Do Burial Plots Expire? US Cemetery Plot Ownership Duration

Understandably, arranging a funeral can be stressful and expensive. Although locating and purchasing a plot is an important part of the process, most of us have very little information on how to proceed. For instance, most people wrongly assume that once paid for, plot acquisition is a done-and-dusted affair. 

Burial plots do expire, typically after 100 years. Additionally, once ownership of the plot has lapsed, the owner may or may not receive an offer from the cemetery to renew their lease on the plot. 

Over the rest of this article, I’ll discuss how long you get to keep a burial plot, how much a plot costs, and answer other questions you may have about cemeteries and plots. If you are looking for a plot for yourself or a loved one, keep reading. 

How Long Can You Keep a Burial Plot? 

When people purchase a burial plot, they often believe that this purchase is going to last forever. After all, burial plots are extremely expensive, and once a loved one is buried there, shouldn’t it be theirs indefinitely? 

However, purchasing a burial plot is not like purchasing real estate. When you buy a burial plot, you aren’t buying the land itself but rather the right to use it to bury a loved one. This right doesn’t last forever and is similar to purchasing a lease on the land. 

The amount of time you get to keep a burial plot depends on its location and the specific cemetery you’re purchasing the plot from. It can vary widely, lasting anywhere from 25-100 years

Bright graveyard lawn with tombstones

Private cemeteries usually have a shorter lease period, whereas public cemeteries have longer lease durations. At the point of expiry, the cemetery usually sends a letter to the plot owner asking them if they’d like to renew. If they do, the cemetery and that individual decide on a new lease period and price. 

If the owner of a plot decides not to renew their lease, the cemetery can sell the property to someone else, as long as a body isn’t interred in the plot. Alternatively, the cemetery will have to remove the headstone, before any additional funerals can be conducted at the site.  

Each cemetery will have different rules about how long you can keep a plot without renewing it. So, when searching for a cemetery for yourself or a loved one, remember to ask how long you’ll have the burial plot before it expires. 

For more guidance on selecting a cemetery, read my article on what to look for in choosing a cemetery

How Much Does a Burial Plot Cost?

The cost of a burial plot varies depending on your location and the cemetery you choose. The following table will give you a rough estimate of the most recently available information on costs and lease durations for burial plots by state.  

StateAverage Cost of a Burial Plot Average Length of Lease Ownership 
Alabama $2,210 25-100 years 
Alaska $77525-100 years 
Arizona $2,94525-100 years 
Arkansas $3,59625-100 years 
California $5,54520 years 
Colorado $2,39925-100 years 
Connecticut $2,48515 years 
Delaware $2,16425-100 years 
Florida $2,97950 years 
Georgia $2,198 20 years 
Hawaii $5,96225-100 years 
Idaho $2,337 25-100 years 
Illinois$1,27530 years 
Indiana $2,000 30 years 
Iowa $2,27425-100 years
Kansas $2,68350 years 
Kentucky $2,375100 years 
Louisiana $6,40375 years 
Maine $1,56725-100 years 
Maryland $2,09125-100 years 
Massachusetts $1,76475 years 
Michigan $1,38720 years 
Minnesota $1,574 20 years 
Mississippi$2,17150 years 
Missouri $1,36925-100 years 
Montana $1,02825-100 years 
Nebraska $2,30650 years 
Nevada $5,68025-100 years 
New Hampshire $3,07725-100 years 
New Jersey $2,25520 years 
New Mexico $3,45325-100 years 
New York $4,24950 years 
North Carolina $2,28220 years 
North Dakota $98325-100 years 
Ohio $1,330 20 years 
Oklahoma $3,82825 years 
Oregon $2,22225-100 years 
Pennsylvania $1,33650 years
Rhode Island $2,29825-100 years 
South Carolina $4,13930 years 
South Dakota $2,20025-100 years 
Tennessee $2,54825-100 years 
Texas $3,360 50 years 
Utah $2,42125-100 years 
Vermont $2,67775 years 
Virginia $2,61525-100 years 
Washington $3,55520 years 
West Virginia $3,76225-100 years 
Wisconsin $2,19225-100 years 
Wyoming $3,19925-100 years 

As you might have noticed, the cost of a burial plot varies greatly depending on the state you reside in and the cemetery you choose. As mentioned earlier, some of the variance in leasing costs within a state is explained by significant differences in pricing between public and private cemeteries. 

There are a few factors to consider in deciding if shelling out additional money for burial in a private cemetery is worth it. 

The plots in public cemeteries are accessible to the general public, whereas private cemeteries are usually limited to family members only.So, public cemeteries tend to be more crowded, and the staff may be overworked, which results in your specific burial plot not getting as much attention as you’d like. On the other hand, private cemeteries usually offer better upkeep.  

Other factors which influence how much a burial plot costs include the location of the plot within the cemetery. 

For example, some plots are in more desirable areas of the cemetery grounds, such as towards the center, away from roads, or in a particularly beautiful spot. These plots are likely to cost more than those on the outskirts of the cemetery or are less visually appealing. 

Additionally, if you’d like to purchase companion or family plots, this will increase the price because you’re taking up more space. 

Can Burial Plots Be Reused? 

Burial plots may be reused when the lease on a plot expires if the leaseholder does not renew their lease. If remains are already interred at the site, they will not be disturbed. Future burials will be placed closer to the surface, above any already interred remains. 

Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of grave reuse because of anxiety about their loved one’s bodies and the potential fate of their own bodies. However, grave reuse is not unusual or something to be afraid of; in fact, it’s a practice that’s been used throughout history.  

One of the primary reasons burial plots are reused is simply out of necessity. If there isn’t enough room to bury someone elsewhere, a cemetery has to reuse plots or turn people away. 

However, cemeteries make money selling plots, so if they run out of space and can no longer sell plots, they lose the primary source of their income. Then, they won’t have any way of tending to their land or caring for the plots. 

Additionally, if cemeteries refuse to reuse plots and start turning people away, this will drive up the cost of available plots. Burial plots are already expensive, so there’s no reason to encourage these prices to go even higher. 

Finally, there is simply a limited amount of space available for communities to bury the dead. If a community runs out of room, people may have to start burying their loved ones further away, which is likely against the wishes of the departed and the mourners. 

Burial reuse is usually tactfully done. Cemeteries don’t dig up remains. Usually, the only visual alteration to the site is the removal and replacement of a headstone. 

Do Bodies Stay in Cemeteries Forever? 

Bodies will most likely decompose in the cemetery they are buried in. However, in some rare cases, entire cemeteries must be relocated. In these cases, interred remains must be transported to a different location for reburial.

For the most part, bodies stay in cemeteries longer than it takes for them to decompose. Decomposition starts the moment someone dies, but the rate at which it occurs depends on the following: 

  • If the body was embalmed or not. Embalming slows down the decomposition rate but doesn’t stop it completely. Nothing can completely bring the decomposition process to a halt. However, if the body is embalmed, decomposition takes longer. 
  • The environment the body is buried in. Things decompose more quickly in hot and humid conditions, so a body buried in muggy Louisiana will decompose faster than a body buried in dry Colorado. 
  • How large or small the body is. A small, skinny body decomposes much more rapidly than a large body. 
  • The quality of the casket. Purchasing a high-quality, concrete-lined casket prevents outside elements from getting to the body and hastening decomposition. However, the body will still decompose eventually. 

Most often, even when a small, embalmed body in a high-quality casket is buried in a cool, dry location, the body will eventually decompose at the site it is buried at. 

However, some situations require an entire cemetery to relocate. In these cases, the body does not stay in the cemetery forever but is moved when the cemetery moves. 

One reason a cemetery might need to be relocated is for construction purposes. Some cemeteries need to move because an area is growing or changing, or something else is being built in that location. 

For example, 2,000 bodies were moved to different parts of Illinois to allow for the Eisenhower Expressway to be built.  

Another reason a cemetery might need to move is because of a natural disaster. Flooding is extremely damaging and threatening to cemeteries, so if there is the threat of a flood or a storm causing damage to the property, bodies may be moved and properly reburied. 

When Hurricane Katrina destroyed many cemeteries, the bodies buried there had to be relocated in many instances. 

For the most part, though, bodies stay in cemeteries until they naturally decompose and become part of the earth, staying there for many generations. 

Can You Bury a Body on Private Property? 

If you are concerned about purchasing a burial plot and having it expire, you might wonder if it is possible to bury a loved one on your own private property. 

Fortunately, you can bury a body on private property in most states, as long as you follow legal and ethical guidelines. These include signing and filing a death certificate and following your state’s laws regarding the body’s transportation. Some states require a funeral director’s involvement or a special permit.  

Additionally, some states have laws about embalming after a certain amount of time has passed or if the person has died because of a specific disease. For more information about these requirements, you can read my article explaining when embalming is required by law.

It is important not to underestimate the work required to make a grave at home. 

First, you must find the right place for a burial, which includes paying attention to local zoning laws, the location of water sources, and setback laws. 

Then, you’ll need to physically dig the grave, which involves displacing 150 square feet of dirt. Depending on the type of land you’re displacing, you may need various tools, including a spade, pick, chainsaw, rake, and edging tool. 

The following table outlines various requirements for home burials by state: 

State Are Home Burials Permitted? Is a Funeral Director Required? 
Alabama Yes Yes
Alaska Yes No 
Arizona Yes Yes 
Arkansas No, only if you have a special permit No 
California No, only if you have a special permit granted by local municipalities Yes 
Colorado Yes No 
Delaware YesNo 
Florida Yes No 
Georgia Yes No 
Hawaii Yes No 
IllinoisYes Yes 
Indiana No, only if you have a special permit Yes 
Iowa Yes Yes 
Kansas YesNo 
Kentucky Yes No 
Louisiana No, only if you have a special permit Yes 
Maine YesNo 
Maryland Yes No 
Massachusetts Yes No 
Michigan Yes Yes 
Minnesota Yes No 
MississippiYes No
Montana YesNo
Nebraska Yes Yes
Nevada Yes No 
New Hampshire Yes No 
New Jersey Yes Yes 
New Mexico Yes No 
New York Yes Yes 
North Carolina YesNo 
North Dakota Yes No
Ohio Yes No 
Oklahoma Yes No 
Oregon Yes No 
Pennsylvania Yes No 
Rhode Island Yes No 
South Carolina Yes No 
South Dakota Yes No 
TennesseeYes No 
TexasYes No 
Utah Yes No 
Vermont Yes No 
Virginia Yes No 
Washington No N/A 
West Virginia Yes No 
Wisconsin Yes No 
Wyoming Yes No

If you are concerned about purchasing a burial plot or having a burial plot expire, a home burial might be the perfect solution. However, you will need to ensure you comply with all local laws.


Buying a burial plot may be something you only want to do once, but unfortunately, a lease on a plot doesn’t last forever. In most cases, you’ll be asked if you’d like to renew the plot after 25-100 years. If you choose not to renew, there’s a chance that the plot will be reused.

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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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