NEWARK, N.J. – They say you can’t take it with you when you die, but that’s not necessarily true for the wealthiest Americans – like Donald Trump.
He announced this week he is considering building a 1.5-acre cemetery next to his high-end golf course in Bedminster, N.J., where members pay a lifetime fee of as much as $300,000. If they want to stay beyond that, they most likely will pay a membership fee that includes burial.
It may be among the pricier final resting places, but if it gets state and local approval, it’d be a bargain compared with some of the country’s other swank cemeteries.
Putting one’s name on the most permanent of marquees can reach several million dollars at the most exclusive cemeteries – a far cry from the median $6,560 for a funeral in 2009, the most recent yearly figure from the National Funeral Directors Association.
At Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass., a National Historic Landmark renowned for its landscaping, the choicest piece of pond-front property costs upward of half a million dollars, said Sean O’Regan, vice president of cemetery services and operations.
“While you’re not purchasing real estate – you’re purchasing burial rights – it’s definitely location, location, location,” O’Regan said.
The Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, which was designated last year as a National Historic Landmark, is popular among the wealthy and famous. Burial arrangements can range from $600 for cremated remains to $3.5 million for an historic private mausoleum more than 100 years old, Woodlawn President John Toale said.
The Frank E. Campbell funeral home in New York’s Manhattan is the go-to place for celebrity funerals. In its 115 years of business, the home has arranged final rites for the titans of New York industry, famous sports figures, politicians and countless celebrities, Vice President Dominic Carella said.
“We fulfill any request, from private jets, to horse-drawn carriages,” Carella said, adding that no request surprises him – from arranging Dixie Land bands to a funeral procession with the rarest of collectible Ferraris. “We’ve had funerals from $20,000 or $30,000, to a couple hundred thousand dollars.”
Wealthy clients who wish to go quietly know the company’s fee includes keeping personal details from the media and providing undercover security guards to keep the paparazzi at bay, Carella said.
For a public funeral, as when tens of thousands of mourners attended viewings in Miami and New York for Latin music legend Celia Cruz, the company can organize the crowds, control the information flow, and take care of special requests from the family.
Forest Lawn, which has cemeteries in and around Los Angeles, is one of the most well-known burial spots for Hollywood celebrities. Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson are buried there.
Spokesman Ben Sussman said prices start as low as $2,000. He declined to say how much the “distinguished properties” retail for. The spots include a private garden and sarcophagus or statuary.
As in life, those accustomed to keeping commoners at arm’s length can do so in death.
“I have families that come in to me and say, ‘I want a family plot, but I don’t want anyone next to me,’ so they’ll buy the six plots around them,” said Carella of the Frank E. Campbell funeral home.
He recently sold 12 grave plots to a man in East Hampton, N.Y., who wished to be buried in the center of the property and surrounded by landscaping.
But lavish burials or A-list cemeteries aren’t the only way to go out with a bang.
For about $4,000, California-based Angels Flight will custom-design 210 fireworks containing the deceased’s ashes, which can be fired off in a beachfront display, set to music.