Transfer of Burial Rights

In view of recent difficulties and publicity in the industry journals over the transfer of Burial Rights, we have explained below the procedures for the processing of burial paperwork.

Interment paperwork required has, up to now, been as follows:

  1. Preliminary Particulars of Interment (faxed to office) May be preceded by a telephone booking
  2. Notice of Interment NCR 3 part set
  3. Deed of Grant or ‘Loss of Deeds’ declaration (a form of indemnity) for private graves.
  4. Burial Certificate from the Registrar (green form) or Cremation Certificate or other disposal certificate (Coroner, Hospital, etc.)
  5. Interment and/or Exclusive Right of Burial fees.

Other than in exceptional circumstances, items 2 to 5 should be hand delivered at least two days before the interment.

On the ‘Notice of Interment’ (the application), signatures of both the applicant for the burial and the deed holder is required. The deed holder’s signature is not required on this form where the Exclusive Right of Burial is not purchased (ie. it is a public grave) or where it is to be purchased later. A separate form is available for this purpose.

If the deed is not produced at the time, then a ‘Loss of Deeds’ indemnity form has traditionally been completed by the deed holder and, sometimes, by the next of kin, as a means of exercising the right to bury in the grave. However, this cannot be used by anyone other than the deed owner to claim the Burial Rights as you cannot indemnify anyone against an unlawful act and allowing a grave to be opened without written consent of the registered grave owner is not lawful. For a person other than the original deed holder to claim the Burial Rights or to declare a ‘loss of deeds’, a legally binding form of transfer must have previously been completed and a new deed holder declared.

Where the deed holder is still living, their signature must be obtained. If there are joint or multiple grant holders, then both or all are required to sign. If a transfer of grant has taken place, then a ‘Form of Assignment’ (see below), duly notarised and witnessed, must be produced and the new deed holder’s signature obtained. If, however, the deed holder is the interred deceased (and he or she are naturally unable to sign the application), then there is normally no problem, as the grave owner’s details can be checked against the details on the interment form and the validity verified. However, technically, the next of kin should complete a ‘Statutory Declaration’ to legally transfer the Burial Rights, together with a Loss of Deeds form if the deeds cannot be produced.

If the deed holder is previously deceased and no transfer of the Burial Rights has taken place, the normal rules of inheritance will usually be observed, ie. the person signing for the opening of the grave and the new deed holder will normally be the heir or next of kin or nearest surviving relative. When a registered grave owner dies, however, ownership should be transferred as property via the estate of that person.

The transfer of the grave rights should previously have been achieved by one of the following means:

  • Form of Assignment (signed in the presence of a Magistrate or Commissioner for Oaths)
  • Grant of Probate
  • Grant of Letters of Administration
  • Form of Assent

In the absence of one of these means, a Statutory Declaration can be used. This is used to transfer ownership when no official documents have been issued or applied for and usually conveys the ‘known wish’ of the deceased grave owner. Statutory Declarations are legal documents that have a great deal of power when used correctly but, to be legal, they must be signed in the presence of either a Magistrate or a Commissioner for Oaths. Unless they are sworn on oath in the presence of a Magistrate or Commissioner for Oaths, they are not worth the paper they are written on. They are often a useful means of quickly and legally transferring the Burial Rights without the need to go through a long drawn out legal process which could otherwise delay the interment.

Milton Keynes Council proposes to introduce the use of Statutory Declarations in cases where the grave owner is deceased and a legal transfer of the Burial Rights has not taken place before the proposed interment.

Last Updated: 30 November 2017