Kentucky Cemetery Laws
KRS 381.690 Protection of burial grounds by cities
Whenever any burial grounds lie within the corporate limits of a city the
governing authorities of the city shall protect the burial grounds from being
used for dumping grounds, building sites, playgrounds, places of entertainment
and amusement, public parks, athletic fields or parking grounds.
HISTORY: KS 2741p-1
Every cemetery in Kentucky except private cemeteries shall be maintained by its
legal owner or owners, without respect to the individuals owners of burial plots
in the cemetery, in such a manner so as to keep the burial grounds or cemetery
free of growth of weeds, free from accumulated debris, displaced tombstones or
other signs and indication of vandalism or gross neglect.
HISTORY: 1972 H 157, § 2, eff. 6-16-72
The governing authorities of any city within whose corporate limits any burying
grounds lie may require the owner or those having claims to the grounds to
properly care for them.
HISTORY: KRS 2741p-2.
Penalty, KRS 381.990(2)
KRS 381.710 Evidence of dedication or use of land as burying ground.
The fact that any tract of land has been set apart for burial purposes and that
a part or all of the grounds has been used for burial purposes shall be evidence
that such grounds were set aside and used for burial purposes. The fact that
graves are not visible on any part of the grounds shall not be construed as
evidence that such grounds were not set aside and used for burial purposes.
Effective: 1 October 1942
History: Recodified 1942 Ky Acts Ch. 208, sec 1, effective October 1, 1942, from
Ky Stat. Sec 2741 p.-3.
KRS 381.715 Burial Rights in cemetery lots; abandonment; resale by cemetery
(amended 18 March 1994)
(1) As used in the section, “cemetery lot” is a lot containing one (1) or more
grave spaces located within a cemetery registered pursuant to KRS 367.946 in a
county containing an urban-county government or in a city.
(2) An officer of the cemetery may cause to be filed, on behalf of the cemetery
an action in the circuit court of the county where the cemetery is located
requesting that the burial rights in the unused portion of the lots in question
be deemed abandoned and that the cemetery be authorized to sell the rights upon
entry of the court’s judgment. The defendants in the action shall be the unknown
heirs of the original owner of the burial rights in the lots in question.
(3) The petition shall include the following:
(A) The name of the original owner of the burial rights in the lots in question.
(B) The name of all persons buried in the lots and the date of burial, if known.
(C) The name, address and telephone of the cemetery office.
(D) An affidavit by the petitioner that:
1. No person has been buried in the cemetery lots in question for a period of at
least one hundred (100) years.
2. The identity of any owner of the burial rights in the lot in question or any
heir of the owner is unknown to any officer or employee of the cemetery and not
discoverable after a good faith attempt by an officer or employee to identify
the owner or heir.
(4) Service of process shall be by warned order attorney, appointed by the court
pursuant to CR 4.07.
(5) If the court finds the allegations set forth in paragraph (d) of subsection
(3) of this section to be true, the court shall enter judgment deeming the
burials rights in the lots in question abandoned and authorizing the cemetery to
sell the rights.
(6) No judgment shall be entered declaring burial rights abandoned if an owner
or heir of a cemetery lot has filed within the cemetery a statement in writing
directing that certain grave spaces not be used.
HISTORY: 1984 c 267, § 1, eff. 7-13-84
KRS 381.720 Abandoned cemetery in certain cities, proceedings to vest title
Whenever in the opinion of the legislative body of a city of the first, second,
third, fourth or fifth class a cemetery located within the boundaries of such
city has been abandoned and the land comprising the said cemetery is needed for
a public purpose, an ordinance may be enacted declaring such cemetery, as
described by metes and bounds, to be abandoned and authorizing the city attorney
to institute suit for the city or other governmental agency created by the city
in the circuit court of the county in which the city is located against the
property comprising the cemetery to declare the said cemetery abandoned and to
vest title thereto in the said city, or any governmental agency created by it
pursuant to or authority of the Kentucky Revised Statutes.
HISTORY: 1964 c 24, § 1. Eff. 3-10-64
1954 c 29, § 1
Abandonment or discontinuance of cemeteries. 14 Am Jur 2d, Cemeteries § 21 to
KRS 381.740 Assertion of claim to compensation for value of interest in
cemetery or lot
Within thirty days after the last advertisement, and party having a claim to the
cemetery or any lot therein or to the mortal remains of a person interred
therein, may file his claim in the said proceedings for damages as compensation
for the value of his interest in the cemetery or lot to which he has claim. Upon
the filing of the aforesaid claim the circuit court shall appoint as
commissioners three impartial housekeepers who are owners of land. They shall be
sworn to faithfully and impartially discharge their duties. The commissioners
shall view the land involved and they may hear evidence or make any inquiry they
desire touching the value thereof and award to claimant who are owners thereof
the value of the property taken. They shall return a written report to the
office of the clerk of the circuit court describing separately the property
which is subject of each claim. Either the claimant or the complainant may file
exceptions to this report and demand a jury trial. The commissioners shall be
allowed a reasonable fee which shall be taxed as cost.
HISTORY: 1964 c 24, § 3, eff. 3-10-64
1954 c 29, § 3
Property rights in lots or vaults; burial and incidental rights. 14 Am Jur 2d,
Cemeteries § 25 et seq.
KRS 381.750 Judgment; removal of bodies and monuments
If no claim is made within thirty days after the last advertisement, or if
claims have been made and compensation duly paid either to the claimants or into
court, the court shall declare the cemetery to be abandoned and enter judgment
accordingly, vesting fee simple title in the complainant. Thereafter claimants
shall have thirty days in which to remove the mortal remains and monuments from
lots to which they have been adjudged to have claim, the reasonable cost thereof
to be paid by the claimant. If, within thirty days after entry of judgment said
remains have not been removed by the claimants thereto, it shall be the duty of
such complainant, through its proper officers, to pay for the removal of the
monument and the disinterment, removal, and the reinterment of such body, or
bodies, in such other cemetery in the county in which said city is located as
the protesting lot owner may designate, or if no designation be made, to another
suitable cemetery in the county.
HISTORY: 1964 c 24, § 4, eff. 3-10-64
1954 c 29, § 4
Property rights to vaults and gravestones. 14 Am Jur 2d, Cemeteries § 33
Changing place of interment. 22 Am Jur 2d, Dead bodies § 22 to 28
Removal and reinterment of remains, 21 ALR2d 472
KRS 381.755 Removal of grave or cemetery on application of land owner or
county; procedure; expenses
OAG 83-265. Liability for desecration of graves may exist when land that has
been previously been used as a cemetery is reused as a cemetery without first
removing and reinterring the remains of those previously buried there. There is
no liability for desecration if the cemetery is abandoned so that nothing
indicates there are graves in the ground, the person is without notice that
graves exist, and the public no longer recognizes the land as a cemetery.
KRS 381.755 Removal of grave or cemetery on application of land owner or
county; procedure; expenses
(1) Upon application of the owner of property on which is located an abandoned
grave or cemetery or whenever the fiscal court or any county deems it to be in
the best interest of the county to remove and relocate any such grave or
cemetery the court may issue an order or resolution authorizing such removal or
(2) The order or resolution for the removal and relocation of the grave or
cemetery pursuant to subsection (1) shall specify and declare that at any time
after the expiration of sixty days after the first publication of notice of such
intended action pursuant to KRS Chapter 424, the court shall direct the removal
and relocation of the grave or cemetery.
(3) Expenses for removal and relocation of any grave or cemetery under the
provisions of this section shall be paid by the individual requesting such
removal or if the removal is made in the best interest of the county the
expenses shall be paid by county funds.
(4) Any grave or cemetery removed under the provisions of this section shall be
relocated in suitable place at the expense of the person or county requesting
such removal and relocation.
(5) For the purposes of this section a grave or cemetery shall be considered
abandoned when left untended for a period of ten years preceding the date of the
resolution for removal and relocation of the grave or cemetery.
Any person who willfully mutilates the graves, monuments, fences, shrubbery,
ornaments, grounds or buildings in or enclosing any cemetery or place of
sepulture; or violates the grave of any person by willfully destroying, removing
or damaging the head or foot stones, or the tomb over the enclosure protecting
any grave, or by digging into or plowing over or removing any ornament,
shrubbery or flower placed upon any grave or lot shall be fined not less than
ten dollars nor more than one hundred dollars, or imprisoned for not more then
six months, or both.
KRS 525.105 Desecration of venerated objects, first degree.
(1) A person is guilty of desecration of venerated objects in the first degree
when, other than authorized by law, he intentionally excavates or disinters
human remains for the purpose of commercial sale or exploitation of the remains
themselves or of objects buried contemporaneously with the remains.
(2) Desecration of venerated objects in the first degree is a Class D felony.
(Enact. Acts 1988, ch 19, § 1, effective March 30, 1988.)
KRS 525.110 Desecration of venerated objects, second degree.
(1) A person is guilty of desecration of venerated objects in the second degree
when he intentionally:
(a) Desecrates any public monument or object or place of worship; or
(b) Desecrates in a public place the national or state flag or other patriotic
or religious symbol which is an object of veneration by the public or a
substantial segment thereof.
(2) Desecration of venerated objects in the second degree is a Class A
(Enact. Acts 1974, ch 406, § 221; 1988, ch 119, § 2, effective March 30, 1988;
1992, ch. 420, § 3, effective July 14, 1992).
KRS 525.115 Violating graves
(1) A person is guilty of violating graves when he intentionally:
(a) Mutilates the graves, monuments, fences, shrubbery, ornaments, grounds, or
buildings in or enclosing any cemetery or place of sepulture; or
(b) Violates the grave of any person by destroying, removing, or damaging the
headstone or footstone, or the tomb over the enclosure protecting any grave; or
(c) Digs into or plows over or removes any ornament, shrubbery, or flower placed
upon any grave or lot.
(2) The provision of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to ordinary
maintenance and care of a cemetery nor the removal and relocation of graves
pursuant to procedures authorized by and in accordance with applicable statutes.
(3) Violating graves is a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class
D felony for each subsequent offense.
(Enacts. Acts 1992, ch. 420, § 2, effective July 14, 1992.)
KRS 525.120 Abuse of a corpse
(1) A person is guilty of abuse of a corpse when except as authorized by law he
intentionally treats a corpse in a way that would outrage ordinary family
(2) Abuse of a corpse is a Class A misdemeanor.
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