Often, when people are planning their estates, they consider questions such as, “Where would I like to be buried when I die?” or “Do I prefer to be buried or cremated?” When thinking about this, family burial plots, the GENESIS Program, or church cemeteries often come to mind.
Tennessee goes one step further and allows churches or others who own cemeteries to establish “Cemetery Trusts,” which are charitable trusts used for the perpetual care of private cemeteries. These trusts provide a useful vehicle for entities, especially churches, to set aside a plot of land they wish to irrevocably designate as a cemetery. That way, no matter what the future holds, the land will always benefit congregants by serving as a burial place for them and their loved ones.
Cemetery trusts are governed according to the Tennessee Code, Title 46, Chapter 7. Any person or entity (not just a church or nonprofit) may contribute land or other gifts to a cemetery trust. All land donated must be committed irrevocably for perpetual use as a cemetery. All funds donated must be used for the care and maintenance of the private cemetery, though funds may also be expended for administrative purposes.
A nonprofit trust corporation governs the cemetery trust by serving as the trustee. A board of directors (typically church elders or other leadership) manages the trust through the nonprofit corporation.
A cemetery trust is an effective way to preserve land for use as a cemetery. If your church is looking to set up such a trust, or if you are considering personal estate planning or have any other legal needs, contact The Pickler Law Firm!