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Grave ownership and transfer of ownership

Exclusive right of burial

When you buy a grave at Merton & Sutton Joint Cemetery, London Road Cemetery, or Gap Road Cemetery, what you are actually buying is the Exclusive Right of Burial for a specific period:

  • 50 or 75 years for a coffin or casket grave
  • 25 or 40 years for a cremation remains grave

You are not buying the grave freehold or the grave space: it is more like purchasing a lease. The ownership of the grave and the cemetery land remains with us. However, Exclusive Right of Burial will be issued to the named person stated on our interment form and can only be purchased when arranging a burial. A Deed of Grant will also be issued by us at the same time.

Only the registered owner has the right to allow a burial to take place in the grave.

No memorial may be placed on the grave without the written permission of the grave owner during the period of the Exclusive Rights of Burial. If you are the registered owner, you have the automatic right to be buried in the grave. You may also allow others to be buried in the grave (space permitting).

Ownership of the Exclusive Right of Burial is very important. Ownership can be transferred either during the owner's lifetime or after their death. The procedure for transferring the ownership is detailed below.

The Exclusive Rights of Burial may be renewed for a further term at the end of the lease but please contact the cemeteries office for the fee.

The Council's and the Cemetery Board'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 and the Cemetery Board issues this document when the grave is first purchased and should be produced for each burial. Possession of the Deed does not in its self show ownership of the Exclusive Rights.

Transfer of ownership of the Exclusive Right of Burial

In the following circumstances transfer of the ownership will be needed:

  • if the registered owner decides to assign the grave to someone else
  • if an application is made for a burial in the grave but the registered owner is deceased
  • if an application to place a memorial or additional inscription on the grave is made but the registered owner is deceased
  • if the registered owner has recently died. This makes future arrangements easier if there is a living registered owner The Council and the Cemetery Board must obey the law relating to ownership of graves and burials. Where the owner has previously been buried, then without exception a new owner must first be registered to re-open a grave for burial or place a memorial or additional inscription upon a memorial.
  • When considering transferring ownership of a grave, it is important to be aware that it is against the law to open a grave for burial including a burial of cremated remains or to place cremated remains upon the surface of a grave without the written permission of the registered owner, unless the burial is for the grave owner.
  • The law regarding transfer of grave ownership

Transferring grave ownership when the current owner is still alive

The grave owner can:

  • transfer the Exclusive Rights of Burial during their lifetime to another individual or add an additional owner
  • surrender the Exclusive Rights of Burial if the grave has not been used for burial. The surrender value being the original purchase price as specified on the Deed of Grant

In both circumstances the Assignment of Exclusive Right of Burial Form needs to be completed.

Deciding grave ownership where the owner has died

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

Please refer to the Types of transferring rights below for an explanation of the different terms used.

Deceased left a valid will

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 and complete the Assent of Executor or Administration form.

If the estate is not of sufficient value, ownership may be transferred to the executor named in the will as long as they have a Statutory Declaration and can produce 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 of Executor or Administration form.

No or invalid will but a Grant of Letters of Administration has been obtained

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 and complete the Assent of Executor or Administration form. It is then the applicant's responsibility to identify the correct person for transfer of ownership and agree to it by completing an Assent of Executor or Administration form.

Family disputes

Where a family dispute results in a stalemate and relevant consents are withheld, ownership cannot be transferred. Transfer can only happen if the next of kin reach an agreement between themselves.

No will and no Letters of Administration: deceased dies in intestate

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 Stat​utory Declaration. Statutory Declarations are legal documents produced by us 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 Statutory Declaration.

Where the Deed has been lost, suitable wording should be incorporated within the declaration to that effect. It is essential that the written agreement of all the next of kin of the deceased owner must also be obtained for the "transfer of ownership" and attached to the Statutory 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/Daughter

No spouse

but four children

Son

All children - irrespective of legitimacy

No spouse or

children -

but three brothers

or sisters

Brother

Both other brother / sisters

Types of transferring deeds ownership 

Assignment of Exclusive Right of Burial

Used by a living owner to transfer or change the ownership of the exclusive Right of Burial i.e. to transfer to new owner or add an additional owner.

Grant of Probate

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; i.e. it must bear the embossed seal of the court. An Assent of Executor of Administration form will need completing.

Letters of Administration

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.

Assent of Executor or Administrator

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.

Statutory Declaration

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. Please contact the cemeteries office to discuss the Statutory Declaration.

Form of Renunciation 

Form of Renunciation

Used together with a Statutory Declaration when grave is being claimed by more than one person i.e. 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 The Council and the Cemetery Board wishes to advise that due to Administration Restrictions we only accept a maximum of TWO owners.

Certificates 

All certificates supplied with transfer applications must be originals or certified copies.

(NB Birth certificates supplied for identification in a Deed Transfer must be a full birth certificate and not a short birth certificate.)

Useful information to help you transfer the ownership of a grave 

How to get a copy of a Death Certificate

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 Kew Richmond Surrey TVV9 4DU. Telephone 020 8876 3444 www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

The Register Office

If the death was within the last 18 months, you can ask for a copy 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 (G.R.0). Copy death certificates can also be ordered online www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates

How to get a copy of a Will, Probate or Letters of Administration

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 www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

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. 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. Telephone 020 7947 6000/6939

website: www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk

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.

Find a will (GOV.UK website)

Fees and charges 

The transfer of Grave Ownership is handled by the Cemetery Office, and there is a fee payable. You can contact the Cemetery Office on 0203 8798 806 or email slwpcemeteries@idverde.co.uk to enquire about the current fee applicable. Payments are made payable to idverde Ltd

Transferring of ownership at London Road Cemetery, Gap Road Cemetery or Church Road Cemetery

If the grave owner is not deceased and is a resident of the Borough. When a request for a transfer of ownership is required by a non-resident there will be a charge for the transfer fee plus an additional non-resident’s fee .

Transferring ownership at Merton & Sutton Joint Cemetery

If the grave owner is not deceased and is a resident of either London Borough of Merton or the London Borough of Sutton 

When a request for a transfer of ownership is required by a non-resident there will be a charge for the transfer fee plus an additional non-resident’s fee .

We recognise that getting this information together may be difficult and the cemeteries office will do all they can to try to help whilst ensuring all the legal requirements are met. The Cemetery Office staff have received training on this important issue.

Contact us

idverde ltd
Cemeteries Office
Cheam Depot
Cheam Park
Tudor Close
Cheam
SM3 8QS

Tel: 0203 8798 806
Email: slwpcemeteries@idverde.co.uk