Kathy Willens  /  AP
In this Tuesday, July 20, 2004 file photo, a stone sphinx is shown at the entrance to the Woolworth mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York. Burial in a Woodlawn mausoleum can cost more than $1 million.
updated 2/2/2012 10:54:51 AM ET 2012-02-02T15:54:51

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, 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.

Woodlawn in the Bronx
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.

And 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," Carella said.

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.

Large family plots and mausoleums have gone the way of many a celebrity marriage. While wealthy and famous figures of the past customarily would be surrounded in death by family members, a modern-day mogul may be torn over which relatives or ex-relatives will share the burial plot.

"It's the changing dynamics of the family. Going back 20 years, if someone came in and said they had five children, they'd buy a grave for 15," Carella said.

Campbell used to build 12 to 15 mausoleums a year but now erects only one or two.

"People are moving. There are mixed marriages, interfaith couples. The number of people buried together is fewer," Carella said. "A lot has to do with the changing dynamics of what's going on in society."

Kensico Cemetary
Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y., is another East Coast "destination" resting place. Carella recently arranged a funeral there. He said the plot cost $450,000 and the mausoleum nearly $1 million.

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.

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 beach-front display, set to music. For an extra $1,000, the company will take a funeral party out on a yacht for an ocean fireworks display. And for those with a large enough piece of property, Angels Flight can stage the display in their private yard.

With cremation on the rise, some companies will custom-design an urn or transform ashes into a diamond ring, incorporate them into an oil painting or bury them in an eco-friendly underwater reef.

And for stars of the small screen, like Trump, there's a company that makes video tombstones that play a montage of photographs set to music.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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