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Do I Need A Burial Vault?

Answering the question “Do I need a burial vault?” can be complicated, and depends greatly on what type of vault is needed (for example, a casket burial vault or cremation urn burial vault). For simplicity sake, this article focuses on the burial vaults intended for caskets, but the same information can be applied to those for urns as well. Experts who work with cemeteries will often give advice that conflicts with that of consumer advocates who keep watch on the funeral home and cemetery industries. And still other bits of advice on this question can come from grief counselors and other experts on the psychological after-affects of a family member's death. So, probably the best answer to the question is the typical one: “It just depends on your case and your needs.”To help you sort out the issues invoked by this question and to make the best choice for your particular case, this article will now explore the overall advice that experts of all types give related to this question of whether or not you do indeed need a burial vault. We will look at this question from the perspective of three different types of experts: those who work in and manage cemeteries, those who advise consumers about getting the most for their money when planning a funeral and burial, and those who have buried loved ones in a burial vault.

What Cemetery Personnel Say About Burial Vaults

A casket burial vault can provide peace of mind, but one should tread carefully when selectingMany cemeteries across the United States and the world have strict regulations requiring their graves be installed with burial vaults. This is particularly the case in low-lying areas or where the underground water table is near the Earth's surface. In the view of cemetery managers who enforce these mandatory burial vault policies, the main purpose of a burial vault is to support the landscaping on the surface. Burial vaults keep the ground from caving in around a burial casket as it slowly disintegrates over time, and thereby helps grounds keepers avoid the inevitable indentations and holes that would certainly appear throughout the cemetery grounds as graves age.

Cemetery personnel point out that the advent of burial vaults in the last 50 to 75 years have helped make cemeteries friendly for visitors who no longer have to abide by the age-old idea that it's improper or disrespectful to tread upon other graves while in route to their own family member's grave for a visit. This idea came about because, in the days before burial vaults were common (or at least commonly required in cemeteries), graves that were not lined with a burial vault were likely to end up sinking over time if visitors – or landscapers – were to walk upon them. As burial vaults became more and more prevalent, these fears were assuaged, and the restrictions (and/or superstitions) against walking, standing, or mowing upon graves have been largely relegated to history. (It should be noted that, in wet regions, most graves would end up sinking no matter whether anyone walked on them or not. That's why burial vaults are said to have become standard, first, in low-lying coastal areas such as New Orleans and Galveston, where the soil is much wetter, and therefore less stable, than in other areas.)

What Consumer's Advocates Say About Burial Vaults

In regions in which all cemeteries require that burial vaults be installed in all graves – as we said above, this is typically in wet areas, particularly along coast lines and large rivers – consumer advocates typically have no choice but to advise that those who are planning the burial of their loved one go along with local regulations and customs. Where there is a choice, however, consumer advocates are often apt to recommend that you do not, in fact, need a burial vault. Further, they will usually advise that, even if you are required by your cemetery to install a burial vault for your loved one, you should almost always opt for the least expensive, most basic, vault that you can order. The will point out that any type of hermetically sealed concrete or steel vault will hold up to settling dirt and water as well as any other, and the chances of anyone except cemetery personnel actually seeing the vault either before or after it is installed into the grave are very rare. So paying extra for additional amenities in a vault – such as elaborate ornamentation, a name plate, or even storage compartments – is almost entirely unnecessary and even potentially a little fool hearty, consumer experts often warn.

Burial vaults hold the earth up over time which protects the casketSome consumer groups have begun legislative initiatives in states and cities across the United States to require that cemeteries who require vaults to simply provide a basic burial vault to all customers and to make that charge part of the standard service fees. In other words, these groups would like to outlaw the up-selling of burial vaults to families who seem to want more elaborate accommodations for their loved one's remains. The consumer experts argue that, these accommodations can already be found in caskets, which are typically available for public view before, during, and even after a memorial service. It should be noted that, to date, the authors of this article have found no documentation of a state or municipal government having adopted such a rule. Likewise, there does not seem to be any law in which cemeteries are specifically required to install burial vaults in their graves. Consumer advocates often warn that a few unscrupulous cemetery operators have been known to imply – or in some cases, outright lie – that the law requires customers to buy burial vaults for their graves. In the vast majority of instances, that is simply not the case: cemeteries may, indeed, have such a requirement – so long as the policy is enforced uniformly, but, except possibly in rare instances in which we are not aware, there is no law that mandates burial vaults. It should also be noted, from the consumer advocates perspective, that, if two or more cemeteries owners have purposely agreed that they will all require their customers to purchase burial vaults for their graves, a violation of anti-trust laws may very well have taken place, and the Federal Trade Commission should be notified. Many people in the United States do not realize that Congress has long-since made it illegal for business to “team up” in such a fashion so as to discourage choice for consumers and to artificially inflate the prices of their goods and services.

What Those Who Have Purchased Burial Vaults Say

A brief look at anecdotal stories that consumers have posted on various websites suggests that those who have installed casket vaults for burial in their loved-one's graves are largely indifferent: they did it only because the cemetery required it, and, probably would not have even thought of doing such a thing had it not been required of them. One or two consumers, however, can be found talking favorably about their decision. These people describe a pleasant peace of mind that comes from knowing that their loved-one's casket - and in turn remains - will remain protected for years to come. (It should be noted, of course, that a burial vault does not stop the decomposition process. It only assures the ground will not collapse around the decaying casket and body.)

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