All across the country there are cemeteries for people and cemeteries for pets. Virginia has become the third state in the nation to pass a law allowing pet owners to be buried with man’s best friend. Joining New York and Pennsylvania, Virginia’s new law went into effect in July and could affect many pet owners’ estate planning options.
New Burial Law
In Virginia, a new state law allows cemeteries to set aside parts of their property to create sections where pets and humans can be buried next to one another. Most states do not allow for pets and humans to be buried together or their laws do not address it. This law was introduced by Republican member of the House of Delegates, Israel O’Quinn, and was passed in April.
The Code of Virginia Section 54.1-2312.01 states that a cemetery may have a section devoted to the interment of human and pet remains, provided that the following rules apply:
· The pet must be considered a companion animal under Virginia law · The pet must have its own casket and cannot be interred with human remains · The section of the cemetery must be clearly marked
The new law has a growing popularity in Virginia. Since its enactment in July, one funeral service owner already has a waiting list of 25 people who wished to be buried alongside their pets. Because the pets must be in their own caskets, funeral directors are working with specialty companies that make containers in pet sizes.
New York and Pennsylvania’s Pet Burial Laws
Virginia joins New York and Pennsylvania in passing laws that allow human owners and their pets to be buried together. However, New York’s law differs from that in Virginia. New York adopted regulations in June passed last fall which allows pet cemeteries to accept the remains of the pet’s owner.
Under New York’s regulation, human cemeteries do not set aside a specific section for combined burials. Pet owners can be cremated and their remains can be interred with their pets in a pet cemetery. The pet cemeteries are not allowed to charge a fee and cannot advertise their human burial services.
Pennsylvania has had a combined burial law on the books for almost eight years. Hillcrest Memorial Park in western Pennsylvania was the first to set up a cemetery where a human body, not cremains, could be buried with their pets. Like the regulations passed in Virginia, the cemetery in Pennsylvania has three sections: one for humans, one for pets, and a combined area.
Impact on Estate Planning
When estate planning it is important to consider what will happen to your pets after you are gone or to set aside money to take care of their remains if you expect your pet to pass away before you. Currently, professionals who dispose of pet remains estimate that over 90% of pet owners have their pet’s remains cremated, compared to just 23% of humans. However, with new laws allowing for pets’ bodies to be buried with their owners, those statistics may start to change.
If you are considering taking advantage of these new laws and being buried with your furry companion, it is important to make your wishes clear and plan accordingly in your estate. Consider purchasing a plot in a combined section of the cemetery ahead of time, make sure that there are funds for both you and your pet’s interment, and specifically state within your will that you wish to be buried with your pet.