We were pleased to welcome Julie Dunk to Scribe Academy™ today, she is Chief Executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM).
Julie joined us to help provide ten top tips to ensure legal compliance when managing a Cemetery.
With over 25 years of experience in local authority and private sector cemeteries and crematoria, she shared some of this experience with 62 attendees on Zoom and also the Scribe team!
🔗 Key Resources
- ICCM Website
- Essential Law For Cemetery and Crematorium Managers
- Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977
- Essential Law For Cemetery and Crematorium Managers
- Shallow Depth Graves Policy
- Form 18 - disposal certificate at the time of burial.
Video is available for playback here:
💡 Top Ten tips
Here are her top 10 tips, to find out all the details and watch the video for each tip read on.
📗 1 - Recommended reading
👩⚖️ 2 - Local Authorities Cemetery Order 1977
🗺️ 3 - Cemetery Map
📋 4 - Registers
⚖️ 5 - Rights of Burial
🧠 6 - Understanding rights of Burial
🕵️ 7 - Inspection Registers
⛏️ 8 - Shallow Graves
🧾 9 - Green Form/ Coroners Certificate
⚰️ 10 -Disturbance of Human remains
To kick off we asked the question ‘What would be your perfect ending (to your life!)?’
This produced some unusual answers!
- Drown in a bath of Chocolate
- Wiped out by a big wave while surfing
- Drunk and Asleep
- Ashes in a firework!
- In my sleep
- I want to be a tree
- Have a wonderful day with family and fall asleep
- Best day ever on the beach - then goodbyes and dye in my sleep
- Fall asleep, I have already bought my grave plot
- Eaten by a hippo in Kruger ⭐
⭐ We think winning answer must go to Lori Ham, Clerk at Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council.
❔How big is your cemetery?
We also ran a poll asking how many plots do you have in all your Cemeteries
Julie Dunks Top Ten Tips
Julie introduced her role with ICCM explaining that they look to raise standards for the deceased by improving training for those that work in Cemeteries and Crematoria, she then shared her top tips with us:
This is a brief overview of Julie's tips. We highly recommend you contact ICCM directly if you have more complex questions.
☎️ 07976 939585
So here we go…
📖 1. Recommended reading
For help with managing and rules and regulations for your Cemetery Julie recommends the following guides and books:
👩⚖️ 2. Local Authorities Cemetery Order 1977
Use LACO to your advantage - you can set your own regulations and rules for your cemetery, they should be customer-focused and reviewed every couple of years.
🗺️ 3. Cemetery Map
LACO states you must have a plan/map of your cemetery, this is a legal requirement.
You must know where your graves are and be confident that a new grave has not been pre-purchased or rights purchased by someone else. A map can be physical or digital.
💁🏻 Did you know that Scribe can map out your cemetery? Find out more here.
📋 4. Registers
Know what registers you need to keep. Again LACO details this. Allowable now to be kept digitally. To include Burials and Disinternments, a register of graves that cross-reference to your cemetery map, a Register of Grants of Exclusive Rights and a Register of Memorials that have been removed from graves.
Old Records, PRE 1977 must be kept. Keep a record of any memorials that have been removed.
Cremation Forms are specific. Burial forms can be whatever you would like. Internment Form, Grave Purchase Form for allocating Rights. Memorial Application Form. If out of date can google or look for templates as they are NOT specific. For naming Forms, take care of Memorial Form titles permission for a monumental erection, (not appropriate in this day and age!)
Know your registers, certain ones required by laws. Forms are not specific requirements, but registers are.
💁🏻 Did you know that Scribe can enable you to create a digital register? Find out more here.
⚖️ 5. Rights of Burial
LACO allows you to issue Exclusive rights to a person or persons. Some authorities limit the number of owners (family disputes can cause issues), it is allowable to be multiple. You are allowed to decide on a period of grant up to a limit of 100 years. These can be extended at a later date, but not initially. The recommendation is below 100 years as unlikely an owner will still be alive or it may be difficult to find someone with a connection to the grave. A shorter time will allow you to re-issue the right and also make a further charge. So suggest possibly 50 years for a price then extend for another 50 years at a further cost.
🧠 6. Understanding rights of Burial
If an owner of rights has passed away permission is still required. The owner must always give permission and this is not assumed even if a relative.
Memorials are more flexible, not burials.
🕵️ 7. Inspection Registers
Public access to records should be open to inspection at a time that is suitable to the burial authority. You can charge if you offer to do the search for the individual.
Did you know that Scribe can make it very easy to share your registers with anybody? Find out more here.
⛏️ 8. Shallow Graves
LACO does not specify how deep a grave should be but if there is a requirement for a space for a second grave there should be 6 inches of undisturbed soil between coffins and 3ft of soil between the last coffin and the ground surface (if good soil this can be reduced to 2 feet)
If you can’t achieve the depth then can build a chamber, but there are specific regulations for building the chamber if there is insufficient depth and you must follow policy to make it legal.
📗 9. Green Form/ Coroners Certificate
Before burial, you must ensure the death is registered or dealt with by a coroner. A Green form must be obtained from the registrar or a white form from the coroner. The Funeral Director may bring this with them to the funeral on the day of Burial. You should not proceed without Green Form.
Form 18 can be signed where the Funeral Director agrees to say that it has been registered but that the certificate was forgotten. If the Funeral Director does not agree to sign the form then the burial can NOT go ahead. If a form is later not presented then the Funeral Director is liable.
It is recommended to keep a copy of Form 18 as if the Green form is missing or not there then it would be distressing for the family of the deceased as the burial would be unable to go ahead.
⚰️ 10. Disturbance of Human remains
A full coffin or ashes once buried are both protected by law and should not be disturbed without lawful authority. In England, there are two types of authority. A faculty from the local diocese and the exhumation (consecrated or non consecrated) license from the ministry of justice.
If consecrated you will need authority from the Church.
Unconsecrated (ministry of justice) is free of charge, usually turned around in 28 days or can be issued on the same day if urgent, such as wrong grave etc.
The faculty does have a cost (around £300) and the church does not always automatically grant the license to go ahead there is no guarantee and the decision is with the diocese.
🙋 Questions and Answers
Question - Should the cemetery manager attend all burials?
Answer - ICCM would advise that a representative of the burial authority attends all burials where possible. This is to ensure that grave location checks are carried out ahead of the burial, and that the grave has been dug to the correct depth and is prepared properly. The officer is also present in case there are any problems. It is not the law that somebody should be there, and in some councils there aren’t the resources to do so, but if possible it is advisable to have a representative there.
Question - What happens to graves with burials over a hundred years ago? Can these graves be re-used even though human remains are protected?
Answer - Technically once a lease expires the rights revert back to the burial authority. The best practice would be to try and contact any family to see if they wish to extend the rights. If they don’t, the burial authority can remove any memorial from the grave, and they could use any remaining space in the grave, as long as no previously buried remains are disturbed. Graves with very old burials may have had the rights granted in perpetuity, which means that currently nothing can happen to those graves, other than dangerous memorials can be removed if necessary. If a grave has been pre-purchased but not used and 75 years has passed since the purchase, the authority can determine the rights (ie cancel them) and can then sell them again to someone else or use the grave as a public grave. The procedure for this is laid out in LACO.
The Law Commission are due to review burial and cremation law later this year. One of the things they will hopefully include is the possible reuse of old, abandoned graves. This would enable cemeteries to continue to offer burial and ensure that burial remains a local, affordable option for people.
Question - Where can I buy new Registers of Disinterments? I'm just in the process of doing my first exhumation and didn't realise that there should be a different Register.
Answer - There are very few suppliers of physical registers these days, but you can get them here:
However, you don’t have to have an elaborate register – an Excel spreadsheet or similar on a computer would be fine. You just need to ensure that the headings specified in LACO are used.
Question - If a casket of ashes is buried in a grave, should this be recorded in the Grave Register and Burial Register?
Answer - Yes, all burials, whether full coffin or ashes burials should be recorded in the relevant registers.
Question - We are in the process of setting up a cemetery having not run one before. Do you have any advice or suggestions of what I should do in setting this up to make sure I get it right?
Answer - If you already have the site and planning permission, the next step is to look at your regulations and processes, as well as your fees. Read and understand LACO as a good starting point. Attend relevant training courses. Visit as many other cemeteries as you can and talk to the people running and working in them. Use the internet to see what others are doing and what forms etc they have. You could also employ a consultant to give advice to get you started (ICCM can offer this).
If you don’t have the site and have not gained planning permission, it would probably be best to employ a specialist company to help with the land search, planning application and Environment Agency requirements relating to groundwater.
Question - Can the number in a plot be limited?
Answer - The number of burials in a grave can be limited. Some sites only allow one burial due to the underlying geography and potential to cause groundwater pollution; some allow up to four burials. Most will allow at least two full burials in a grave. Once the grave is full for full coffin burials, you can allow ashes burials in the top of the grave. You can limit the number if you wish; the important thing is that no previous burials should be disturbed when a new burial takes place.
LACO specifies that 6” of undisturbed soil should be left on top of a previously buried coffin, and 3’ of soil should be left between the top of the last coffin and the ground surface, although this can be reduced to 2’ where the soil is of suitable character. Taking into account the depth of a coffin, this means that a grave for one burial should be dug at a minimum of 4’6”, and a grave for two burials at 6’6”.
Question - Is there no standard regulation reference memorials - e.g. toys and windmills in particular for child graves or is it up to individual regulations.
Answer - No, there are no standard regulations – each authority can set their own. Very strict regulations can lead to more unauthorised memorials as people are not allowed to express their grief how they would like. It’s always a balance between being able to maintain the grave and allowing people to leave their own memorials, trinkets etc. A suitable compromise may be to allow things left within an area at the head of the grave so that the grass can still be cut on the length of the grave (assuming it is a lawn-type grave). You can be quite strict about things that may be dangerous, such as glass, and about any memorials that encroach on other people’s graves.
Question - If the family cant produce a copy of exclusive rights but you have a copy and they can provide evidence of being a daughter etc - can we accept this?
Answer - If it is the owner who has lost the deed, you can accept that it is them by asking them to prove their identity if necessary. If the owner has died, a transfer of ownership would need to take place. This should follow the proper process; a family member can’t just claim the ownership as they may not be the entitled person, so the burial authority has to make suitable investigations to ascertain that the rights are transferred to the right person.
Question - Is there any responsibility on the local authority to have a map of a closed cemetery - our Diocese are unable to provide a map and now it is closed the Council maintains it
Answer - There is no requirement for a map of closed churchyards where the authority has taken over the maintenance.
Question - If we are accepting a sworn declaration do we need to see identification?
Answer - If somebody is presenting you with a statutory declaration, you could check their identification if you have any doubt that they are the person they are claiming to be.
Question - What happens to plots recently sold 'in perpetuity'? Are they invalid? do they need to be re-issued?
Answer - LACO limits the number of years you can issue a deed for to 100 years at any one time. You could reissue the deed, or write to the owners to inform them that the lease is for x number of years, but this should be handled sensitively as the owners may not be please if they thought they were going to have the graves forever.
Question - What happens if the plot is a double plot but the owner was the first one to die? Can the intended second person be interred? I'm assuming not?
Answer - If the second person was a joint owner, the rights would be vested solely in them when the first owner dies. If they were not joint owners but the owner had specified on the deed that they wanted the second person to be buried in the grave, the burial can take place. Or if the owner had requested to the burial authority that they wanted the second person to be buried in the grave and the officer had made an endorsement to the deed, the burial can take place.
If none of these applies, a transfer of ownership would need to take place before the burial can go ahead.