Cemetery Board Position Statements

​The following position statements are designed to provide clarity to interested entities as to how the Cemetery Board interprets certain provisions of Wisconsin law relating to cemeteries, as well as to answer various frequently asked questions pertaining to the regulation of cemeteries.

Is income earned on a cemetery care fund considered principal, and therefore not able to be withdrawn by the cemetery authority per § 157.11 (9g) (a) 2., Stats? (Approved 5/11/2021)

It is the board’s position that only the principal deposits into the care fund required under § 157.11 (9g) (c)​, Stats. must remain intact. Any income earned on the care fund account, including capital gains, interest, and dividends, may be withdrawn and used for the lawful purposes specified in § 157.11 (9g) (a) 2., Stats.

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Must a cemetery authority obtain approval from the Cemetery Board before withdrawing income earned from the cemetery care fund? (Approved 5/11/2021)​

​No. A cemetery authority may withdraw cemetery care fund income earned as described above without seeking the express approval of the Cemetery Board. It is worth repeating that the income may only be used for the lawful purposes specified in § 157.11 (9g) (a) 2., Stats., and that the cemetery authority may not withdraw the principal deposits made to the care fund for any reason. It is the responsibility of the cemetery authority to ensure that any withdrawals made from the care fund are lawful.

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Which Cemeteries Need to be Licensed by the Cemetery Board? (Approved 3/24/2022)

According to​ Wis. Stat. § 440.91(1)(a)​, any cemetery that has $50,000 or more in trust fund accounts is required to be licensed. Cemeteries that meet the requirements of Wis. Stat. § 440.91(1)(a)​ may be exempt from licensure pursuant to ​ Wis. Stat. § 440.91(6m). Exempted cemeteries include: municipal cemeteries, religious cemeteries, and benevolent organizations. Please see the specific section to determine whether or not an exemption is applicable in any particular situation.

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Which Cemeteries Need to Register with the Cemetery Board? (Approved 3/24/2022)

According to Wis. Stat. § 440.91(1m)(a), a cemetery that has less than $50,000 in trust fund accounts must register with the Board. Cemeteries that meet the requirements of Wis. Stat. § 440.91(1m)(a), may be exempt from licensure pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 440.91(6m). Exempted cemeteries include: municipal cemeteries, religious cemeteries, and benevolent organizations. Please see the specific section to determine whether or not an exemption is applicable in any particular situation.

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Who may Operate a Cemetery? (Approved 3/24/2022)​

According to Wis. Stat. § 157.065, no cemetery may be used for burials except any of the following: A cemetery in use on April 4, 1864, or a cemetery organized and operated by any of the following:


• A municipality

• A religious organization

• A fraternal or benevolent society

• An incorporated college of a religious order

• A cemetery association created under Wis. Stat. § 157.062

• A corporation organized under Wis. Stat. ch. 180 or ​ ​ch. 181
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• A limited liability company organized under Wis. Stat. ch. 183

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Do Private, Family Cemeteries Need to Register with the Cemetery Board? (Approved 3/24/2022​)

The Wisconsin Statutes do not define a private, family cemetery or set limitations for their enactment or use. Please see Wis. Stat. § 157.065 for information on cemetery establishment, Wis. Stat. § 157.128 for acreage requirements, and Wis. Stat. § 157.07 for platting requirements. You may also wish to call other state agencies, such as the Department of Health Services, or your local municipality, before you continue with a private burial.

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Who Needs a Cemetery Salesperson License? (Approved 3/24/2022)

Wis. Stat. § 440.91(2) states that any person who sells or solicits the sale of 20 or more cemetery lots or mausoleum spaces per year during two consecutive calendar years needs a license from the Cemetery Board. Wis. Stat. § 440.91(10) sets out an exception if an individual sells only cemetery merchandise or undeveloped spaces under preneed sales contracts.

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Is There a Minimum Depth at which a Body Must be Buried? (Approved 3/24/2022)

The Wisconsin Statutes and the Wisconsin Administrative Code relating to cemeteries have no requirements regarding the minimum depth for the burial of human remains. You may wish to reference local ordinances for further information.

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How Many Bodies may be Buried in a Single Lot? (Approved 3/24/2022)

The Wisconsin Statutes and the Wisconsin Administrative Code relating to cemeteries have no requirements regarding the number of bodies buried in a single lot. You may wish to reference local ordinances for further information.

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How Much Money Must be Deposited in a Care Fund for the Sale of a Cemetery Lot? (Approved 3/24/2022)

Wis. Stat. § 157.11(9g) states that cemeteries are required to deposit 15% of each payment of principal for a cemetery lot into a care fund. The total amount must be equal to 15% of the total amount of payments of principal that have been received, except that the total must be at least $25.00. The cemetery authority may not withdraw the care fund’s principal amount. Certain municipal or non-profit cemeteries may be exempt from this requirement under Wis. Stat. §§ 157.50 (6) or ​ ​157.11 (11).

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May a Cemetery Combine a Preneed Trust Fund and a Care Fund for Investment Purposes? (Approved 3/24/2022)

Wis. Stat. § 157.19(6) allows for the combination of preneed trust funds and care funds for investment purposes. However, the cemetery authority must maintain separate accountings for each fund.

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How Much Money Must be Deposited in a Care Fund for the Sale of a Mausoleum Space? (Approved 3/24/2022)

Wis. Stat. § 157.12(3) states that cemeteries must deposit 25% of each payment of principal received in the sale of a mausoleum space into the care fund, until the care fund equals 25% of the cost of constructing the mausoleum. If the mausoleum was constructed prior to June 15, 1933, the cemetery shall deposit 15% of each payment of principal received from the sale of a mausoleum space into the care fund, until the care fund equals 10% of the cost of constructing the mausoleum.

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May a Funeral Establishment be Located in a Cemetery? (Approved 3/24/2022)

No, a funeral establishment may not be located in a cemetery. Wis. Stat. § 157.067 also prohibits a cemetery authority or any of its employees or agents to have ownership, operation, or other financial interest in a funeral establishment.

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What Should I do if I Find an Abandoned Cemetery on my Private Property? (Approved 3/24/2022)

The Board does not have jurisdiction over abandoned cemeteries. However, if you find an abandoned cemetery on your lot, you should contact the Burial Sites Preservation Office at the State Historical Society and report the cemetery before you take any further action.

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Am I required to Disclose the Existence of a Cemetery on my Property as Part of a Real Estate Transaction? (Approved 3/24/2022)

Wisconsin law generally requires the owner of real property to disclose the existence of any burial sites in the real estate condition report that must be provided to the buyer as part of the transaction. See Wis. Stat. § 709.03 for more information.

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