It is a question that is really cumbersome because, in principle, each municipality is responsible for managing the cemeteries that are within its limits, so, although there is a basic regulation, there are different exceptions and very different cases can arise.
You have to look at this topic from a practical way, leaving aside any morbid aspect. The reality is that you may be interested in knowing how to have a niche in the local cemetery, or perhaps you find yourself in a situation in which a relative has passed away and you have «inherited» the rights to a possible burial place (highly valued by the way ). Clarifying doubts is important.
What laws are applicable in this matter?
There is no state law that establishes the rules by which the management of cemeteries must be governed. The only one applicable in all cases is Decree 2263 of 1974 on Health and Mortuary Police, which is accompanied by the various subsequent regulations developed at the local or autonomous community level. All of them focus primarily on the basics that any burial must bring together. sanitary level. This specific regulation is also taken into account to establish the requirements that must be met, for example, an incineration, an exhumation, a transfer of mortal remains …
The grounds of a cemetery they are municipal property, although there is an exception, parochial cemeteries, frequent in small towns, which have their own regulations, always in accordance with general laws.
A grave of perpetual concession or «owned»
It is a phrase that is heard frequently and misleads, because what can be requested and acquired is a funeral law in a given space, which implies the payment of a series of fees and is formalized in the corresponding contract – registered title, but which it will not suppose, in any case, a property right.
Access to this option usually occurs in two cases. Sometimes, due to the needs of the increase and progressive aging of the population over decades, a city council decides to allocate land in the municipality to the construction of a new cemetery, in which case, it opens a deadline for any interested neighbor to be eligible for a tomb, niche or columbarium. It is also common for a person, with special motivation to have a place for eternal rest in a certain cemetery, present, in the municipal offices, the corresponding request that allows them to fulfill their will. In the oldest cemeteries it is common that all the available spaces have been allocated, in which case, the request can be recorded in a kind of «waiting list» (we insist there are multiple legal nuances according to each municipality).
What must be clear is that the space intended for burials they are concessions, not property titles.
Types of burial units
Being clear that, even if you have a mausoleum that is a true work of art (there are), the land where it sits is not your property (with few exceptions), the time that this concession lasts will depend on the type of burial unit you choose. Until 2016, the maximum term of the concession was 99 years. Currently, the most common is that the concession does not exceed the 75 years, but beware! the concessions can be renewed, therefore, it is common to find family tombs that have been preserved for centuries, always meeting the requirement of renew the municipal concession.
The time periods vary depending on each municipality. As an example. Municipal Funeral Services of Madrid capital (@MADRID) , which are in charge of the management of cemeteries such as La Almudena, South Cemetery, Hebrew Cemetery, Vallecas Cemetery … establish perfectly determined concession terms. A niche for a single body can be granted for 10 years, with the possibility of extension of terms, and a historical niche of «unbeatable location» (as is), allows the concession for 75 years. There are also chapels, designed to be a burial place for different generations of the same family, or spaces for the construction of «free design» pantheons, also with a 75-year concession. The same period of time is the one generally granted in the case of traditional graves, of variable capacity taking into account the possibility of reducing remains.
Can graves be transferred or inherited?
Although it is not a property, it is an acquired right that can be assigned to another person, although it must always be done with all legal guarantees, changing the ownership of that right and paying (in some cases) the corresponding municipal fees. It is very normal that, once the owner dies, the burial unit passes to a relative, but it must be emphasized that this fact requires the municipal procedure for modification of ownership. It must be borne in mind that in the case of graves or niches in which several bodies can be accommodated, only the holder can authorize the burial in that place to take place (a delicate issue that can generate conflicts).
Without a doubt, if you are interested (or are immersed in) this issue, contacting the corresponding municipal department is the best option.