When you die, where would you like your final resting place to be? With your partner? With your children? With your parents?
Your answer to these questions may change based on your age and life stage. And if you’re like many other Canadians, chances are you may not have made your mind up yet (though I recommend taking the time to think about it and starting a conversation sooner, rather than later).
As a funeral director, I’ve worked with hundreds of families to make big decisions about their end-of-life plans, including their final resting place. And because lives can change - as can a family’s composition - I encourage my clients to reflect on their wishes every five years or so, to ensure plans are up-to-date.
If you read my initial questions and thought, “I’d really like to be laid to rest with my family,” you might be aware that in many cemeteries, there is an option to be buried in a family lot (or what some might refer to as a ‘family plot’). There are some key details to keep in mind when considering a family lot, so keep reading to find out more.
What is a Family Lot?
If you decide you’d like to be laid to rest in a cemetery, there are a variety of options available. For instance, single plots are the most common and contain one person. Partner plots are two plots that are sold together, either side-by-side or one on top of the other - what is referred to as “double depth”. This is a popular selection for couples who wish to be buried together.
Another option is a family lot or estate, which can include two, four or even eight individual burial spaces. While tastes and preferences have shifted in recent years, just a few generations ago, family lots were the norm. This is primarily because children didn’t necessarily venture too far from home once they reached adulthood - and, the majority of families were traditionally buried.
In addition to family lots, some families also choose mausoleum entombment or multiple niches - so there are options for family members who prefer a traditional burial and those who may wish to be cremated.
Who Gets to be Buried in a Family Lot?
Over the years I’ve heard many questions arise from families and friends who are curious about a family lot. For example - who gets to be buried in a family lot? And, who is responsible for deciding this? What if your parents bought a family plot, but now you want your children included, too?
Typically, if you want to be buried in a family lot, you simply require written permission from the original lot owner. This is something that can be planned well ahead of time.
But, if the original lot owner is deceased, the ownership of the lot doesn’t automatically transfer down to the lot owner’s children. In that case, the lot owner’s executor can either authorize burials, or the executor can transfer ownership of the lot to the children or other immediate family members, who can then authorize the burials.
Generally, this is kept within the immediate family, as only immediate family members of the original lot owner many apply for interment authorization.
If there is no will, the surviving children and/or their families may be buried in the family lot, as long as they obtain written permission from all living children of the original lot owners. As well, many cemeteries may request sworn affidavits from surviving family members who may wish to use the family lot. This helps to avoid family disagreements down the line, which may happen if there isn’t a conversation ahead of time.
The moral of the story? Make sure you are clear on who the lot owner is - and have a conversation about your wishes as soon as possible.
What if You Change Your Mind?
Say your parents wanted you to be buried with them in a family lot. But you might find yourself at a crossroads between family tradition and your personal preference.
Legally in Canada you can sell your interment rights, so, should you wish for a different final resting place, you can make new arrangements that suit your current lifestyle.
These days, many Canadians are moving farther away, living longer and breaking the nuclear family mold. This reinforces the need to review and update your end-of-life plans every five-to-ten years or so, or when major life events happen.
If you still aren’t sure, or if you have any questions about family lots, ask your choice funeral home and/or cemetery for a clear run-down of what needs to be happen to ensure your final wishes are honoured.