Buying a Burial Plot

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

Last updated: 28 October 2019

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 cemetery, or other type of burial ground, 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 for sale, but are leased for a set period of time. During the lease memorials, such as a headstone, are usually erected above a grave to mark a burial plot.

What is Exclusive Right of Burial?

Exclusive Right of Burial is the name for the lease of a burial plot or cremation plot in a cemetery or garden of remembrance 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 generally between 50 and 100 years, but can be shorter. After this period has ended the lease can be renewed by the grave-owner for a fee. Where 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, sometimes called a natural burial plot, is situated in an area of land reserved for green burials called a natural 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 depends on the cemetery, location within it and type of plot. A standard, single-depth burial could cost anything from a few hundred pounds (in rural areas) to thousands of pounds in major cities, such as London. You can find more information on costs in our guide to burial.

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, however, does vary between natural burial grounds. The cost of a burial plot usually covers three elements: Exclusive Right of Burial–sometimes called Grave Deeds, or Right of Burial Interment Digging the grave Other costs to factor in 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.

Many natural burial grounds only permit small, environmentally-friendly markers, such as wooden plaques, and others do not permit any kind of memorial markers.

Who can you buy a burial plot from?

You usually do not buy a burial plot directly from a cemetery-owner, but arrange it via your funeral director. The cost of a burial plot is mostly 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.

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.