Goblins and ghosts. Eerie graveyard scenes. With Halloween coming, cemeteries always take on some added interest. New Jersey cemeteries are governed by the “New Jersey Cemetery Act, 2003.” N.J.S.A. 45:27-1 et seq. Under the Act, a cemetery is defined as “any land or place used or dedicated for use for burial of human remains or disposition of cremated human remains….” N.J.S.A. 45:27-2.
General supervision and regulation of all cemetery companies and their property, equipment and facilities is exercised by a 10 member New Jersey Cemetery Board. N.J.S.A. 45:27-1 While many historical cemeteries exist in New Jersey, any cemetery established after December 1, 1971 must be owned and operated only by a governmental entity, religious organization or a cemetery company organized in accordance with the New Jersey Cemetery Act. N.J.S.A. 45:27-6. Those cemetery companies organized after December 1, 1971 must be nonprofit corporations N.J.S.A. 27-7(a).
Before selling grave sites, cemetery companies are required to survey or map out that part of the cemetery where graves exist, showing the location of the graves with roadways, paths and building areas as the cemetery company directs. N.J.S.A. 45:27-16(b). The map shall be kept at the cemetery’s office and made available for inspection by owners of the interment spaces. N.J.S.A. 45:27-17 (b) & (c).
The Cemetery Act also requires a cemetery company to keep records of the owner of each interment space that has been conveyed by the company and each transfer of an interment space to which the company has consented. A transfer of an interment space is not complete until it is recorded on the books of the cemetery company and any required fees paid. N.J.S.A. 45:27-19(b).
The conveyance document for the interment space shall include the actual amount paid for the space, a description of the space sufficient to indentify it, the dimensions of the space and any other information that may be required by the New Jersey Cemetery Board. N.J.S.A. 45:27-19(c).
Conveyances issued by a cemetery company shall indicate whether the company is transferring title to the interment space or only a right to burial in the space. N.J.S.A. 45:27-28(a). Subject to certain restrictions, the owner of an interment space has the right to transfer that space, or an interest in that space, to any person. The transfer shall be effective on recordation by the cemetery company of the transfer. N.J.S.A. 45:27-28(b).
Once human remains have been buried in a grave or crypt, transfer of title can be made by the owner by will, if specifically identified in the will; otherwise, title will pass first to the surviving spouse and the owner’s children, if any, per stripes, as equal tenants in common. N.J.S.A. 45:27-28 (c)(1)(a). If an owner leaves a surviving spouse, and has children from a prior marriage or relationship, then those children and the surviving spouse shall be owners of the grave or crypt as tenants in common. N.J.S.A. 45:27-28(f).
Transfer of ownership of an existing grave or crypt containing human remains can also be made to an existing co-owner or to an heir at law of the person buried in the space. N.J.S.A. 45:27-28(c)(2) & (3).
When there are two or more owners of an interment space, each owner’s interest may only be transferred by that owner or such owner’s authorized representative. N.J.S.A. 45:27-29(a)(1). Co-owners may also designate one or more of the co-owners to represent them by filing a written notice of such designation with the cemetery company. N.J.S.A. 45:27-29(b). In such event, the cemetery company shall follow the direction of the representative as to interment in the space. If no such representative is designated, the cemetery company may rely on the direction of any of the co-owners of the space.
Title to cemetery plots is not such a scary topic, so don’t be spooked by the subject!