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Buying a Burial Plot

A guide to buying a burial plot in a UK cemetery, or a woodland burial plot in a natural burial ground. Information on the cost of burial plots and Exclusive Right of Burial.

Last updated: 24 May 2022

burial spot in a graveyard

Image by Mary Bettini Blank from Pixabay

What is a burial plot?

A burial plot is an area of land in a burial ground, such as a cemetery, where the grave of a person who has died is located. Burial plots can be for individuals or multiple people, such as a couple or family. Burial plots are generally not actually sold, but are leased for a set period of time. During the lease memorials such as headstones are usually erected above a grave.

What is Exclusive Right of Burial?

Exclusive Right of Burial is the name for the lease of a burial plot for a set period of time. Nobody else can be buried in the plot for the duration of the period covered by the lease, but it will eventually expire.

What period of time is covered by Exclusive Right of Burial?

The typical period of time covered by Exclusive Right of Burial is between 50 and 100 years, although it can be shorter. After this period has ended the lease can be renewed by the grave-owner for a fee. When an Exclusive Right of Burial has expired, the cemetery-owner will try to contact any next of kin or descendants before digging a new grave in the burial plot.

What is a woodland burial plot?

A woodland burial plot, also called a natural burial plot, is a burial plot in an area of land reserved for green burials, called a natural burial ground, green burial ground, or woodland burial ground. Interment in a woodland burial plot is usually only permitted if it meets certain conditions, such as the use of eco-friendly coffins.

What is the cost of a burial plot?

The cost of a burial plot varies hugely throughout the UK. A standard, single-depth burial could cost anything from a few hundred pounds (in rural areas) to over ten-thousand pounds in London. You can find more information on costs in our guide to burial costs. The cost of a burial plot usually covers three elements:

  1. Exclusive Right of Burial
  2. Interment
  3. Digging the grave

Other costs can include buying a headstone or plaque to mark the grave, and having it erected by a memorial mason approved by the cemetery. Most cemeteries only permit masons especially approved by them to erect memorials in their grounds. A woodland burial plot is usually less expensive than a traditional burial plot in a cemetery, and the rights to it usually include permanent ownership. The cost of a woodland burial plot does vary between natural burial grounds, and many natural burial grounds only permit small, environmentally-friendly markers, such as wooden plaques. Others do not permit any kind of memorial markers, particularly if the burial ground is in a woodland.

Who do you buy a burial plot from?

You usually do not buy or lease a burial plot directly from a cemetery-owner, but arrange it via your funeral director. The cost of a burial plot is a third-party fee that’s added to the total bill when you arrange a funeral. The cost of Exclusive Right of Burial in a burial plot is often not covered by a funeral plan, because the prices can change regularly. You can also get in touch with a cemetery directly to find out more about the process.

What happens when an Exclusive Right of Burial expires?

When an Exclusive Right of Burial expires the grave owner may have to prove that they have the rights to the plot by providing documentation, such as death certificates, birth certificates and wills or deeds of grants over the grave. If families are unclear on who is the grave-owner for a burial plot containing a relative, they might need to agree who will have responsibility for it.

In cemeteries where there is high demand for burial plots, 'new’ graves may be a plot that someone else was originally buried in. This usually happens when there has been no new burial in the grave for 75 years or more. As the coffin will have decayed by this point a new grave can be dug above the original one, and any remains buried below the new grave.

You can find information on the duration of Exclusive Right of Burial, and the processes and fees for renewing it from the cemetery owner, such as a local council's website, or by talking to a funeral director who will have an expert knowledge.

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