Family Grave Ownership is Not Automatic

Over the Christmas period a story appeared in the national newspapers concerning Liverpool born actress Kim Cattrall’s name appearing on a family headstone in a churchyard in the city. Other family members were not happy about it and the situation demonstrates how grave ownership and right of burial should not assumed to be an automatic right.

Before a grave is opened for burial of a body or interment of cremated remains, written permission must be sought from the owner unless it is the owner who has died. The same applies to repair work on the headstone and adding of inscriptions, but the rules do differ between council run cemeteries, private cemeteries and churchyards.

When the owner of a grave dies, then a new owner must be registered before any more burials can take place there or work done on the headstone.  This is known as a transfer of ownership and for council run cemeteries the rules differ between local authorities. For example in Liverpool the deed will transfer automatically to the person who arranges the burial of the owner, even if they are not a relative.

Some other local authorities however will not transfer grave ownership unless it is stated in a will, or if there is family agreement. In these situations  for example, if a grave owner dies leaving four children, the one who applies for transfer of ownership must have the written consent of the others. If a dispute arises within the family, then this can only be resolved by the members themselves otherwise they will need to seek the help of a solicitor.

Your local cemetery office can advise on whether you have a right to claim grave ownership in line with their regulations and assist with the transfer of ownership, for which some cemeteries will charge a fee. If you are looking to erect a new headstone or repair a damaged one on a family grave, then at Sarsfield Memorials we will be happy to assist you in establishing your rights.

Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss the situation, but please be aware that we will NEVER carry out work on any grave without the written permission of the legally registered owner.