Common Funeral Terms Defined

A hearse is a vehicle arranged for transporting the deceased

A funeral is a ceremony that honors, remembers, and celebrates the life of someone who has passed away. At Final Expense Direct, we strive to be a resource for our clients as they search for the best insurance policy. We’ve defined the most common terms that you may come across when you shop for final expense insurance and/or plan for a funeral. 

Funeral and Cremation Terms 

Ashes: The remaining material after a body is cremated. Ashes are also known as cremated remains.  

Burial: The act of placing the body in the ground after death.

Casket: A rectangular container created for human remains, usually made of wood, fiberglass, metal, or plastic. A casket is often decorated and lined with fabric.  

Cemetery: Land that is set aside for graves, tombs, or cremation urns. Cemeteries can be privately or publicly owned.

Cremation: A procedure used to trim the body of a deceased person (or animal) down to its basic aspects. The most popular method involves burning. 

Death Benefits: When a person passes away, the surviving family members may be entitled to Social Security benefits and/or Veterans benefits.  

Death Certificate: A document that is required by law after a person passes. Two parties have to complete the certificate: a medical professional (physician, medical examiner, or coroner) and a licensed funeral director.  

Direct Burial: A basic burial with no viewing or visitation. Usually, it includes just the transportation, care, and burial of the remains. 

Direct Cremation: A basic cremation without a ceremony, viewing, or visitation. 

Disposition: The placement of cremated or whole remains in their final resting place.

Embalming: The process of preserving a body through chemical injections and applications to sustain a natural appearance through the viewing and funeral service. Embalming should be regarded as a temporary method that allows the family to finish funeral preparations and make travel plans.    

Final Expense Insurance: A type of life insurance that provides enough coverage to pay for end-of-life expenses, such as medical care and funerals. It’s also referred to as burial or funeral insurance, and it provides support to your family after you pass away.

Funeral Procession: The period when the deceased person’s remains are transported to the final resting place after the funeral service has ended. The procession consists of two or more vehicles.

Funeral Service: The formality that may be used to prepare human remains for burial, cremation, or other final disposition. The services also include the organizing or supervising of the funeral ceremony. 

General Price List: A written, detailed directory that each funeral home is required by law to give to patrons upon request. It lists the items and services offered by the funeral home and includes the cost of each item or service.    

Grave Marker: An engraved plaque that is put over the grave to identify the resting place of the deceased. Grave markers, also known as headstones, tombstones, or gravestones, come in many shapes and sizes. 

Hearse: A vehicle arranged for transporting the deceased as part of the ceremony and procession. 

Immediate Burial: The direct burial of the deceased typically conducted without embalming or a formal viewing, visitation, or ceremony. Instead, a simple graveside ceremony may be held. 

Memorial Service: A ceremony that honors the deceased without the body being there.

Officiant: The individual who leads the funeral or memorial service, often a minister or priest. 

Plot: A certain piece of ground in a cemetery that is owned by an individual or a family. A plot is used to bury the casketed body or urn. 

Traditional Funeral: A standard service that is held in the deceased person’s presence. The body can either be in an open or closed casket. Usually, the funeral service occurs within two or three days of the passing.

Undertaker: The staff member who coordinates with the deceased person’s family to organize the funeral, cremation, or other services. The undertaker is also called the funeral director.

Urn: A ceramic container meant to hold the cremated ashes or remains of the deceased — either temporarily or permanently. 

Vault: An enclosure, usually made of cast concrete, that protects the casket from equipment that may pass over the gravesite. A vault also helps prevent the casket from sinking as the remains decompose over time. 

Viewing: An opportunity for friends and relatives of the deceased to examine the closed casket in private — before the funeral ceremony.

Visitation: Same as the viewing, except they can see the open casket. 

Wake: A vigil kept over the deceased, held the night before the funeral. It could last the entire night.

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