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Transfer the ownership of a grave

When you buy a grave, what you are actually buying is the Exclusive Right of Burial for a specific period of either 75 or 100 years. You are not buying the grave freehold; it is more like purchasing a lease. No burial may take place in the grave and no memorial may be placed on the grave without the written permission of the grave owner during the period of the Exclusive Rights. A fee is payable for the digging and preparation of a grave at the time of burial and a fee is also payable for the installation of a memorial.

The Exclusive Rights may be renewed for a further term towards the end of the lease but must not exceed 100 years in total.

Ownership of the Exclusive Right of Burial is therefore a very important matter. Ownership can be transferred either during the owner’s lifetime or after their death. The procedure for transferring the ownership is detailed below; please note there is an administrative fee for this.

The Council’s records contain the details of the registered grave owners. However, it is important that the grave owners keep safe their Deed of Grant. The Council issues this document when the grave is first purchased and should be produced for each burial. It is then updated after each interment and returned to the owner. Possession of the Deed does not in itself signify ownership of the Exclusive Rights.

The grave owner can assign the Exclusive Rights of Burial, during their lifetime, to another individual on completion of an Assignment Form.

The owner can surrender the Exclusive Rights of Burial if the grave has not been used for burial, on completion of an Assignment Form. The surrender value being the original purchase price as specified on the Deed of Grant will be returned to the owner.

The procedure for establishing grave ownership when the original owner has died depends upon whether there is a will.

View the relevant circumstance below to know more:

If the deceased grave owner has made a valid will and left an estate of sufficient value to require the Grant of Probate to executors, ownership of the grave can be transferred to the executor. The applicant must produce a sealed copy of the Grant of Probate to the Bereavement Services Team for this to take place.

If the estate is not of sufficient value, ownership may be transferred to the executor named in the will by Statutory Declaration and the production of the will. It is then the executor’s responsibility to identify the correct person for the transfer of ownership and assent the transfer by completing an Assent form.

If there is no will, or the will is not valid, and the estate is of sufficient value as to require a Grant of Letters of Administration, ownership of the grave can be transferred to the personal representative of the deceased.

The applicant must produce a sealed copy of the Grant of Letters of Administration Form.

It is then the applicant’s responsibility to identify the correct person for transfer of ownership and assent the transfer by completing an Assent Form.

Where a family dispute results in a stalemate and relevant consents are withheld, the ownership cannot be transferred.

The various next of kin reaching an agreement between them, possibly through the agency of solicitors, can only resolve this.

The Council cannot, nor will be involved in such disputes, instead we will put a hold on the grave until a suitable resolution has been found.

If there are no Executors or Letters of Administration have not been granted, the rules of intestacy apply as laid down in the Administration of Estate Act 1925.

The applicant for transfer of ownership should complete a Statutory Declaration which the Bereavement Services Team will produce. Statutory Declarations are legal documents and must be signed in the presence of a Magistrate or Commissioner for Oaths.

The Statutory Declaration should clearly set out the facts regarding the original purchase of the Exclusive Rights of Burial, the death of the registered owner, intestate or otherwise and the relationship of the applicant to the registered owner. The original Deed of Grant and a certified copy of the owner’s death certificate should accompany the Declaration. Where the Deed has been lost, suitable wording should be incorporated within the declaration to the effect. It is essential that the written agreement of all the next of kin of the deceased owner to the transfer of ownership should also be obtained and attached to the Declaration. The following are examples of many of the possible circumstances:

Deceased owner survived by Application made by Consents needed
Spouse Spouse None - transferred to spouse
Spouse Son or daughter Transferred to spouse then can be assigned to son or daughter
No spouse but four children Son All other children
No spouse or children, but three brothers or sisters Brother Both other brother and sisters

Forms required for transferring ownership

Used by a living owner to transfer or change the ownership of the exclusive Rights of Burial ie to transfer to new owner or add an additional owner.

Granted to the executor/s of a Last Will and Testament once a document has been proven in Court. To be legally acceptable we can only accept sight of a “SEALED” Grant; ie it must bear the embossed seal of the court.

When a deceased person dies intestate then the next of kin can apply to the Courts to be made Administrator of the estate. An Administrator receives the same powers to administer the estate of the deceased as an executor.

Used to transfer ownership from an executor or administrator after ownership has been transferred into their name by production of Probate or Letters of Administration.

Used to transfer ownership from a deceased owner when no official documents have been issued. Declarations can be either based on a Will that did not go to probate, claiming ownership by the executor or by the next of kin if the deceased left no will.

Used together with a Statutory Declaration when a grave is being claimed by more than one person ie the deceased may have three children and next-of-kin, and one or more of those children wishes to give up their Rights to the ownership. NB Deane Bereavement Service wishes to advise that due to administration restrictions we only accept a maximum of TWO owners.

All certificates supplied with transfer applications must be originals or certified copies (Please note: birth certificates supplied for identification in a Deed Transfer must be a full birth certificate and not a short birth certificate).

All forms are supplied to you by the Bereavement Services Team depending on your circumstances. Please allow 4 - 6 weeks for the document to be created and sent to you.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Bereavement Services Team on 01823 356 381 if you require any further information or advice on how a transfer may be completed.

How to obtain duplicate/copies of documents

The National Archives

You will need to know the full names, date and place of death. If this is not known, you can search the index of deaths from 1837 until the present day, at the National Archives at Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU. Telephone 020 8876 3444 or you could visit their National Archives website for useful information. From 1984 you search by a year and then alphabetically by surname. Prior to 1984 the search is by quarters of each year.

The Register Office

If the death was within the last 18 months, you can ask for a copy of the death certificate from the Register Office for the area in which the death occurred. You can get a copy certificate from 1836 to the present day from The General Register Office (GRO). Copy death certificates can also be ordered online. Further useful information can be found on the Gov.UK website.

The National Archives

If you need to find out if a Will was made, you can search the index to all Wills at the National Archives at Kew. Their index is from 1858 to 1943 on microfiche.

The Probate Service

To get a copy of a Will, Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, you can write to The York Probate Sub Registry, First Floor, Castle Chambers, Clifford Street, York, YO1 9RG. There is a small fee and any cheque should be made payable to HMCS.

A copy is usually provided within 21 days of your request. The full name of the deceased, date of death and last known address must be provided. You cannot request a copy of any Will, Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration by telephone.

You can also get a copy of any document in person by visiting First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP.

The offices are open from Monday to Friday, from 10am until 4.30pm.

Telephone 020 7947 6000 or 020 7947 6939 or visit the Probate Service website.

Please note that any document produced for a transfer of grave ownership should show the embossed area of the seal, or be a certified copy of the original.