Can You Be Buried With Your Pet?

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann, a Freehold, NJ Estate Planning Law Firm

Pets are often regarded as a part of the family. There is health insurance for pets, and most states allow “pet trusts” to ensure that a cherished animal will be cared for after the owner’s death. A pet trust works much like a conventional trust with substantially the same rules and requirements except that the beneficiary is a pet. But can you and your pet spend eternity with each other as well? The answer depends on what state you are in and on the meaning of “with.”

Many states have laws specifically prohibiting pets and humans being buried together or are silent on the subject. But in New Jersey and two neighboring states have laws allowing some form of combined burial, and the list will undoubtedly grow as demand increases.

New York and New Jersey allow cremated human remains to be buried with a pet, but only in a pet cemetery. New York’s pet cemeteries cannot charge a fee for the service and are barred from advertising that they offer it.

In a law that has been on the books since about 2006, Pennsylvania allows cemeteries to have three sections – one for humans, one for pets and an area for both.

These laws are responding to growing interest. About 62 percent of U.S. households own pets, and although the laws of most states prohibit burying pets in human cemeteries, funeral directors exercise discretion when it comes to placing personal objects – such as the cremated remains of a much-loved pet — in people’s coffins.

Many funeral directors will confide with you that “not a week goes by when I don’t put an urn of an animal into the casket of a human being secretly for a family.” So, while it’s been going on for a very long time, the trend is becoming more recognized where people are getting permission to do it.

To discuss your NJ estate planning matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.