Winter Burial in New York State

A new law initiated by NYSFDA was enacted by the Governor last year to require cemeteries to perform interments throughout the year, most notably during the winter months. This law, which takes effect on February 11, 2007, places into State law the current State Cemetery Board regulation (directive). By doing so, this important regulation is given much greater strength and effect.

What does the law do?

Places the current Cemetery Board regulation into statute (State law). It requires cemeteries to be available for interments throughout the year, including the winter months, at least six days per week excluding legal holidays. This ensures that families have the option of selecting a winter interment (rather than a spring burial) for their loved one, should they choose to do so.

To which cemeteries does the law apply?

All not-for-profit cemeteries regardless of size, budget or number of interments. Like the current regulation, it does not apply to religious or municipal cemeteries. However, any cemetery having a burial section for persons of a particular religious belief must remain available for interments and grave openings in keeping with the religious and/or ethnic traditions of the persons buried in that section.

What if bad weather will not permit an interment?

The law clearly states that cemeteries would not have to perform interments or provide grave openings in the event of severe weather or other similar conditions. It is anticipated that determining whether severe weather truly exists in the cemeterys area will be a matter that
is discussed collaboratively by all involved parties, most certainly the funeral director, the family of the deceased and cemetery personnel. It is prudent that funeral directors use good common sense when telling families that burials can take place. It is not the intent of the law to require interments if a weather condition exists that truly could put individuals at serious risk of accident; conversely, the weather cannot be used as a rationale not to open a grave when conditions would clearly permit it.

Can cemeteries still close based on specific dates/times of the year?

No. A cemetery can no longer officially close during the winter or for regular, set periods of time using dates on the calendar. In fact, the Division of Cemeteries has just stated that a cemetery must have made arrangements for the continuance of operations during the winter months. The Division of Cemeteries has recommended that cemeteries inform their local funeral directors of these arrangements and consult with them when and if changes are made. A funeral director who serves on the board of a cemetery which is 30 acres or less in size may act to facilitate winter burials at that cemetery. Further, cemeteries have been instructed to delete any rule or regulation it may have that permits closure based on the time of year as it is now automatically null and void.

What if a cemetery refuses to open to perform an interment, even if the weather would permit it?
You should contact the Division of Cemeteries Regional Division Office Investigator in your area (as follows) to request their intervention:
    Buffalo/Western
    Cindi Craig
    (716) 847-7101
    (585) 721-6420 (cell)

Can a cemetery charge for a winter burial?

Yes, cemeteries may charge the actual and reasonable additional costs necessary to do an interment in the winter months. These costs must be documented by the third-party contractor, vendor, supplier or the like and submitted by the cemetery to the appropriate regional office investigator, who will conduct a review to ensure that the added charges are reasonable. Funeral directors should advise families that this charge may be made if the weather turns for the worse between the time of the funeral and the day of the burial. No one winter burial interment charge can be fixed in advance by the Cemetery Board because the amount is determined by what is needed to perform the interment based on the weather conditions at the time.

So, which of these policies are in effect?

All of them! Although the new law does not take effect until February 11th, all of these new policies are in effect RIGHT NOW because of the current regulation.