What constitutes a cemetery association may vary by state but it is generally a non-profit organization that may own and manage cemeteries under the state’s licensing authority or general laws, or may be a professional association. As a professional association, its functions may include promoting higher industry standards.
In some states, cemetery associations may be among a handful of entities permitted to own a cemetery. In Connecticut and New Hampshire, for example, only towns and municipalities, ecclesiastical societies or cemetery associations may own a cemetery. In New Jersey, cemetery associations are authorized to own and manage a certain category of cemetery, Certificate of Authority cemeteries which may be operated for profit if incorporated prior to 1971.
In most states and under Internal Revenue Service rules, cemetery associations are non taxable. One of the duties imposed upon cemetery associations is that they invest a portion of the proceeds from land sales into a trust fund to provide maintenance and care for the grounds in perpetuity. Also, the association often receives funds from a person who purchases a plot but may not use it for decades creating a fiduciary responsibility. For these reasons, authorities closely monitor cemetery associations to make sure their obligations are fulfilled.
In states such as Michigan where cemetery associations are essentially professional organizations, their functions include lobbying for better laws, improving industry standards, promoting higher education and serving as a representative body for its membership.