What You Need to Know
Complaints registered by someone other than the affected lot owner may not be investigated unless implications are such that they impact on a lot owner(s).
The Division of Cemeteries oversees ONLY not-for-profit cemetery corporations in New York State. For the most part these are public, nonsectarian cemetery associations, governed and operated by lot owners themselves through their votes at annual meetings. The Division of Cemeteries does not have jurisdiction over religious, municipal, national, or family/private cemeteries.
Complaints regarding those cemeteries should be addressed as follows:
— Religious Cemetery Corporations: to the respective church, synagogue, diocese or other religious organization
— Municipal Cemeteries: to the municipality (city, town, or village)
— National Cemeteries: to the U.S. Veterans Administration, Department of Memorial Affairs, Washington, D.C. 20420
— Family/Private Cemeteries: to the owner of the land upon which the cemetery lies, or the town in which the cemetery is located.
Call any Division of Cemeteries office if you have questions about the status of a particular cemetery (see “Cemetery Complaint” form for telephone numbers). Although investigators are prepared to answer questions about the latter four categories of cemeteries, the Division of Cemeteries is not empowered to initiate investigations in those areas.
Types of care provided by cemeteries. Most lot owner complaints involve insufficient care which, in and of itself, is not a violation of the law.
Permanent Maintenance Funds. Not-for-profit cemetery corporations are required by law to deposit a minimum of ten percent of the gross purchase price of a lot or crypt/niche into a fund called the Permanent Maintenance Fund. This fund is designed to provide income for the general care and maintenance of the entire cemetery. Only the interest generated by the fund may be used — not the principal! Sometimes a cemetery’s financial statement reflects an appearance of great wealth when, in fact, most of the monies may not be used, according to law.
Many factors affect the amount of money allowed to maintain cemeteries. While interest rates remain virtually unchanged, cemetery expenses — salaries, equipment and supplies, not to mention unforeseeable accidents and law suits — usually increase, thereby reducing the amount available for care. To offset this difference, cemeteries often try to increase their principal by aggressively selling more lots or increasing service charges.
When cemeteries run out of lots to sell, they may rely upon donations or, at the extreme, relinquish the land and assets to the local municipality, whose taxpayers then assume the burden of support.
Perpetual Care Fund. Perpetual care should not be confused with permanent maintenance. Perpetual care is an amount of money held by a cemetery as an endowment for a specific lot, crypt, mausoleum or niche. Again, the endowment principal may never be used; only the interest earned by the original endowment may be used (for a specific purpose). Because of increased costs, the interest earned by a Perpetual Care Fund may not be sufficient to provide the same quality of care as when it was first established. For this reason, an addition to the endowment may be requested, or less care provided.