Cost to exhume & rebury body?
February 19, 2012 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone offer a ballpark figure on the cost to exhume remains and rebury them in a different state? (in US). "Expensive" is not very helpful, I would like to know if it is closer to $10k, $50k or a $100K.

My relative was buried in the same state where his wife and kids were living. His family has moved back to our hometown and there is a desire to move his body to the cemetery that holds other family members and where it can be visited by those who love him.

Please no discussion about whether this is a good use of the money - that is for the family to decide.
posted by metahawk to Work & Money (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Grave opening and closing are a minimum of $1,000 each (at least here in New England). You'll need a new coffin, almost certainly, so that's at least $500 right there. You'll have to pay a funeral director for his or her time in supervising the grave opening and the transfer of the remains--expect that to be $1,000 to $2,000.

Transporting the remains will cost a bundle, whether the casket is driven from one locality to another by hearse, or driven to the airport by hearse, flown to the new state, and picked up at the airport by hearse. Not knowing the two locations, I give you an off-the-cuff estimate of $2,000 for that.

When the casket arrives in the new location, you've got the grave opening and closing on that end, and depending on your state and municipal laws you may need a funeral director's involvement, so that's another $1,500 to $2,000. Then having the gravestone engraved is going to run you $400 and up.

So something like $10,000 to $15,000 seems like a reasonable estimate.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:50 AM on February 19, 2012

To move our father's remains two years ago in CA it started at $3000.00. We left him where he was.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:56 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fifteen years ago, to move my grandfather from California to Washington State was in the neighborhood of $10,000.
posted by cyniczny at 11:30 AM on February 19, 2012

I am a professional undertaker and I do this several times a year.

A lot of your cost depends on how he was originally buried, and how long it's been since the burial. Best case scenario: buried within the past 20 years or so in metal casket within a concrete or metal vault. After Hurricane Rita, vaulted caskets that had been buried for over twenty years were found intact dozens of miles from where they'd been originally buried.

Worst case scenario: unvaulted, wooden casket. I'll tell you what I tell my families: what you are moving is not your loved ones remains, but the IDEA of their remains. You may find a scrap of cloth or a large bone, but wood returns to the earth pretty quickly. If it's been less than five years, it could be a pretty grisly process.

We charge in the area of $5000 for the process, which can be quite labor intensive. Then, you have transportation fees, state permits (that are sometimes necessary), and all of that is hindered by when the weather allows for it. We won't do it on a rainy day. Way too messy.

Travel will almost certainly be overland, not airfreight. The weight of the vaulted casket would be cost prohibitive.

In many cases, families have instead opted to have a headstone placed in their preferred cemetery with an acknowledgement that his body lies elsewhere. Feel free to ask any other questions here or by email.
posted by ColdChef at 11:37 AM on February 19, 2012 [28 favorites]

I should also say that costs vary wildly from funeral home to funeral home and from state to state. You may want to get several estimates.
posted by ColdChef at 11:39 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Cold Chef: is it possible to get the remains exhumed, then cremate and ship for much less?

Assuming that would be agreeable to the OP and family.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:35 PM on February 19, 2012

Possible, but I wouldn't do it. The Transportation is only a small part of the charges. The exhumation is what's so costly. The cremation may even be more costly than just the transport. And then, you're possibly stuck with a soiled casket. And you can't just put those by the curb.
posted by ColdChef at 12:56 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yay, ColdChef! So glad you're here. I hadn't even thought about the costs of disposing of the original casket, which I imagine must be classified as hazmat in most if not all jurisdictions. Also didn't realize that transporting the vault as a whole was an option--would that add significantly to the cost of the grave closing at the original cemetery, or is the cost of fill material minor?
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:11 PM on February 19, 2012

Most cemeteries keep a "fill pile" to fill in graves that have sunk in. I'd be shocked if a family was charged extra for grave filler.
posted by ColdChef at 1:37 PM on February 19, 2012

My relative died six years ago, buried in a Jewish cemetery.
Would the casket have to be wood if it was a Jewish (Reform) funeral? I can ask someone who knows but not ready to that yet...
So, if it was wood, it sounds like there may not be much to move? or just too grisly/smelly?

It is common for a cemetery to accept a headstone without any grave? Any special considerations, if we wanted to do that?

Any other suggestions for a family that feels uncomfortable with idea of leaving him alone with the gravesite un-visted? ColdChef - I get that this just about the IDEA of his body but that is a potent, emotional idea that particularly for certain parts of the family.
posted by metahawk at 10:44 PM on February 21, 2012

I don't handle many Jewish services (I can think of only one in recent memory), but I seem to recall that a wooden casket was necessary. My point about the IDEA of the body is that the wooden casket would most likely have deteriorated and melded back with the earth and so there would not be anything solid to exhume. You would just dig up the dirt where the casket had been.

After six years, I'm afraid that it would not be a pretty process. Realistically, they would be exhuming the partially deteriorated body of their loved one. A skeleton with clothes packed in discolored dirt. In fact, sometimes that's the only way we can tell that we're exhuming a place where the casket had been: the soil is a different color.

I can't see any reason why a cemetery wouldn't accept a headstone without a grave. You would still have to purchase the grave space, though. And those can be expensive.

I wish I had better advice for you. If he was buried straight in the ground, in a wooden casket, without a vault, six years ago it is very unlikely that you'd be able to move his body intact. In that kind of situation, when we do it (and we've done it a few times), the family would purchase another vault or casket, we'd exhume what we could (bones, scraps of wood, clothes, discolored soil) and put it into the new container and then bury that. There is no guarantee that you'd get all of him. And that grave would likely never be used again. Because who wants a used grave?

There may be specific Jewish aspects I'm missing here, so it may be a good idea to contact the original cemetery directly and ask their advice. Good luck.
posted by ColdChef at 4:47 AM on February 22, 2012

Thanks so much! I really appreciate knowing the facts of what would be found if the family choose to do this. In some ways, knowing how much deterioration has taken place makes it easier (at least for me) to let things be. This will help me to have the necessary conversation with the rest of the family.
posted by metahawk at 2:36 PM on February 23, 2012

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