The Internet has provided consumer advocates a valuable platform for educating the public with ‘how to’ death care information. But, for the most part, that ‘how to’ information has been confined to the funeral half of the equation. A recent Mother Earth News article provided a detailed description of the issues faced by the author when attempting to arrange a private burial. The issue resurfaced for this author twice during the past few weeks. The most recent situation involved a funeral director attempting to accommodate a family that sought to bury a family member on their own land.

While there may be various state laws that impact the private burial, the most restrictive laws tend to be local in nature. The Mother Earth News article suggests that a private burial will be easier to accommodate in a rural area than a town or city. The realities are that private burials within any municipality will be difficult, if not impossible. City ordinances or codes often prohibit the burial of dead without a special use permit. Obtaining one often requires zoning approvals, which can be very expensive. The smallest cemetery for which I obtained such approval was for a prominent community leader and his wife. The fact this client owned the community’s beloved sports franchise no doubt helped in the zoning commission’s decision to grant the requisite permit.

Websites such as eHow provide an overly simplified explanation for starting a family cemetery. As websites from England suggest, a family must consider the impact of a private burial on the future use and transfer of their property. When future family members have more pressing needs for that property, a private burial may not be the final resting ground that was intended. Such was the fate for my smallest cemetery client.