The legal Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots at Death is achieved under Minnesota law like no other probate transfer.
Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots at Death
In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre,
in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite
for a possession of a burying place.
There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife;
there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.
The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein
was from the children of Heth.
Genesis 49, Verses 30-32. KJV
Minnesota Cemetery Lots – Real Property
Both a Minnesota cemetery graveyard, and individual cemetery lots within the cemetery, constitute real property.
However, individual cemetery lots within a cemetery are treated under Minnesota law like no other real property.
If fee (simple) ownership in real property is defined as:
- an inheritable interest in land,
- which represents the greatest potential legal title available under the law,
then there is no fee simple title ownership of an individual cemetery lot within a Minnesota cemetery by anyone other than the public cemetery association, or private cemetery.
In 1961, the Minnesota Supreme Court variously described an individual’s ownership rights in a Minnesota cemetery lot as:
- a special kind of conditional estate in fee,
- a perpetual easement, or
- a kind of perpetual license,
Erickson v. Sunset Memorial Park Ass’n, 1961, 259 Minn. 532, 108 N.W.2d 434.
Under the bundle of sticks analogy which underlies the analysis of Minnesota real property ownership, a person other than a Minnesota cemetery association or private cemetery holds only a few sticks in an individual cemetery lot, which may include the following:
- The right to be buried in the cemetery lot; and
- The limited right to make a testamentary transfer of the cemetery lot to another individual, or to the public cemetery association or private cemetery in trust – for the use and benefit of any person or persons designated in the Will.
The permitted disposition of a Minnesota cemetery lot upon the death of its registered owner is contrary to many of the normal assumptions and procedures that would be familiar to a Minnesota probate attorney.
The Magna Carta of the disposition at death rules for a Minnesota cemetery lot is found in M.S., Section 525.14 – Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots.
Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots – Application of M.S. Section 525.14
Properly speaking, the Minnesota laws of intestate succession – which would be applicable when the decedent did not have a probated Will – are found in:
- M.S., Section 524.2-101, through
However, the provisions of M.S., Section 525.14 are often loosely identified as the rules of intestacy with respect to the rights in a Minnesota cemetery lot which are to be transferred upon the death of its registered owner.
Nevertheless, the provisions of M.S., Section 525.14 will be applicable to the Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots:
- even if the decedent had a Will accepted for probate by Minnesota probate court,
- providing that the proposed distribution of the Minnesota cemetery lot was not to a “qualified person”.
Therefore, the provisions of M.S., Section 525.14 are more properly identified as the rules of descent with respect to the rights in a Minnesota cemetery lot which are to be transferred upon the death of its registered owner – if they are not properly transferred pursuant to the terms of the decedent’s Will.
The provisions of M.S., Section 525.14 appear to be applicable rules of Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots to both public cemeteries, and private cemeteries – by reason of:
- the use in the statute of the term cemetery lot, and
- various references in the statute to cemetery association, and private cemetery.
Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots – Cemetery Lot Property
M.S., Section 525.14 identifies that the term Minnesota cemetery lot includes certain above-ground structures, by providing in part as follows:
A crypt or group of crypts or burial vaults owned by one person in a public or community mausoleum shall be deemed a cemetery lot.
M.S., Section 525.14 also identifies that cemetery lot accoutrements will likewise be governed by the statute, by providing as follows:
Grave markers, monuments, memorials and all structures lawfully installed or erected on any cemetery lot or burial plot shall be deemed to be a part of and shall descend with the lot or plot.
General Rules Relating to the Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots
(i) Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots Not Used by the Decedent
M.S., Section 525.14 identifies that unless a Minnesota cemetery lot is properly disposed of pursuant to the terms of M.S., Section 306.29 – which is applicable to both public cemeteries, and private cemeteries – it will be subject to the disposition plan identified in M.S., Section 525.14, which provides in part as follows:
Subject to the right of interment of the decedent therein, a cemetery lot or burial plot, unless disposed of as provided in section 306.29, shall descend free of all debts as follows: . . .
(ii) Life Estate or Fee Title to the Surviving Spouse with a Right of Internment in the Cemetery Lot
M.S., Section 525.14 identifies that if there is a surviving spouse, such person shall have at least a life estate in the cemetery lot, with the right to be buried therein:
(1) to the decedent’s surviving spouse, a life estate with right of interment of the spouse therein, and remainder over to the person who would be entitled to the fee if there were no spouse, provided, however, if no person entitled to the remainder of the fee survives, then the entire fee to the surviving spouse with right of interment therein;
The above provision is contrary to the understanding of a life estate that a Minnesota probate or real estate attorney would typically have – who recognizes that life estates normally terminate at death – and do not continue thereafter (with a right of internment).
In addition, the above references to the “fee” title are somewhat misleading, because Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 306 and 307, limit “ownership” of the cemetery lot by individuals to something considerably less than “fee” title.
(iii) If No Surviving Spouse, Right of Internment to the Eldest Surviving Child
M.S., Section 525.14 identifies that if there is no surviving spouse, the eldest surviving child of the decedent shall have a right of interment in the cemetery lot, by providing in part as follows:
(2) if there is no surviving spouse, then to the decedent’s eldest surviving child;
(iv) If No Surviving Spouse or Child, Right of Internment to the Youngest Surviving Sibling
M.S., Section 525.14 identifies that if there is no surviving spouse or child, the youngest surviving sibling of the decedent shall have a right of interment in the cemetery lot, by providing in part as follows:
(3) if there is no surviving child, then to the decedent’s youngest surviving sibling;
(v) If No Surviving Spouse, Child, or Sibling
M.S., Section 525.14 identifies that if there is no surviving spouse, child, or sibling of the decedent, the right of interment in the cemetery lot shall be as follows:
(4) if there is no surviving spouse, child or sibling of the decedent, then, if not sold during administration of decedent’s estate, to the cemetery association or private cemetery in trust as a burial lot for the decedent and such of the decedent’s relatives as the governing body thereof shall deem proper.
M.S., Section 525.14 also identifies that the cemetery lot may thereafter be subsequently conveyed by either:
- the cemetery association or private cemetery, or
- the person to whom it properly descended,
to a limited number of qualified relatives of the decedent, by providing in part as follows:
The cemetery association or private cemetery,
or, with its consent, any person to whom the lot shall descend
may grant and convey the lot to any of the decedent’s
- siblings or
Minnesota Probate Court Issues Relating to the Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots
(i) Minnesota Probate Court Documents
Minnesota cemetery lots should be identified as items of real property in any probate court Inventory, Final Account, and Decree of Distribution documents.
(ii) Valuation of a Minnesota Cemetery Lot
The Inventory and Final Account values of a Minnesota cemetery lot should be available from the records of the public cemetery association or private cemetery.
(iii) Legal Description of a Minnesota Cemetery Lot
Each Minnesota cemetery lot which is an estate asset should be identified in the Inventory, Final Account, and Decree of Distribution by its own legal description, as identified in the records of the public cemetery association or private cemetery.
(iv) Decree of Distribution of a Minnesota Cemetery Lot
If the Will of a decedent registered owner of a Minnesota cemetery lot satisfies the requirements of M.S., Section 306.29 with respect to the disposition of one or more Minnesota cemetery lots, the Decree of Distribution should identify that disposition, in both the:
- Findings section of the Decree of Distribution, and in the
- Assignment section of the Decree of Distribution.
However, if the Will of a decedent registered owner of a Minnesota cemetery lot fails to satisfy the requirements of M.S., Section 306.29 with respect to the disposition by Will of one or more Minnesota cemetery lots,
- the Findings section of the Decree of Distribution should identify such failure, and the
- Assignment section of the Decree of Distribution should assign the Minnesota cemetery lot(s) to the person who would take the Minnesota cemetery lot(s) pursuant to the provisions of M.S., Section 525.14.
Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots
Copyright 2018 – All Rights Reserved
No claim to the text of statutory provisions, administrative documents, or judicial decisions.
Gary C. Dahle – Attorney at Law
Phone: 763-780-8390 Fax: 763-780-1735
For a discussion of Minnesota probate law, see https://dahlelawprobate.com/ and http://www.dahlelawminnesota.com/ and https://dahlelaw.com/minnesota-probate/
For information on Minnesota Church Corporation law, see Minnesota Church Law.
For information on Minnesota Transfer on Death Deeds, see http://www.dahlelawminnesota.com/minnesota-transfer-death-deed/
For information on Minnesota Real Estate Law, see http://www.dahlelawminnesota.com/minnesota-title-evidence-ownership/
For information on Minnesota Guardianships, see http://dahlelawguardianships.com/
Topics of Interest:
- Descent of Minnesota Cemetery Lots at Death
- Lifetime Transfers of Minnesota Cemetery Lots
- Minnesota Cemetery Deed – Minnesota Cemetery Transfer Documents
- Minnesota Cemetery Law – Minnesota Cemetery Law Attorney
- Minnesota Cemetery Property Tax Exemptions
- Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law
- Minnesota Private Cemetery – Minnesota Private Cemeteries
- Minnesota Public Cemetery – Minnesota Public Cemeteries
- Recovering Abandoned Minnesota Cemetery Lots
- Recovering Abandoned Minnesota Cemetery Lots – Non- Judicial Private Action
- Religious Discrimination – Sale of Minnesota Cemetery Lots
Minnesota Probate and Cemetery Law Attorney
Gary C. Dahle – Attorney at Law
2704 Mounds View Blvd., Mounds View, MN 55112
Phone: 763-780-8390 Fax: 763-780-1735
Information provided herein is only for general informational and educational purposes. The laws relating to Minnesota cemeteries involve many complex legal issues. If you have a specific legal problem about which you are seeking advice, consult with legal counsel.
Gary C. Dahle, Attorney at Law, is licensed to practice law only in the State of Minnesota, and in the State of North Dakota, in the United States of America. Therefore, only those persons interested in matters governed by the laws of the State of Minnesota, or North Dakota, should consult with, or provide information to, Gary C. Dahle, Attorney at Law, or take note of information provided herein.
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Minnesota Cemetery Links
Minnesota Association of Cemeteries: https://www.mncemeteries.org/
Find a Minnesota Cemetery: https://www.mncemeteries.org/find-a-cemetery
Minnesota Private Cemetery Statutes: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=307
Minnesota Public Cemetery Statutes: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=306
Links to Minnesota Probate Records
Minnesota Department of Health – Death Records Index – 1997 to Present: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/osr/DecdIndex/dthSearch.cfm
Minnesota Historical Society – Death Records; 1904 – 2001: http://www.mnhs.org/people/deathrecords
Minnesota Department of Health – Birth Certificates – http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/osr/birth.html
Minnesota Historical Society – Birth Records: http://www.mnhs.org/people/birthrecords
Minnesota Marriage Records – https://moms.mn.gov/