Grave care costs

When a relative dies, costs are incurred in many places, which in most cases must be paid by the community of heirs. Who has to bear the costs for the funeral is already shown in this article. But the costs do not end with the funeral. On the contrary, it is often forgotten in practice that ongoing costs for grave maintenance also arise after the burial.


What do grave care costs include?

A blanket answer on the amount of grave care costs cannot be given. Grave care costs are made up of various expenses that are incurred over time.

First, it should be said that grave maintenance serves to ensure the preservation of the gravesite. In many cemeteries, regular care of the gravesite is mandated and penalties are imposed in the event of non-compliance.

It is generally understood that grave maintenance includes all work suitable for ensuring that a grave looks well-kept and is secure; decorative design is also included in grave maintenance. In particular, the responsible persons are required to control pests, pull weeds and remove other disturbing elements.

With regard to the question of costs, the following aspects are relevant:
- Duration of maintenance
- Maintenance intervals
- The cemetery statutes, which specify the rules for planting and designing the grave.

Depending on the respective expenditure, the costs of grave maintenance amount to 80 euros to 700 euros per year.


Who pays for the grave care costs?

It should be noted that Section 1968 of the German Civil Code merely states that the heir bears the costs of the decedent's burial; the law does not provide for corresponding regulations with regard to the subsequent grave care costs.

The burial itself is completed within the meaning of § 1968 BGB with the preparation of the grave site and the transfer of the mortal remains to this grave site.

It is not undisputed whether the above-mentioned grave maintenance costs are also to be borne by the heirs.

Originally, there were voices that were of the opinion that the grave care costs are to be borne by the community of heirs as a liability of the estate.

However, in the meantime the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) decided in its ruling of 26.5.2021 that grave care costs are not inheritance liabilities within the meaning of Section 2311 of the German Civil Code (Akz.: IV ZR 174/20). The reason given for this decision was that, according to the wording of Section 1968 of the German Civil Code, the heir or the community of heirs bears the costs of the decedent's burial; the actual costs of a burial comprise only the act of burial itself, which is concluded with the establishment of a permanent and appropriate gravesite. Expenditures for the care and maintenance of the gravestone and the gravesite no longer fall under the funeral expenses, but could at most be considered a moral obligation of the heirs.


Are the costs of grave maintenance tax deductible?

For some years now, private individuals have been able to claim expenses for household-related services against tax. A total of 20% of the expenses are taken into account.

In its ruling of February 28, 2009, the Lower Saxony Tax Court decided that the care of a grave is not to be considered a household-related service (Akz.: 4 K 12315/06).