Dan Redmond (Cemetery and Funeral Inspector, California Department of Consumer Affairs ) gives expert video advice on: What factors should I consider when choosing a cemetery?; How deep does a human body need to be buried? and more...
What types of cemeteries are there?
There are several different types of cemeteries. There's a district cemetery, which is owned by the city or county in which you reside. There are religious cemeteries, which are run by the denomination of the church that you attend. There are also private cemeteries, which would encompass all of the above, wherever you live or whatever religion you follow. There are also veterans' cemeteries, which are intended for the internment of veterans and their families.
What factors should I consider when choosing a cemetery?
The factors you should consider when you're choosing a cemetery could be several. One, the location where you live, closeness to how often you want to go visit, whether or not they have the religious needs that you have or desire, whether or not they have military or veterans' burials in their cemetery. Also, the way the cemetery looks. If it's something that's appealing to you, then that's a cemetery that you might choose to use. Also, cost is also a factor. Certainly there are those cemeteries out there that are very expensive; however, they usually end up being very beautiful, but there's also lower cost cemeteries. Most of them are also very beautiful as well.
What is a "burial permit" and where do I get one?
A burial permit, better known as a disposition permit, is required by law for either the interment or cremation of any human remains anywhere in this country. You can get a burial permit from the local registrar's office of births and deaths, and that's where you would file to get the actual burial permit. This needs to be done prior to the actual interment.
What is a "cemetery plot"?
A cemetery plot is a space in a cemetery intended for use for interment of human remains. It can be an in ground burial, it can be a crypt space or it can be a niche used for the interment of ashes.
What is a "grave liner" or "vault"?
A grave liner or a vault is an outer protective container for the casket itself. It also helps stop the ground from sinking when the casket starts to deteriorate. You do need to purchase a grave liner or a vault if the cemetery requires that you do so. There is no law that requires grave liners or vaults, but cemeteries set up rules and regulations for their benefit to prevent things like sinking graves. The outer burial container or the vault helps in stopping that process. You don't want to see that there's a divot in the ground of a cemetery. It may cause the family to think that somebody has actually been removed and that may not be the case. After a normal period of time, decomposition does take place of all the parts that are in the ground, but a grave liner or a vault can conceal this.
How deep does a human body need to be buried?
A human body only needs to be buried at eighteen inches deep from the top of the casket on a single depth burial. A double depth burial requires only 12 inches on top of the casket and that would be where you're burying one person on top of another in a cemetery. The old myth about six feet under is really not true.
What is a "mausoleum"?
A mausoleum is an above-ground structure that's used for the interment of human remains. It protects the casket, and it also can be considered a symbol of stature. Mausoleums do not prevent the body from decaying. In fact, depending on the type of casket that you're in, it could accelerate the actual decomposition process. There are also vents inside mausoleums that let gases escape through the roof so that the decomposition process goes fairly smoothly. The cost of purchasing a mausoleum will cover the actual space itself, the opening and closing of the space, endowment care, and anything else that you may want to do to the space. For example, if you wanted to put a marker up or you wanted to have a flower vase. The cemetery may also have other additional costs that they may require you to pay for a mausoleum.
Does the Funeral Rule apply to cemeteries and mausoleums?
The Funeral Rule does not apply to cemeteries with regard to the actual purchasing of the cemetery plot itself or the mausoleum space. The Funeral Rule is more for the protection of the consumer with regard to funeral goods and services.
What is a "pallbearer"?
A pallbearer is a person who assists in carrying the casket, usually from the chapel where the service is held to the hearse, and then from the hearse to the grave location in the cemetery. You can use your own pallbearers. Most families do tend to use family and friends for their pallbearers. Normally six pallbearers are required to facilitate the removal of the casket. If you don't have people for the purpose of pallbearers, normally the funeral home will provide those for you.
What is a "headstone"?
A headstone is a marker or a monument that's placed on the grave in the cemetery that gives you some idea of who the person was. Several different things can be placed on the headstone: an epitaph, something that was important to them, whether they were a parent or grandparent. A headstone can be used for all sorts of different epitaphs to place on the stone.
Is a headstone required?
Whether a headstone is required is a matter of personal preference. In fact, in some cases, people don't even want a headstone on the grave, because they don't want that to be recognized as where they're actually buried or interred.
Do cemeteries place restrictions on headstones and memorials?
Cemeteries do place restrictions on headstones or memorials in some cases, but others don't. Some cemeteries allow all types of markers. They can be flat stone, bronze, uprights or even monuments that depict something, like a rocket or something that the deceased did during their life. However, some cemeteries do restrict headstones or memorials, and you should ask the cemeteries for their rules and regulations, or guidelines, regarding the headstones that they allow in their cemetery.