When it comes to interment, we understand you have plenty of questions so let's jump right in.
What is a ‘right of interment’?
We’re so glad you asked. A ‘right of interment’ is given when you purchase a grave or cremation memorial. It gives you the ‘right’ to use that cemetery plot for burial or cremated remains.
If I’ve purchased the grave or memorial, do I have the ‘right of interment’?
Not necessarily, although this is up to you to decide on.
When you purchase a grave or memorial site, you’ll be given a certificate that records the details of the plot and the owner of the right of interment for that plot. This owner isn’t necessarily you – you can nominate someone (or multiple people) to be the owner(s) of that right, giving them the power to authorise burial or the establishment of a memorial.
What if the owner of the ‘right of interment’ has passed away?
For older graves, it isn’t entirely unusual for the holder of the right to no longer be around. If this is the case, it can be difficult to determine who can authorise burial or memorial creation.
If you aren’t sure who holds the right of interment for a deceased loved one, it’s important you seek legal advice. This information can, at times, be housed in the deceased’s Will. But sometimes it can be a little more complicated than that.
What happens if multiple people hold the ‘right of interment’?
As is the case with most of life’s shared assets and responsibilities, no decision can be made on burial or memorial without the other(s) agreeing.
But what if I can’t find the person who is sharing the ‘right of interment’ with me?
If you hold the right alongside another individual and you can’t find them, you’ll need to provide evidence that you’ve tried everything in your power to contact and/or locate them, to no avail. This is called a ‘diligent enquiry’, and this can include:
- Attempting to contact the other person (or people) via their contact details in phone books or online.
- Placing an advertisement in a local newspaper that they (or someone they know) is likely to read.
How long does a ‘right of interment’ last?
The answer is different for a grave vs. a memorial.
The ‘right of interment’ lasts forever. It’s as simple as that. Once you’ve bought it, it’s yours.
However, if the grave hasn’t been used after 25 years and the person who holds the right can’t be contacted via diligent enquiries, then your spot might need to be reclaimed to fit the needs of the community (say, if the site is needed for someone else). This is an unlikely occurrence, but if it does happen, it’ll mean that the right of interment will be transferred to a different grave of higher or comparable value.
The ‘right of interment’ can be purchased for 25 years, or in perpetuity.
If you’ve chosen a memorial site for the 25-year period, you’ll have the option to renew the memorial when the time comes. Alternatively, you can choose to scatter the ashes in the ground instead when the 25-year mark comes around. If the person who holds the right cannot be contacted at this time via diligent enquiries, the ashes can be scattered on your behalf in accordance with Australian Law.
What responsibilities are given to a ‘right of interment’ holder?
There are a few obligations that’ll be handed over to you, if you’re a ‘right’ holder:
- You’ll have the right to authorise the interment of human remains in the place of interment (ie. The grave or memorial site).
- You’ll have the right to decide if a monument or memorial can be erected on the site.
- You’ll have an obligation to maintain a monument (if relevant), and the right to object to the exhumation of remains from the site.
- You’ll have the right to transfer the right of interment to another party, as well as the right to add someone else into the mix (so that you both share the right, together).
I hold a ‘right of interment’. Is there anything else that’s important for me to know?
Yes. The most important thing you can do as a right of interment holder is to keep your address and contact details up to date. This means you’ll always be able to make decisions in your (and your loved one’s) best interests.
It’s also worth noting that you can choose to transfer your ‘right’ to another person. We’d recommend speaking to a lawyer if this sounds like something you’d like to do, as there are a range of important forms you’ll need to fill out.
Keen to learn more about different types of burial plots? Read our guide here.