It is difficult to think about fraud and mismanagement on the part of the professionals we entrust to take care of our loved ones after they’ve passed away, but it is an unfortunate fact of life. There are people who either through greed or incompetence are accepting money from the bereaved and promising to take care of the deceased in a respectful and dignified manner, and then doing the exact opposite – burying multiple bodies in unmarked graves, losing track of where bodies are buried, and worse. The problem is, in large part, due to a lack of cemetery regulation. Cemeteries are being mismanaged all around the country, with some states establishing rigorous rules regarding cemetery management and others sorely lacking in regulation and oversight. If you live in the state of New Jersey, what you don’t know about cemetery regulation in New Jersey could hurt you, but the attorneys at Bochetto & Lentz can advise you of your rights and provide you with the legal counsel that you need.
The worst instances of mismanagement of cemeteries are heart wrenching. In the state of Tennessee the owner of Galilee Memorial Gardens was sentenced to ten years of probation and the cemetery closed after hundreds of bodies that the cemetery was responsible for burying were lost. It was discovered that many graves held multiple bodies, that caskets were damaged in the process of trying to fit more than one into a single plot, and that many bodies were put into unmarked graves in adjacent properties not owned by the cemetery. Families have no way of finding their loved ones’ remains.
Lawsuits are being filed against cemeteries all around the country as a result of graves being poorly maintained, cemetery plots sold to multiple families, bodies being unearthed to make room for new ones, and multiple bodies being buried in a single grave. Some blame this rising tide of mismanagement on the fact that cemetery regulation has been largely left up to the individual states, leaving the statutes, enforcements and ability to file lawsuits extremely complicated. In most states, including the state of New Jersey, there are separate rules and regulations for cemeteries that are run as for-profit businesses versus those that are run by religious entities. The State of New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs has established a Cemetery Board that licenses and regulates cemetery companies that are not religious corporations. The Board’s mission is to protect the people of the state by overseeing a variety of rules regarding the sale of lots, cemetery maintenance, billing disputes and charges for services, and management of finances designated for maintenance and preservation. The individual religious organizations oversee their own cemeteries.
If you are concerned about the management of a New Jersey cemetery where your loved one has been interred, then you need experienced and knowledgeable legal help. The compassionate attorneys at Bochetto & Lentz know the state’s laws and regulations and are here to help you get the answers you need.