When two people marry, they do so under the assumption they will spend the rest of their lives together. They also want to spend eternity together, so they purchase side-by-side burial plots to make that possible.
When the dream of being together forever ends in divorce, a couple with their attorneys begin the arduous task of dividing up property. That work gets considerably harder the longer the couple is married.
Couples who have been married longer are more likely to have purchased burial plots and arrangements in anticipation of being buried beside each other.
Burial plots are assets, just like vehicles or money in the bank. As marital property, burial plots are subject to New York’s equitable distribution laws. This may be a small financial asset but can carry a weighty emotional burden.
Increasing Number of Divorces Decrees Include Burial Plots
Attorneys are seeing a growing need to educate clients about burial plots. The reason for this trend is that more older couples are choosing to divorce. The pandemic, if anything, has increased the rate of what has been dubbed “gray divorce.”
People are seeing their time on the planet as precious and some are choosing to change their lives, and sometimes their partners. Among those 65 and older, the divorce rate has tripled in the last 20 years. The divorce rate among 25- to 39-year-olds dropped has by 21% (though more divorces still happen in this age group).
Options for Dealing with Burial Plots
Couples who buy burial plots often put the plots in both names as joint tenants. When one spouse dies, the other becomes the sole owner. Unless and until one spouse gives up their right to the plot, the divorced couple will continue to share ownership rights.
There are three basic options for handling burial plots in a divorce:
- Sell/Buy the Plot from the Other Spouse. One spouse can purchase the plot of the other. This option allows the owner to use the plot if they remarry. Burial plots are a form of real estate and as the cemetery becomes full, price tends to increase. Remember this when negotiating over price.
- Sell the Plot Back to the Cemetery. If one spouse doesn’t want the plot, the couple can sell both plots back to the cemetery owner and split the proceeds. While some states allow for all plots to be sold to third parties, New York requires that plots be sold or transferred by the cemetery that houses the plots. An exception is a cemetery owned by a religious institution. Sales to a third party are legal in these circumstances.
- Both Spouses Keep the Plots. Some couples, especially those married for a long time and have children, choose to keep the plots for themselves despite the divorce. This way, children have one location to visit and pay their respects to their parents.
Divorce decrees must specify who owns the burial plots, including the location, section, and lot. If not, the entire family may have to agree whether a previous spouse can be interned in the plot.
Guidance on the Intricacies of Divorce Decrees
Divorce is complicated. The longer a couple is married and the more assets they have will increase the complexity. At the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, we have the experience and knowledge you need for sound legal advice and direction in your divorce.
We are here to ask the questions that must be answered and to help our clients consider all the ramifications of their decisions. Our process is transparent. We approach each case with determination to help our clients reach a favorable outcome while never forgetting the deep emotions involved.
Schedule a free one-on-one consultation with a member of our legal team. We’ll listen and offer potential next steps. Contact us online or call (845) 605-4330.