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Who Owns the Burial Plots

One of the questions that comes up frequently when someone dies is who owns the remaining burial plots.

A typical question is: Grandpa gave the deeds to our family burial plots to my Aunt. After my Aunt passed away, my older sister had the deeds in her possession. When my Uncle passed away, they buried him in the family burial plots. My Uncle’s wife is trying to claim all of the remaining burial plots as being hers. Who do they belong to?

Most people and many lawyers too would think the burial plots are the same as other property and under probate, ownership will pass by the Last Will & Testament or under Maryland intestate law. But that’s not what happens.

The Business Regulation Article of the Maryland Code §5-503 controls. It provides first that the interest of an owner of a burial lot or crypt that is held for the burial of the owner or others and not held as an investment is not: (1) considered property; (2) subject to attachment or execution for debt; (3) subject to the insolvency laws of the State; (4) to be inventoried in the estate of the owner; or (5) subject to inheritance taxes.

It’s not property and not part of the estate; so, what is it?

The statute goes on to provide that the first thing to look at is the rules of the cemetery owner and to the terms of any contract made with the cemetery owner. If that doesn’t provide the answer, then we look to the Will, if any, to see if it disposes of the plots. If not, then the statute provides that the plots pass to the heirs of the owner, as defined in §1-101 of the Estates and Trusts Article.

Should you need any help with probate or estate planning, please give us a call at 410-535-5500.

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