Since 30th October 2023, Halton Council have made a major change to how they arrange the transfer of ownership of graves. They will now be requiring a Statutory Declaration for grave transfers if the owner is deceased.
This change protects the interests of the local authority and grave owners and also ensures that the graves are transferred to the rightful person. It will, however, cause some inevitable hold-ups in arranging burials a transfer of ownership is required.
Any burial or work on a memorial in Halton cemeteries must now be signed for by the grave owner. In circumstances where the owner is deceased, the grave will need to be transferred to the rightful next owner. If the grave owner did not specify in their will who should inherit the grave, this is where the Statutory Declaration comes in.
Whoever is claiming the grave should, preferably using a solicitor, draw up a document containing the the deceased’s full name, date of death, grave location, their own full name, address and date of birth, as well as their relationship to the deceased. The document should also contain an Undertaking indemnifying Halton Council against all actions, proceedings, demands, costs or expenses of any nature (including the exhumation of any burial) should it be subsequently proven that the claim to ownership of the grave was unfounded. Putting it simply, if you make a false statement to claim grave ownership, the council will be suing you for expenses later on.
If there is a situation where several generations have passed since the grave owner passed away, then there could be several claimants to the plot. In there circumstances, written statements from those who could claim ownership consenting to you taking it over will be required.
Previously Halton Council have used forms of indemnity for transfer of grave ownership. However they do not carry the same legal weight as a Statutory Declaration, which is a legally binding document. As such it will need to be signed in the presence of an authorised court official, a commissioner for oaths, a magistrate or solicitor. The council will be able to arrange this, but they are asking for patience with the new process.
Burying a loved one is a distressing time and this is an additional pressure, but it is something that has to be done for the protection of all interests moving forward. It also provides an extra layer of assurance for Sarsfield Memorials, as we also will not undertake any work on a memorial unless we see proof of grave ownership.