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How to Choose a Cemetery

Choosing a cemetery is an important decision. Some features to consider are obvious and some are not so obvious. A cemetery purchase is a very, very long term investment and consumers make their choices around many features, like any other major life purchase. What follows are a handful of cemetery features that the define the potential character of many cemeteries and we make some comments about the pros and cons of those features and the cemetery character created therefrom.


Location

Is the convenience of location a comfort and a need for you? For many people it is, but for some and in light of our mobile community and lifestyles, its not as important as some other features. For some people, a little more travel time may be worth the harmony they feel if a cemetery a little farther down the path reflects the values they find of comfort or inspiration.



Regulated Status

In California, all private cemeteries are regulated by the Department of Consumer Affairs and must operate according to laws adopted by the State of California. One of the key provisions of the law, is the requirement that private cemeteries create and maintain an Endowment Care Fund for which the earnings of the Fund are dedicated to the maintenance and/or embellishment of the cemetery. Many religious cemeteries and municipal cemeteries are exempt from this requirement and are exempt from other requirements of California codes as well.



Endowment Care Fund

If you are concerned about the cemetery’s long term ability to maintain its grounds and operations, you may want to inquire about its Endowment Care Fund. A fair and appropriate question to ask is, “What is the value of your Endowment Care Fund and how much money do you deposit in the Fund for each square foot of burial space you sell?” Some private cemeteries deposit the minimum, some more and many religious or municipal cemeteries do not fund an endowment restricted to cemetery maintenance at all.



Profit Status and Not-For-Profit Status

Essentially, cemeteries may be religious not-for-profit organizations, for-profit organization, not-for-profit 501©13 organization or municipal or other government funded organizations. If whether the cemetery profits are reinvested in the cemetery or distributed to shareholders or other affiliates of the organization, is an appropriate question to ask. You may like it that the funds are distributed to support other purposes of the organization or you may prefer the funds are reinvested in the cemetery itself.



The Cemetery

There is no substitute for visiting and touring a cemetery. How does it make you feel as a place to walk, to visit with friends and family and to reflect? Is it quiet? Does it feel safe and maintained? Is it next to a busy road? Does it include upright monuments or is it a flat monument park? Does it include gardens and paths or is it more functional? These are purely subjective feelings for which there is no right answer. You may prefer a site near a busy road because it makes convenient sense for you. You may prefer a view of a garden and a soft path to get there because the walk helps you commune with the purpose of your visit. Take time to get out of your car and walk the grounds a bit to see how the cemetery feels to you.



Public Events and Education

Does the cemetery reach out to and support the community with public activities on a regular basis? On a holiday basis? Is that important to you? Does the cemetery promote its local history and does it support local community activities? Would this make you feel good or feel like a distraction to you? It is your choice.



Philosophy

How well does the cemetery reflect your philosophy? For some, religious affiliation is more intangible than not and a cemetery for all denominations may be compatible with their values. For some, religious affiliation is paramount and so it simply would not feel good to choose to a cemetery outside of faith. For some, the philosophy may be reflected in the degree of personal expression present and for some the comfort of uniformity may be attractive.


We encourage you, when visiting any cemetery, to think about how if makes you feel. Good, bad or indifferent. We also encourage you to ask about its Endowment Care Fund, since we believe such a fund is vital to long term cemetery care. If you have any questions, of course, please feel free to contact us. If important to you, you may want to inquire about whether a funeral home is locally owned and operated or whether it is owned by a large for profit corporation. It is not easily discerned without asking funeral home staff.

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