New Pennsylvania law ensures families have access to graves

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A new Pennsylvania law will guarantee families can visit the gravesites of their loved ones.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday signed into law House Bill 1019.

The new law, which takes effect in 60 days, ensures reasonable access to all cemeteries. It also requires cemetery owners to honor burial plots sold by previous owners.

State Rep. Mark Gillen (R-Berks/Lancaster) said he introduced the legislation after the new owners of a Berks County cemetery, the Rock Cemetery in Caernarvon Township, began prohibiting people from visiting the graves of family members.

The new owners posted “private property” and “no trespassing” signs before filing a lawsuit against the cemetery visitors. They also refused to honor the sale of burial plots by the previous owners.

Gillen said the new owners barred one woman from visiting the grave of a 3-year-old son who died from brain cancer.

Another woman could not visit the grave of her husband, a World War II and Korean War veteran who earned two purple hearts and a bronze star, and the new owners did not honor the sale of the burial plot she bought next to her husband. When she passed away earlier this year, she had to be buried at another cemetery.

“It is unfortunate, but in some unique situations a law is necessary to compensate for a lack of human decency, morality or considerate behavior,” Gillen said in a statement Friday.

Cemetery owners are able to establish reasonable access procedures as well as designate the frequency, hours and duration of cemetery visits.

Gillen said if cemetery owners fail to comply with the new law, people denied access to a burial plot can file a lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas where the property is located.

Additionally, the attorney general’s office can take legal action against cemetery owners for violating Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.

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