How to Move a Grave Site

Updated July 20, 2017

Although relocating a grave is a sensitive circumstance, sometimes it must be done to protect and respect the remains or to promote necessary development. You should follow the state and local regulations for moving a grave carefully and employ professionals to do the job right.

Contact your local government. Grave relocation is the subject of state law so it varies from state to state.

Make sure you have the authority to act. State law determines if a person or entity has the authority to move a grave site. Family members and property owners may request a grave relocation. Also, churches and utilities companies may usually request a grave relocation. You should check your state specific law before disturbing a grave to avoid any civil, or possibly criminal, liability.

Find a suitable relocation spot for the grave prior to beginning the excavation process. You may have to work with your local government and any family members related to the grave to find a proper location.

Give the proper notice (usually 30 days prior to excavating) to any related family and the community as required by your state law. Some states require that you give notice in the newspaper and to the next of kin before you can move a grave.

Be prepared to pay for the removal process. State law usually places the costs of the grave removal on the person requesting the move.

Contract out the work to a licensed professional excavation company that specialises in grave relocation. These companies usually bring in heavy equipment such as backhoes and large moving crates for the soil to expedite the process. Your local government may accept bids and select the excavation company for you.

Have the proper professionals present during the excavation. You may be required to hire a funeral director or other professional, such as the local health director, to oversee the process and ensure proper respect for the human remains.

File the proper paperwork with your local Registrar of Deeds. The person requesting the move must file paperwork relaying the facts of the grave relocation usually within 30 days of the move.


There are some organisations of forensic anthropologists and professional archaeologists that can assist you in grave relocation. These organisations emphasise the importance of maintaining the dignity of human remains and educational opportunities provided by historic cemeteries. During excavation, trained professionals properly remove all human remains and preserve any remaining artefacts. Although excavation by these trained professionals will be thorough and respectful, professional excavation is a slow and possibly expensive process.

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About the Author

Mary Mitchell has been writing professionally since 2006. She has contributed her original writing and editing skills to legal journals and various public policy publications. Mitchell has a Bachelor of Arts in government from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in government from Regent University and a Juris Doctor from Regent University School of Law.