Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law 

Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law 

I am a stranger and a sojourner with you:

give me a possession of a burying place with you,

that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

Genesis 23, Verse 4, KJV

Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 317A became effective on August 1, 1989, and thereafter, Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law has governed all Minnesota non-profit corporations, including many churches – and to some extent, their cemeteries.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law required that all Chapter 317 corporations which had not elected to be governed by Chapter 317A would automatically become subject to its provisions on January 1, 1991.

Many religious corporations originally formed under Minnesota Chapter 315:

  • converted to Chapter 317 at some point, and
  • later to Chapter 317A – either voluntarily, or automatically.

Minnesota nonprofit corporations which were governed by either Chapter 315 or Chapter 317 could have elected to be governed by Chapter 317A by filing a resolution which had been approved by its members with the office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law – Articles of Incorporation

Minnesota Chapter 317A non-profit corporations are currently formed by filing Articles of Incorporation with the office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, which Articles of Incorporation must identify that the corporation is organized under Chapter 317A, and contain the following information:

(1)       the name of the corporation;

(2)       the address of the registered office of the corporation;

(3)        the name of its registered agent, if any, at the registered office address; and

(4)       the name and address of each incorporator.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law – Corporate Documents

A Minnesota non-profit corporation subject to the provisions of Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 317A, generally has two documents which govern its affairs:

1.   Articles of Incorporation, which:


2.   Bylaws, which are not filed with any governmental agency, but contain:

  • provisions which govern the church’s affairs, and
  • sometimes, doctrinal statements of the church.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law – Bylaws

Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 317A defines the term “bylaws” to mean the code adopted for the regulation or management of the internal affairs of a corporation, regardless of how designated.

Hierarchy of Governing Provisions

Bylaw provisions for a Minnesota non-profit corporation cannot be inconsistent with any terms contained in the corporation’s Articles of Incorporation, and neither the Articles of Incorporation nor the Bylaws can be in conflict with provisions of Chapter 317A.

However, Minnesota Chapter 317A does provide that a Minnesota non-profit corporation’s statutory powers may be subject to certain limitations which are identified in its Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law – Board of Directors

 Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 317A provides that:

  • the business and affairs of a Minnesota nonprofit corporation must be managed by, or under the direction of, a board of directors, comprised of at least three individuals, and that
  • all directors are entitled to vote, and have equal rights and preferences, except as otherwise provided in the articles or bylaws.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Corporation Defined

Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 317A defines the termcorporation” in the following manner:

Subd. 6.   Corporation.

Corporation” means a corporation that is governed by this chapter.

A corporation may not:

(1)     be formed for a purpose involving pecuniary gain to its members, other than to members that are nonprofit organizations or subdivisions, units, or agencies of the United States or a state or local government; and

(2)     pay dividends or other pecuniary remuneration, directly or indirectly, to its members, other than to members that are nonprofit organizations or subdivisions, units, or agencies of the United States or a state or local government.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law – Permitted Corporate Purposes

Minnesota Statutes, Section 317A.101 identifies that a non-profit corporation formed under Chapter 317A may have one or more of the following corporate purposes:

A corporation may be incorporated under this chapter for any lawful purpose, unless another statute requires incorporation for a purpose under a different law.

Unless otherwise limited in its articles, a corporation has a general purpose of engaging in any lawful activity.

A corporation engaging in conduct that is regulated by another statute is subject to the limitations of the other statute.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Entities as a Religious Corporation

Minnesota Statutes, Section 317A.909, Subd. 1 identifies that a corporation formed under Chapter 317A can be organized for a religious purpose, by providing in part as follows:

Subdivision 1.   Benefits for members.

When authorized by its members or otherwise, a corporation formed for a religious purpose may provide directly or through a church benefits board for:

(1)     support and payment of benefits to its ministers, teachers, employees, or functionaries and to the ministers, teachers, employees, or functionaries of a nonprofit organization affiliated with it or under its jurisdiction;

(2)     payment of benefits to the surviving spouses, children, dependents, or other beneficiaries of the persons named in clause (1);

(3)     collection of contributions and other payments; or

(4)     creation, maintenance, investment, management, and disbursement of necessary endowment, reserve, and other funds for these purposes, including a trust fund or corporation that funds a “church plan” as defined in section 414(e) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended through December 31, 1988. . . .

Minnesota Chapter 317A – Religious Corporations

Minnesota Statutes, Section 317A.909, Subd. 3 refers to certain non-profit corporations formed under Chapter 317A as religious corporations, by providing in part as follows:

Subd. 3.   Property exempt from taxation.

Except for property leased or used for profit, personal and real property that a religious corporation necessarily uses for a religious purpose is exempt from taxation.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Corporations Establishing Cemeteries


All cemeteries started or established as public cemeteries and

all cemeteries hereafter started or established,

 except cemeteries established by religious corporations,

are public cemeteries within the provisions of . . . chapter [306].

the governing documents of a Minnesota nonprofit corporation formed under Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 317A, would need to clearly identify that the corporation was a religious corporation in order to organize and operate a Minnesota private cemetery.

Minnesota Chapter 317A Cemetery Law

Copyright 2016 – All Rights Reserved

No claim to the text of statutory provisions, administrative documents, or judicial decisions.

Gary C. Dahle

Attorney at Law

For a discussion of Minnesota probate law, see https://dahlelawprobate.com/

For a discussion of Minnesota probate law, see also  https://www.dahlelawminnesota.com/

For a discussion of Minnesota probate law, see also 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:

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

[email protected]

Legal Disclaimer

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 Certificateshttp://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/osr/birth.html

Minnesota Historical Society – Birth Records: http://www.mnhs.org/people/birthrecords

Minnesota Marriage Recordshttps://moms.mn.gov/