With over 50,000 cemeteries in Texas, if you’re buying or selling land, there’s a chance there could be one on the property. What is required of the buyer and seller in this situation in order to ensure these historic and meaningful resting places are handled correctly?
Have you ever come across a piece of property that has a cemetery on it? Maybe you own a property with a cemetery on it or you’re looking to purchase a property with a cemetery. The Texas historical commission estimates that there are over 50,000 different cemeteries throughout Texas, believe it or not, and many of these are on family-owned, private land. Many times, when you’re driving through the backwoods of Texas, you’ll see signs for cemeteries all over the place. So, what are the implications to you as the owner of some land that has a cemetery on it or if you’re looking to buy some land that has a cemetery on it?
This actually came up for us recently. We bought 100 acres in the Bastrop area and there was a cemetery smack dab in the middle of the property. Now, this property was in the path of development, path of progress, so eventually it will be developed. So, we were curious. We did some research. What can we do with this cemetery? Now, there are instances where you can move a cemetery, but 99.9 percent of the time it’s just simply not worth it. There are many rules that you have to follow. You have to contact all of the families who have loved ones that are buried there. So, typically, it’s not worth it.
Now, something to note, if you are selling land that has a cemetery on it, whether you are the owner or the agent, you absolutely have to disclose this. This is vital and it’s interesting because we ended up selling this property and, of course, we disclosed it and one of the brokers that was bringing some buyers, she had some buyers that were of Asian descent and there’s actually a negative connotation with some cultures with cemeteries. So, that was something new that I learned. So, just keep that in mind. But, again, you always have to disclose it… always, always, always.
So, with cemeteries, how can you protect yourself if you are looking to potentially move it or if you are just looking to sell the property? Again, you have to disclose it. If you want to move a cemetery, there are four criteria that must be met, not all of them combined, but it either has to be in violation of Texas law, it has to be a nuisance or a potential hazard or if it’s abandoned and no one knows that it’s there. Or, lastly, if you contact all of the family members, you get their approval to move all of their loved ones.
Now, the cemetery that we had on our Bastrop property, it had gravestones in the 1800s. There’s a good chance that many of those family members were buried without coffins. So, personally, I don’t think it’s worth moving a cemetery. It’s going to cost you a ton of money. There’s a lot of legality associated with it. So, it’s just best to work around the cemetery and keep in mind that you still need to provide legal access to the cemetery so the loved ones can visit their family members that are buried there. Also, if you do own a property that has a cemetery on it, you can set parameters on when visitation rights will be. You can post signs that say you know visitation rights are from 9am to 9pm, for example. So, you can still designate when those visitation times are, but you always have to provide legal access to the cemetery.
Again, I’ve mentioned this in multiple videos, always, always get with an attorney. Get with someone who specializes in this that has more knowledge than you, because it can be very tricky. And, if you think you’re going to move a cemetery, you might want to rethink that strategy, because it is very cumbersome to do so.
Feel free to reach out to us with questions or other topics you’d like to see covered.
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