaces and later divorces, the burial rights should be treated like any other asset and assigned accordingly. The cemetery should be notified as to who retains the burial rights to spaces bought jointly.
If a married couple buys spaces and one spouse dies, control goes to the surviving spouse. If the surviving spouse doesn’t declare who has control over any remaining spaces, those right go equally to all surviving children. Rights would not pass to the grandchildren until all the children were gone.
Ways to give control of cemetery spaces to others:
Authorization for interment – the owner of the rights can assign a space for a specific person’s use. For example, Mr. and Mrs. Smith own Spaces 1, 2, 3 and 4. They plan to use Spaces 1 and 2. They want two of their children to be buried in their spaces, so they fill out an authorization form that states Space 3 is for the use of Child 1 and Space 4 is for the use of Child 2.
This can be changed at any time by simply filling out a new document, as Mr. and Mrs. Smith retain ownership of the burial rights.
Transfer of ownership of burial rights – A transfer gives all rights to another person and is irrevocable. Once the rights are passed they belong to the person to whom they are transferred, and that person has the right to use them however they see fit.
Rights may be transferred to individuals or entities, such as a church or charity.
When owners of burial rights are deceased and no provisions have been made to turn over control of the remaining spaces, the right of inheritance is applied. Rights go from parent to child. Rights do not go to any of the children’s children until all of the second generation has died. If no provisions are made by the original owners’ children, the grandchildren then inherit control, equally.
When owners of rights to unused spaces are deceased and no heirs have made claim on them for 75 years, the unused lots are declared abandoned, and rights revert to Topeka Cemetery.
A claim on rights would include making advance arrangements for future burials, or an executor assigning or transferring remaining spaces to others.
Selling burial rights
Topeka Cemetery does not broker sales for lot owners. We will mark the lot owners’ paperwork with a notation that the rights are for sale. If a customer is interested in those spaces, we will provide them with the contact information the lot owner provided.
The likelihood of selling your spaces is dependent mostly on their location. Another family may have loved ones nearby and want to add to their lot. But if the goal is to sell empty spaces in a family plot, the chance of selling them is small, especially if there is a family monument in the middle. In these cases, the best option is to offer them to other family members or close friends of the people already buried there.
Topeka Cemetery has an ample number of empty spaces in most sections, so customers don’t have to seek out sellers elsewhere.
To claim rights purchased by a forebear, proof of lineage needs to be provided. Obituaries are the simplest way to provide this. It also would be necessary to get other possible claimants to relinquish their rights.
For instance, you want to claim the last two spaces in the lot your grandfather purchased. His obituary should list his children. The obituaries of those children would prove no one from that generation is surviving. (If one or more does, they have control of the spaces.) From there, you will need to get your cousins to relinquish their rights to you, as everyone in your generation has equal claim to the rights. The cemetery provides a form for each person to fill out and sign.
Once all rights are relinquished to you, then you have the authority to decide who is allowed to use the spaces.