Choosing a Cemetery

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If your funeral and memorial service plans involve a burial in a cemetery, one of the hardest decisions to make is where to bury your remains. Once you’re six feet under, there’s no relocating to a nicer neighborhood. In this week’s tip, we’ll discuss what we learned and some of the main options that you might consider when choosing your final resting place.

This was not an issue Kris and I had prearranged before she became sick and died. Neither was it an easy decision when eventually I was forced to choose. In fact, the first time it crossed my mind was when the mortician asked me after Kris has passed away, “What cemetery will she be buried in?” Uhm…

We spent the next 24 – 48 hours touring cemeteries. Strangely, it felt a lot like house hunting. Our “agent”, the mortician, called around to the various cemeteries to arrange a visit with the “seller’s agent”, the cemetery caretakers, who would then show us different plots that were available in their cemetery. We would walk around the plot, check out the view, see who the neighbors would be, talk about the pros and cons of each location, then leave to see the next cemetery.
After visiting five or six locations, we finally settled on the one we wanted. Below are several of the common factors that we considered in our choice.

Location, Location, Location

Location was probably the most important factor for us. I wanted the cemetery to be close to where we live. I knew that I was one that would find comfort in periodic visits to her grave. Not everyone feels that way, however. Katie, for example, feels no connection to Dave’s grave. For her, it’s the resting place of his body, but he and his personality, his charm, his character, and everything else that she loves about him, is not there. So, while she’ll visit the site occasionally if she’s close by, she doesn’t make planned trips to the grave site.

Cost

Cost was certainly a factor. Because we had not pre-purchased plots, we would pay the going rate. We quickly discovered that the rates vary significantly depending on the location, size, maintenance schedule, views, etc. For the plots we looked at, rates were anything from $800 to $10,000 or more. While we didn’t consider it because of its location, one of the biggest and nicest cemeteries in the Portland area has plots that go for as much as $100,000.

Care and Maintenance

Each cemetery has its own care and maintenance plans. Those that are always green and pristine are cared for regularly by staff. Other cemeteries rely on volunteers to do periodic landscaping, which can sometimes leave the area looking a bit haggard when a long time passes between volunteer group service projects. The cemetery we settled on has a combination of both. They conduct basic maintenance duties paid for by membership dues of the owners (the families of the deceased), but also rely on the members and other volunteer groups to periodically do the deep cleaning of the cemetery. This was especially appealing to us because we knew that the cemetery would never look too jungle-y, but it also provided church, youth, and civic groups, of which we were active, to help clean. It’s been fun to be up there cleaning with a fellow parishioner from church and have them discover our headstone, “Hey, it’s Kris and Corey!”

Other Family

When a family has established roots in an area for many years and generations, oftentimes people will be interred in the same cemetery as parents, grandparents, and other family members. Much of my father’s family grew up in Victor, Idaho, a small town in the Teton Valley and many family members are buried in its cemetery. My dad’s parents relocated to Oregon, but when my grandmother died, they sent her body back to Victor for the burial service.

Ambiance

Another location factor for us was the ambiance of the surrounding area. We dismissed one cemetery because it butts up to a nearby highway and visitors would constantly hear the traffic. Another was in a beautiful location with a fantastic view, but there was a home development happening nearby. On the day we visited you could hear the hammers and saws working away. It made me wonder if in five to ten years the cemetery would be surrounded by homes with the gorgeous views blocked.

Selecting a location can be a hard decision, especially if you have a lot of people voicing their opinions. The place we settled on for Kris was a cemetery we didn’t even know existed until a friend mentioned it. Her timing was impeccable because we’d already seen the others and didn’t feel enthused about any of them. But when we visited Pleasant View Cemetery, we immediately fell in love with it. It had the right combination of being close to home, a nice view, a decent maintenance plan, and it came at a price with which we were comfortable.

If you need further assistance or guidance, contact Prepare Your Affairs at peaceofmind@affairsinorder.com.

ACTION ITEM:

  • If you have not settled on where you’d like to be buried, talk with your family about it and begin to go see some of the different available options.
  • Talk to the cemetery about pre-purchasing a plan that would allow you to secure a desired spot at today’s prices, potentially saving you thousands of dollars when you do finally die.
Prepare Your Affairs Founders

ABOUT OUR FOUNDERS

Corey and Katie entered widowhood in 2016 after losing spouses to cancer.  They met and connected in a widow/widower support group and later married.  One of the principles they learned from their own experiences and those of other surviving spouses is that the more prepared a surviving spouse is on a financial, legal, emotional, and practical level, the better they will adjust to widowhood.  They will maintain their independence and control of their assets and be freer to properly grieve and move forward in life.  Conversely, those who are not prepared are more likely to have their lives flipped upside down.  They may need to move and uproot kids because they can't afford the mortgage, rely on family or other charities to financially support them, and/or change jobs to allow them to better serve as a single parent.  We hope to share what we've learned and help other families properly get their affairs in order and be prepared with confidence, peace of mind, and in control of their assets.