Three months ago, John Chen* from Vancouver purchased two burial plots—one for him and one for his wife. He bought them from a private seller, and he already has one up for sale on Kijiji because he’s since decided that he prefers to be cremated. “I’m 75 years old, but I’d never thought about buying a grave site,” he says.

Since each plot in the B.C. cemetery can accommodate one casket and one crematory urn, one plot will accommodate both him and his wife, who still wants to be buried. By selling the second spot, Chen figures he’ll be able to pocket some cash.

He’s not alone. There are many reasons people might choose not to use a pre-purchased burial plot. They might move away and prefer to be buried closer to their new homes. Other times, religious considerations affect where they can be buried. Baha’is, for instance, must be buried no more than an hour’s journey from where they die. Other religions have similar restrictions.

Perhaps the biggest reason to sell plots, however, is that more people are opting for cremation, partially because rising land prices are making burial plots costly. The Cremation Association of North America forecasts about 44% of people who die will be cremated in 2015, compared to 34% in 2007. In some parts of the country, cremation rates are even higher. In Vancouver, 75% opt for cremation.

Read: Affordable burials nearly dead

And like other forms of real estate, it’s all about location. The price of a grave in downtown Toronto where land is scarce can be $15,000, compared to $2,000 in the suburbs. Burial plots located in favoured spots or in closed cemeteries, where no new development can take place, can be worth even more. So scarce are plots in Victoria, B.C.’s Ross Bay Cemetery, for example, that cemetery trustees held a lottery six years ago. The 65 winners didn’t get plots— they simply won the right to purchase one for as much as $25,000.

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The rules

So have we uncovered a new asset class? That depends.

Laws regarding burial plots vary depending on your province and “quite often the contract with the cemetery governs,” says Stuart Peikes, a business and estates lawyer with Clark Farb Fiksel in Toronto. “It may say that if the owner no longer requires a plot, it is surrendered back to the cemetery.”

That was true in Ontario until recently, according to Kat Downey, a licensed funeral director and pre-planner with Legacy Matters, operating in Mississauga, Oakville and Milton, Ont.

Owners who didn’t plan to use their plots had to sell them at the original purchase price, which was sometimes a fraction of what new plots were worth in the same cemetery.

The cemetery could then turn around and sell them at a profit.

Read: 3 estate planning mistakes

As of July 2012, Ontario cemeteries are now required to buy back gravesites at fair market value. If they don’t, plot owners are entitled to sell them on the open market. The only exception is when an owner has bought a double plot and one is already occupied; because a shared plot with someone else’s relative has no resale value.

The result has been a growing number of listings for burial plots on Kijiji and Craigslist, often promising good locations (i.e., high and dry, overlooking cemetery) at a substantial discount. There’s even a dedicated website (buyandsellcemeteryplots.com) selling plots in the U.S. and Canada.

Before putting money down, Downey warns, potential buyers should make sure a cemetery representative is on hand with the paperwork required to transfer ownership, as well as a current price list, to ensure the value of the plot is as stated.

Read: Don’t delay planning

3 ways to help executors

  1. Update your knowledge regarding executor’s roles. The executor secures, protects, gathers and liquidates estate assets, pays the decedent’s taxes and debts, and divides what remains of the estate amongst the beneficiaries in accordance with the will.
  2. Raise executor issues in meetings with clients and ensure they’ve given careful thought to naming the right executor. Offer to meet with your client and her executor together.
  3. Ask clients if they might be named executor of an estate, and explain you’re there to help. This ensures you’re the first person they contact when the time comes.

– Mark O’Farrell, president of the Canadian Institute of Certified Executor Advisors

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I don’t understand how you arrived at the numbers in this post. It says there were 4 plots remaining each worth $10,000 for a total of $40,000 to be shared among 10 grandchildren. Each grandchild would receive $4000. They should only require an insurance policy for $32,000 to cover the value of the burial plots for the remaining 8 grandchildren. Why would all 8 grandchildren who opted for the money be entitled to $10,000 each when the 2 beneficiaries who wanted the plots only receive them with a total value of $40,000. The two grandchildren who wanted the plots should still be entitled to a share of their value. Please comment.

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 10:07 am Reply


Hi Darby, the plots could not be divided up or liquidated in order to provide $4,000 in value to each grandchild. A grandchild would either receive a plot or nothing if they did not find a way to equalize the situation via the insurance. – the editors

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 10:16 am


My husband is an artist with reasonable standing ( works have been deemed cultural property when donated to museums etc, he has three galleries representing him; he is ‘international’, and has work in many public and private collections etc.). We are not rich. We are making our wills. We have no children, and after each other as beneficiaries, we plan to leave everything to an animal welfare charity. ‘Everything’ currently means about 400 thousand in cash and investments, and all of his inventory of artwork, including copyrights.
I understand that tax is not an issue to me as a spouse regarding the artwork, but what about the charity? Is a registered charity exempt from tax on this due to their standing as a charity? Can we leave all to them and then they could sell, or dispose of the work without losing a lot of the estate to tax? Would the ‘inventory’ be a tax problem itself for them even before any sales of the work ? ( An artists inventory at tax time is claimed as ‘nil’ normally

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017 at 7:46 pm Reply


Hello Mia, while we cannot give advice for your specific issue, I would consult this CRA document on registered charities (versus non-profits) and income tax. http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/dnrs/rgltn/dffrnc-rc-np-eng.html This checklist may also be useful to understand the charity’s obligations and what kind of receipting they must provide: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/chcklsts/rcpts-eng.html It doesn’t hurt to chat with the charity as well to determine their ability to accept this gift. Good luck.

Thursday, Jun 15, 2017 at 9:16 am