This is the time of the Legislative Session when bills are flying fast and furious out of their chambers of origin in hopes of becoming law.
One bill that passed the State House yesterday was a bill I talked about in January when it was introduced. House Bill 1037 (HB 1037) would give Washingtonians the ability to inter family members, or those they deem to be family, on their private property.
19th District Rep. Jim Walsh R-Aberdeen is the primary sponsor of the bill. The bill would give property owners the ability to declare their privately owned property a “family burial ground”. It does not allow plots in said family burial ground to be sold commercially.
Walsh said after passage of the bill ““One of the great traditions of living in the West is the ability to bury your family, and when the time comes yourself, on land that you or your family owns. Doing so was commonplace in the early years of our state. But in recent years it has become less clear in the law whether it’s legal at all. Really, this is simply a clarifying bill ― within certain parameters ― that allows those long-held traditions to continue.”
Cities and counties have the authority under the bill to enact ordinances regulating or banning family burials grounds in their communities. There are still a number of questions that linger regarding the bill.
Will there be a Negative Impact on Property Value?
That has yet to be answered. You would be required by law to disclose the family burial ground is on the property. Will it create an issue with the assessed value of the home? Will it drive down property value if you decide to sell and disclose to the potential buyer? Will it drive down the value of other homes in the vicinity? No one can conclusively answer that question as of yet.
If you Sell Your Home with a Family Burial Ground, What happens to the Remains?
Not a conclusive answer here either. Does State Law prevent bodies from being exhumed and moved from an established family burial ground if the property is sold and the new owners aren’t related? Can the new owners demand the previous owners remove the remains and re-inter them? Can the new owners of the property choose to have the remains removed from their property if no living family members claim the exiting remain in the family burial ground?
The biggest question for me though is can someone just as easily remove the family burial ground designation as it was applied? Then what does that make the remains interred on that property? HB 1037 passed the House unanimously, 95-0, with three excused and two amandments. It now move to the State Senate for consideration. I’m sure the bill was crafted with the best of intentions, but I would really like to hear these questions addressed in the Senate before they vote to send the bill to the Governor’s desk.