An AIC-sponsored bill that will help cities deal with unused cemetery lots has passed the House and Senate and now awaits signature by Governor. C.L. "Butch" Otter.
House Bill 496 provides a process for cities and cemetery districts to follow to deal with cemetery lots that were sold decades ago where there is uncertainty about whether the owner or their family intend to use the lot.
Since the 1960s, most cemetery deeds have included reversionary clauses that provide that if the lot is not used within a specified period of time—generally 30 to 50 years—then the lot reverts to the cemetery owner. A number of Idaho cities—including Boise, Nampa, Caldwell and Lewiston—face the challenge of dealing with cemetery lots sold decades ago before reversionary clauses became standard practice. For example, the City of Caldwell has more than 100 cemetery lots purchased between 50 and 100 years ago that have not been used for burial where it is not clear whether the owner or their heirs have any interest in using the lot.
Under HB 496, in the event that a cemetery lot has not been used for burial for at least 50 years after purchase, the city or cemetery district notifies the owner or the owner’s heirs of the existence of the lot and gives them 60 days to respond in writing to express an interest in using the lot for burial. If the owner cannot be located, then legal notice is published for three weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county and the notice is mailed to the owner’s last known address, if available.
If the owner or their heirs fail to notify the city or district within 60 days after notice is provided that they intend to use the lot, then it reverts to the city or district and may be sold for burial purposes.
In the event that the owner or their heir shows up at some point down the line after the lot reverted to the city or district and wants to use it for burial, they are entitled to use it if the lot has not been sold to someone else. If the lot has been sold, the city or district must either provide another lot in the cemetery or compensate the person for the fair value of the lot at the present time.
This legislation will help public cemeteries to deal with this issue in a responsible way that respects the rights of the purchaser and their heirs.