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Glossary of Terms for Funeral Planning

Words you'll want to know





Administrator
Any court appointed person or body put in charge of the estate of a person who passed on without a will.
Arrangement Room
A room in the funeral home set aside for funeral home staff and the bereaved family to make funeral arrangements.
Attorney in Fact
Any person granted the power of attorney.
Beneficiary
Any recipient of the proceeds of a will or insurance policy.
Bequest
Any gift of property made in a will.
Bereaved
The immediate family of the deceased.
Burial Permit
Required by some states for human remains to be buried or cremated. Usually acquired by the mortuary or crematory, it is not required for the scattering of cremated ashes.
Casket
A casket is any container designed for holding human remains. It may be made of wood, metal or fiberglass. They are seldom called "coffins' in the funeral industry.
Catafalque
The stand on which the casket rests while in state and during the funeral service.
Cemetery
Ground for burial, in which final aspects of the funeral ceremony are often held.
Cortege
The funeral procession.
Codicil
An amendment to a will changing the original provisions.
Columbarium
Structure or building designed for the housing of urns of cremated remains, in niches.
Contest
Any legal challenge to or question of the validity of a will.
Cremation
A regulated process using intense heat in a chamber to burn human remains. It typically takes 2 to 4 hours.
Crematory
A building with a furnace for the purpose of cremating human remains.
Crypt
Technically, any chamber that holds a casket and human remains. More narrowly, an individual chamber in a mausoleum.
Death Certificate
A legal document, signed by a coroner or other medical health professional certifying the death of an individual. The death certificate is used for many legal processes pertaining to death, from arrangement for interment to the settlement of estate assets.
Disinter
See exhume.
Display Room
A room in a funeral home set aside for viewing available caskets, urns, grave liners, etc.
Disposition
Refers to any manner in which remains will be finally taken care of, including ground burial, ash scattering of cremated remains and all other forms of placement.
Embalming
Embalming is the procedure using chemicals, such as formaldehyde, to temporarily preserve human remains. Embalming is not required by any state or federal law.
Eulogy
A eulogy is a form of public speaking at funerals used to honor and praise the deceased.
Escheat
The state takes over the estate if there are no beneficiaries or heirs.
Estate Tax
Federal and state taxes applied to any property that is transferred at death.
Executor/Executrix
Male or female named as the person who administers an estate.
Exhume
To dig up human remains, possibly for medical or legal investigation.
Funeral Director
The professional who prepares the body for burial, supervises burial and other services, and maintains a funeral home for these purposes. Also called a mortician or undertaker.
Funeral Insurance
Funeral insurance is an insurance policy designed to cover any costs directly related to your funeral.
Funeral Home
See mortuary.
Funeral Service
Ceremony, religious or secular, in which the bereaved say goodbye to the deceased in various ways, before the remains are permanently interred.
Funeral Spray
A large bouquet (25 or more) of cut flowers sent to the residence or the funeral home as a tribute to the deceased.
Grave Liner
A box or receptacle made of concrete or other durable material into which the casket is placed to prevent the ground from collapsing. Most states do not require it, though most cemeteries do.
Green Burial
Green burial also called direct burial, is the process of burying a body without the use of chemical preservation in a simple container to help preserve the earth.
In State
The custom of presenting the deceased for viewing by mourners and others, prior to or after the funeral service.
Interment
The act of burying a dead body in a grave.
Intestate
Having left behind no legal will.
Inurnment
Placing cremation ashes in an urn.
Liabilities
Remaining debts and mortgages, as they apply to the administering of an estate.
Life Insurance Trust
A trust funded from money provided from life insurance.
Living Trust
A trust that has been established during the life of the trustee.
Living Will
A legal document that details the wishes of an individual concerning his or her medical care, especially with respect to life-sustaining technology and resuscitation.
Mausoleum
A structure or building, often on cemetery grounds, that holds caskets and remains.
Morgue
These are usually municipally operated places, where bodies found dead are held pending identification by next of kin.
Mortuary
Any licensed, regulated business that provides for the care, planning and preparation of human remains for their final resting place. A mortuary usually arranges and conducts funeral and memorial services, embalming and other services such as the sale of caskets.
Also called a funeral home or funeral service provider.
Niche
In a columbarium, an individual chamber wherein an urn is placed.
Opening and Closing Fees
Cemetery fees for the digging and refilling of a grave.
Pallbearers
Individuals (close family members in most areas of the continent; hired, in other areas) who are asked to carry the casket.
Perpetual Care Trust Funds
A certain portion of the cost of a burial plot is set aside in a trust fund for its ongoing care (usually restricted to grounds keeping, such as lawn cutting, etc.)
Personalized Funerals
A personalized funeral is a non-traditional type of funeral growing in popularity.
Pre-need or Pre-planning
Pre-planning is arranging all aspects of your funeral (especially financing) in advance. There are some problems with the process, especially in some states.
Probate
The court process of proving the validity of a will.
Remains
The body of the deceased.
Reposing Room
A room of the funeral home where the body rests until the funeral service.
Right of Survivorship
Occurs when a joint property owner has provided for the passing of all property into the hands of the surviving joint owner. This will forego the need for probate.
Rigor Mortis
The cooling of the body and increased rigidity of muscles that sets in after death.
Testator
A person making a valid will.
Trust
Usually a fund, though it may be made up of other property. It is held and managed by one person for the benefit of another (or others).
Urn
Any container made for holding cremated human remains.
Vault
A solid "container," usually made of concrete, to prevent leakage from the casket into the soil. Many insiders in the industry advise that a grave liner is sufficient and a vault does not really do what is purported to.
Viaticals
Type of life insurance policy used before you pass away.
Vigil
In Roman Catholicism, a service held on the eve of the funeral service.
Visitation
Usually held at the funeral home, this is a scheduled time when the body is on display (if appropriate) and friends and family pay respects to the dead and visit with each other.
Wake
A wake is a traditional watch over the deceased usually conducted by family members and close friends. "Wake" and "watch" are etymologically related.
Will
A will is a legal document stating the intentions of the deceased concerning the dispersal of their belongings, the care of their remains and other relevant matters..
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