After our post about double depth burials, we received calls from concerned customers. People asked, “what size should my burial space be?” and “we bought this burial space years ago and now there are new burials everywhere, how can I make sure that someone will be able to fit in the space that we bought?” Most bought pre-need burial spaces and were worried that the spaces looked too small to fit a burial container. So, for our the next blog installment about cemetery negligence, we will discuss burial containers and grave spaces.
A burial space should be big enough to fit a standard burial container, or burial vault. A standard burial container is between 72 inches and 90 inches long (or 6 – 7.5 feet) and between 30 inches and 34 inches wide (or 2.5 – 3 feet). To fit a standard burial container, the width of the burial space should be at least 36 inches (or 3 feet). The length of the burial space should be at least 78 inches (or 6.5 feet). This allows for room on every side of the burial container, to avoid touching any nearby vault. For example, Trigard (a reputable burial vault manufacturer) sells adult burial containers between 30-34 inches wide and 86-90 inches long.
Although there are regulations about minimum burial depth, there is no law or regulation in Pennsylvania about minimum burial space length or width. Also, some for-profit cemeteries try to squeeze as many burials into any one section or row as possible. As a result, it may look like graves or headstones are too close together to fit a burial between them. This scares family members into thinking that a loved one might not be able to be buried in their intended burial space or next to their other family members. Before panicking, try these few steps:
Although unlikely, maybe you are in the wrong place. Go to the cemetery office and ask to see a map of your section, lot, and grave. Every good cemetery should keep detailed maps of every section, lot, and burial space. You own the space so they should be willing to provide you with the information. If you ask to see a map and the cemetery refuses, ask to speak to a manager. A manager refusing to let you see a cemetery map is a red flag. Make sure you get the manager’s contact information and follow up in writing asking to see a map.
Although headstones are not always a good indicator of what is below the ground, you can measure the space between headstones to see if a grave will fit. As long as the burial space is at least 36 inches (or 3 feet) wide and at least 78 inches (or 6.5 feet) long, unless you have a very large family member, they should fit. If the width between headstones is less than 36 inches, or the length between headstones is less than 78 inches, that may also be a red flag.
Some cemeteries are very large with many similar-looking areas. If are sure that you are in the right place, but the space measures to be too small, ask a cemetery employee to take you out to the burial space and confirm. Sometimes the explanation may simply be that the headstones are shifted too far to one side. Again, headstones are not a perfect indicator of what is underground. However, if the cemetery employee seems evasive or refuses to answer, follow up with an email. Ask them to confirm, in writing, that the space will fit a standard burial container.
If you still think that the burial space is too small, or the cemetery is evasive, you can ask that the cemetery probe the burial space and measure the dimensions under ground. Probing a burial space involves taking a long rod (6 feet) and inserting it into the ground on the edges of your burial space.
If the rod can be probed into the ground to a depth of 6 feet around the perimeter of your burial space, without obstruction, the burial container should fit. If the rod hits something before it gets to a depth of 6 feet, that means there is an obstruction. The cemetery will usually probe and then place flags at the outside perimeter of a burial space. If the cemetery is unable to probe a rectangular burial space big enough to fit a container, you may have a problem. Again, document everything in writing. If you can, take pictures.
If you tired everything described above and the cemetery refused to cooperate or there were too many red flags, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer. The lawyers at Kaminsky Law have many years of experience dealing with cemeteries, cemetery negligence, and burial issues. You can either fill out a form on our Contact Us page or call our hotline at (215) 876-0800 for a free consultation.
We are available to review your situation, answer questions, and help you resolve your cemetery dispute!
Kaminsky Law is a small business-oriented litigation Law firm licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey with cost-effective approach to lawsuits, settlements, and dispute resolution.