A cemetery is a place where dead bodies and cremated remains are buried. It is a locale set aside, either by governmental authority or private enterprise. A public cemetery is open for use by the community at large while a private cemetery is used only by a small segment of a community or by a family. The establishment of a cemetery involves the process of formally designating a tract of land for use for the burial of the dead. It must be set apart, marked, and distinguished from adjoining ground as a graveyard.
A cemetery is not only subject to the laws of ordinary property due to their inherently different nature. Most states have established rigorous laws that specifically apply to cemeteries. Private interests in the place of burial are subject to the control of public authorities, which have the right to require the disinterment of bodies if deemed necessary.
The law contemplates generally two categories of cemeteries, public and private. A public cemetery is one used by the general community, a neighborhood, or a church, while a private cemetery is one used only by a family or a small portion of the community. However, actual public use rather than ownership determines whether a cemetery is public. Thus, a cemetery, though privately owned or maintained, may be deemed a public cemetery if it is open, under reasonable regulations, to the use of the public for the burial of the dead. A cemetery, though privately owned, is properly classified as a “public cemetery” where it consists of a great number of burial plots or sites sold and for sale to the public. Conversely, a family burying ground has been defined by statute as one in which no lots are sold to the public and in which interments are restricted to a group of persons related to each other by blood or marriage.