By KATE PRAHLAD, Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS - A good insurance policy will protect you from cradle to grave—and then some.
A little-known part of most homeowners policies is that they cover headstones, grave markers, monuments and urns.
"That would be surprising to anyone," said Mike McCartin, an independent insurance agent in College Park, who was surprised himself. "I've never had that question before, but it's covered. It's right there, number 5, cemetery property, in bold print."
Headstones are generally covered under the contents portion of a homeowner's policy, said State Farm spokesman Dick Luedke.
"Most people know that personal property refers to the things in a home, but gravestones you own are covered under that," he said.
Luedke said homeowners do not have to ask specifically for coverage, and that it is often included in standard policies. But homeowners do "have to consider value of those items, when they're considering how much coverage they want," he said.
The Insurance Service Organization, a private firm that does risk analysis and sets trends for insurance agencies, recommends covering damage to grave markers up to $5,000 in its homeowner's forms. Its coverage includes "loss caused by various perils" including "vandalism and malicious mischief."
Policyholders have to report the damage to get the coverage. Unfortunately, cemetery vandalism goes unnoticed too often.
"There's been a bunch of vandalism, but the courts here are very slow to prosecute," said Gerhardt Kraske, president of the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites. "And the vandals do thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage."
But most people do not consider cemetery damage a pressing issue, said Kraske. His non-profit coalition, formed when a Howard County developer bulldozed and built foundations on a cemetery, works to shed light on the importance of preserving burial sites.
"It's not high on a list of priorities at all," Kraske said. "If society doesn't give a hoot, the priority goes down."
Luedke said all types of funereal items are "covered against all the perils against which other contents are covered."
"Whatever your home is protected against: vandalism, theft, if a windstorm damaged it in some way or hail," he said. Likewise, if you are not covered for floods, and a flood sweeps away a headstone, it might not fall under the policy.
Gravestones of family members might be covered, too.
"Even if you moved out of the state, as long as you still owned it, you'd still be covered," Luedke said.
In most cases, damage claims for a grave marker probably would not be denied, McCartin said.
"I don't know that they would question you if it was a parent's headstone, but if it was your kid's or spouse's, God forbid, it's a slam dunk, it's covered," McCartin said. "A good company would not question it."
McCartin said gravestone coverage is not something people often think of—and in his experience, no one has.
"I've had questions about some off-the-wall, goofy stuff, but I haven't had this one," he said.