Notes from the legal Hotline: Family Cemetery

Happy Halloween Weekend. Perfect time to share a note from the legal hotline about cemeteries!

QUESTION: What can a seller do if there is an old family cemetery on the property that they want to relocate prior to closing?

The disposition, including the relocation, of human remains is a highly regulated process in Massachusetts, regardless of how long the remains have been in a location and the relationship of the person seeking relocation to the deceased. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 114, Section 45 requires that a permit be obtained from the municipality’s board of health or town clerk prior to the exhumation.

If the exhumation process does not occur until the property is already under contract, a seller must be careful to ensure they are not in breach of the terms of the contract which require the property to be transferred to the buyer in the condition in which it was in when the contract was entered into. Breach may be avoided by including a clause in the contract specifying the area of the property to be dug up and what the condition of the property will be at the time of closing.