Friday, January 25, 2008

Estate Planning: Inheriting cemetery plots

Indiana law declares how one inherits a funeral plot.

Generally, the buyer owns what they purchase ("...the burial rights in a lot, plot, burial space, crypt, or niche...") with two exceptions. First, the buyer has "more than one (1) interment, entombment, or inurnment space" and has have a spouse at the time of purchase. See IC 23-14-39-2 and IC 23-14-39-3. The spouse loses this right upon divorce unless the decree of dissolution provides otherwise. In twenty years of practicing law, funeral plots never figured into any of my divorces.

Where more than one person purchases burial rights together, the law presumes they have a joint tenancy (a tenancy by the entirety for married persons)with rights of survivorship. Note this: the law does not change if the person purchasing the burial rights are of the same sex. By creating a joint tenancy with right of survivorship, these burial rights pass to the survivor without need of probate. See IC 23-14-40.

If the owner has no wife or joint tenant, the owner can pass through the owner's probate estate (whether dying with or without a Will). The statute has several exceptions making quotation of the statute easier than paraphrasing:

IC 23-14-42-4 Upon the death of the record owner of the burial rights in a burial plot, the burial rights pass as part of the estate of the owner if:
(1) the record owner did not dispose of the burial rights by:
(A) a specific devise in the last will and testament of the record owner; or
(B) a written designation or transfer of ownership recorded with the cemetery under section 2 or 3 of this chapter;
(2) the burial rights have not become vested in another individual under IC 23-14-39 or IC 23-14-40;
(3) the burial plot does not become a family burial plot under IC 23-14-41 before the instrument referred to in subdivision (4) is recorded with the cemetery; and
(4) an instrument that:
(A) is prepared in accordance with IC 29-1; and
(B) documents the person or persons entitled to become the new record owner or owners of the burial plot and to receive the burial rights as part of the deceased record owner's estate;
is recorded with the cemetery.
Bottom line: another person can inherit burial rights either as joint tenant or through a probate transfer.