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:
Call any Division of Cemeteries office if you have questions about the status of a particular
— Religious Cemetery Corporations: to the respective church, synagogue, diocese or other
— 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.
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.