Most Australian gravesites have perpetual tenure meaning the site cannot be resold or reused and are reserved for the inhabitant in perpetuity. However this is only generally true where the site was originally purchased and not provided by the state. In some cases sites do have limited tenure (of say 50 to 100 years) in which case the cemetery is free to resell the plot once tenure has expired. In this case often the remains will be removed to another location along with any headstone.
With sites that have been purchased in perpetuity, responsibility for the site, or ownership, passes to the purchaser’s next of kin in accordance with his/her last Will. It is in essence treated like any other asset but without monetary value. The inheritor then assumes responsibility for the site.
Often the purchaser of a gravesite is someone other than the deceased and usually this person is named as the “Applicant” on the cemetery’s burial order. As an “asset” the responsibility for the site passes to the Applicant’s beneficiaries or next of kin.
Claiming old graves
If you want to take responsibility for an older gravesite and particularly if you want to renovate, reuse or undertake any monumental work, you need to search for the direct relative of the person responsible for the grave (the Applicant), or the next of kin who is the main beneficiary to the Applicant of the grave in question. If you can’t locate a direct descendant, the cemetery may accept a statutory declaration stating that you have made attempts to find the appropriate descendant and that you are the next of kin with “authority of all concerned”.
If you are successful in “adopting” the grave you will become legally responsible and this responsibility would then be passed on to your main beneficiaries.
Errors in burial information
If you find that the burial information is incorrect you can have the cemetery correct the record by providing certified proof (say a death certificate) with the correct information. This does not mean that the cemetery will correct any headstone errors. To change the monumental work you will have to be or become officially responsible for the site.
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