I would like to respond to the recent News article about a nonprofit cemetery asking for city takeover. Cemeteries in most states are seriously under-regulated. Little regulation was needed because most states were owned by churches and towns that were truly nonprofit. But with the current rapid trend of takeover by huge corporations, legislative activities need to get under way if consumers are to get a fair shake.
The purchaser of a cemetery plot does not acquire absolute ownership, but rather a right to use the land in accordance with the cemetery contract and civil regulations. Cemeteries are in the business of selling real estate, and death is big business. The bookkeeping loopholes are big enough for a Goodyear blimp to sail through.
When purchased pre-need, 100 percent of cemetery merchandise should be placed in trust. Consumers should be entitled to a full refund plus interest if they want to back out of the deal. Constructive delivery negates the possibility and should not be permitted.
Laws should permit cemeteries to buy an unwanted lot at the original selling price plus 50 percent of the difference between that and current market price. If the value has decreased below the original selling price, the cemetery should buy it back at 75 percent of the current worth.
Cemeteries are impermanent, and despite what the advertisements claim, they are not forever. If abandoned, they revert back to the municipality and bodies must be disintered and buried elsewhere. Once this is done, the land can be reused.
Only 10 states have a cemetery board. Misleading cemetery practices should be stopped. But I cannot blame city officials for being disinterested. The upkeep requires money, and there is already enough tax-exempt land on the books.
THADDEUS V. BIENIEK
President, Greater Buffalo Memorial Society