I am not an attorney and any comments I post are not intended, nor should they be construed, as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult a legal expert who is familiar with the area of legal expertise you need.
For this week’s Tombstone Tuesdays post, I chose a topic that I routinely notice people avoiding. In this case, the very first thing you should do before you clean a headstone or work on a cemetery plot is get permission from the cemetery.
Many cemeteries have rules on what you can and can’t do with headstones and plots. The rules may or may not be fully posted in the cemetery. Don’t assume that because you see a sign with cemetery rules that these are the only rules the cemetery expects you to follow.
I have seen cemeteries with pages (10 – 40+) of what you can and can’t do in them. I don’t have the cemetery link handy, but I ran across a cemetery where you could not trim the weeds or do anything with the plot.
Now before anybody plays the “I own the plot” or “purchased the headstone” cards, be aware in the U. S., you don’t own the plot. Your deed is for burial rights (including entombment, inurnment, scattering of ashes, etc.). Also, by placing the headstone in the cemetery, you lose some of the rights that normally would apply. I saw one deed where it sounded like you purchased the plot, but state law made it clear you were only buying burial rights. For non-U.S. burials, some countries only rent you burial rights. Stop paying rent and your loved one gets dug up and they get either put in a communal bone pit or bone room. My ancestors who were buried in Germany were no doubt part of this process as I doubt anyone paid their rental fees in centuries.
I regularly see people encouraging others to clean headstones, pull weeds, and do other things in a plot on the belief that the cemetery won’t have an issue with it. There have been a number of deaths and injuries from people who did something to a headstone where the headstone fell on them. In addition, you could be hit with civil fines or criminal charges if your actions, no matter how well-intentioned, lead to damage to the headstone, grave, or cemetery.
Previous Tombstone Tuesdays posts: https://upsdownsfamilyhistory.wordpress.com/tag/Tombstone-tuesday/