Purchasing Grave Markers in Maryland

What are the Rules in Maryland if are looking for a Grave Marker?

A number of consumers whose loved-ones are buried in Maryland have heard from their cemetery that headstones purchased from dealers not licensed in Maryland may not be installed in that state. There are countless stories of emotionally overwhelmed families who, in their grieving state of mind, do not even consider looking into the ‘law’ that the cemetery is referring to, and simply wish to honor their lost loved one as quickly as possible, which is certainly understandable. When this is the case, the consumer may easily come to believe that they have no other option but to purchase the grave marker or headstone from their own cemetery.

This is simply not true.

The State of Maryland’s Office of Cemetery Oversight says this, specifically, on their Frequently Asked Questions page:

“A consumer may purchase a monument or cemetery marker from an independent monument or marker dealer.”

Maryland law does require businesses be licensed if they operate directly in the state

Maryland, like all states, allows cemeteries to set standards for their markers, but, so long as a marker meets those standards, the cemetery may not refuse it. In other words, the cemetery should accept a grave marker or headstone as long as it abides by the cemetery regulations. A refusal based on these grounds should easily be able to be corrected, if the family is willing to augment their order to abide by said rules. A refusal from the cemetery is especially serious if it is based solely on the grounds of who sold the memorial or where it was produced. Any attempt to do this is an overtly anti-competitive tactic (aimed at keeping prices artificially high) and would likely be in violation of federal anti-trust rules enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

Maryland law does require that memorial businesses be licensed if they operate directly in the state. But, of course, there is no such requirement for businesses who are located elsewhere but simply serve customers in Maryland. (Any such law would likely face strong constitutional challenges.)

If an employee of a cemetery in Maryland attempts to discourage families from purchasing a headstone via the internet, by stating – falsely – that all monuments must be purchased from licensed dealers this could very well be considered a violation of Federal Trade Commission rules. Consumers would do well to let the cemetery management know of the very serious error and then to call the matter to the attention of the Federal Trade Commission FTC with filling a complaint and other consumer protection groups. The people who run Funerals.org are another great source.

Above all, we recommend all consumers in the state of Maryland to brush up on their – particular – cemetery’s policies with great care, and be ready to dispute any allegations that seem unjust. While the Funeral Rule that has greatly helped level the playing field in the memorial industry does not directly apply to cemeteries, but many cemeteries find it in their best interest to follow these guidelines, simply for the sake of good business practices and their reputation, especially if the consumer is aware of their options for dealing with uncooperative businesses. Usually, showing the cemetery that one is well informed and willing to stand up for their rights can go a long way in gaining the cemetery’s cooperation.