What is Endowment Care and What Does it Mean for You?


What is Endowment Care?

Have you ever attended the burial of an acquaintance and wondered how the cemetery will be maintained for generations to come?

Probably not.

Like most people, you show up and pay your respects without a thought given to the longevity of the grounds. And why should you? It’s our job and privilege to care for the property.

But when you lose someone you love, everything comes into sharper focus and it can feel as though all the details matter equally.

Making funeral arrangements can become overwhelming as you work to balance the emotions, responsibility and logistics of something you’ve likely never experienced before.

We want to help. One topic you’ll come across in your planning is the funding of Endowment Care, which helps to protect and preserve the beauty of the grounds where your loved one will be laid to rest.

In this article, we’ll provide clarity for you so you can be sure to ask the right questions when meeting with a cemetery representative. We’ll talk about the fees you may incur, why they’re required by the state and how you can determine whether or not a cemetery manages their endowment funds well—preserving the park’s beauty for your kids, your grandkids and for generations to come.

Let’s Start with a Few Basics

Before we can look at how endowment care serves you and your family, we need to cover basic terminology as well as provide a few tips for gathering important information.

Endowment Fee

An endowment fee is a dollar amount added onto the property cost of a cemetery agreement. Many states–including California–require this fee to be included in your total bill. Still, the amount charged by location varies and some parks do not explicitly state this fee up front.

Be sure to ask: “Can you tell me what percentage you charge for an endowment fee?” This way, you’ll have a better idea of the total costs before moving any further along in the process. And remember, the fee you pay goes toward the endowment fund, which we’ll discuss below.

Endowment Fund

Fees for endowment care are collected and then managed by a third-party trustee in a fund separate from the finances of the cemeteries. This allows the endowment fund to remain untouched regardless of hardships faced by the park.

Be sure to ask: “How much money do you have in your endowment fund? What does that equal per acre?” Make note of these answers as you work to make difficult decisions.

A Helpful Comparison

When you ask questions about the endowment fee percentage or the amount of money in an endowment fund, you might not know when a number is high or low.

In full disclosure, we’d like to provide our answers for you as a helpful comparison: 

  1. We charge a 10% endowment fee.
  2. Our fund totals more than $48 million, which equals out to nearly $400,000 an acre.

And because our funds are well-managed, the endowment fund will continue to grow exponentially in the years to come.

What Does Endowment Care Mean for You?

Numbers in hand, let’s talk about what they actually mean. Why is it noteworthy that Green Hills Memorial Park boasts $48 million in our endowment fund? And, perhaps more perplexing, why does it matter that the funds equate to nearly $400,000 an acre?

We can sum it up in one key phrase: commitment to your family and your family’s future.

We’ve heard stories of other parks with decidedly other goals. One that ran out of funds and was eventually taken over by the state. Another who found themselves in a tough financial position and began reaching out to families of past sales asking for more money.

Perhaps the most striking story told to us was from a family shopping around for a plot. Before visiting Green Hills, they toured another local cemetery and found that, while the ground they walked was lush and green, the surrounding areas were brown with dead grass, shriveled bushes and a generally depressing scene.

And so they asked, “What will happen to this section when you sell all the plots?” Without a response, the message was clear. The family explained, “If we bought a plot there, we knew it wouldn’t be long before they’d shut the water off and our area, too, would fall into decay.”

A well-managed endowment care serves the families who paid for it.

At Green Hills Memorial Park, we are committed to your family and your family’s future. The state requires us to charge an endowment fee. And while, like others, we could have considered this a hindrance to sales, we didn’t.

Our philosophy has always been–and always will be–that the endowment care funds are your funds. That is your money. And it is our job to see to it that your money pays for your care so that your loved ones today, tomorrow and for generations to come can pay respects to the family line in a place of beauty, contemplation and rest.

What You Can (and SHOULD) Expect From an Endowment Care Fund

A properly-managed and well-funded endowment care program should cover the costs of maintenance staff and landscaping crews for the property. You might look around for workers caring for the cemetery during your visit or ask about the regularity of maintenance and lawn care.

You should be able to take in the current beauty of the entire park and expect it to stay that way for generations to come. It’s even okay to ask about future plans for park enhancement. Here at Green Hills, we recently evaluated older plot areas and renovated the grounds in order to make them more level for easy walking and viewing.

It is our goal that you, your children and your children’s children have a sacred place where you can gather together in honor of your loved ones or come alone to spend time in remembrance of a family member. We’re committed to providing a respite from the rest of the world, and to enhancing the beauty of your visits in the years to come.

Our sizable endowment fund enables us to do so with transparency and confidence.

If you have any other questions about endowment care, please feel free to reach out to our experienced team at Green Hills. We are more than happy to help.