Funeral Planning, Common Terms & Frequently Asked Questions

A hearse is a vehicle arranged for transporting the deceased

Written by Kim Wilhelm

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Last Updated 14 Apr 2024

It costs money to live, and it costs money to die. Unfortunately, we must factor the cost of dying into our budgets, in addition to housing, groceries, and healthcare. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, end-of-life responsibilities can cost over $11,000 out-of-pocket — on average, in the final year of life. These expenses can come from many sources, including care facilities, medication, legal expenses, and funeral expenditures. 

Many older folks begin to prepare for what they may leave behind because they don’t want to burden loved ones with additional strain during an emotional time. However, the act of dying can come abruptly and without warning, catching families off guard — as they’re not financially prepared for the final expenses.

End-of-Life Healthcare

When we discuss end-of-life care, we’re referring to healthcare practices to address sickness in the final days, months, or years of your life. These measures may include aggressive treatments to cure a disease or injury, or they could focus solely on providing comfort — to minimize pain. Here are some types of care and the typical costs associated with each.

Hospital Care

Sometimes unexpected illnesses or injuries occur, requiring hospital care. Typically, more Americans die in hospitals than homes. Those who pass away in a hospital tally $32,300, on average, in their last month. Many deaths happen in intensive care units (ICUs) — where charges can reach up to $10,000 per day.  

Palliative Care

Palliative care may continue along with traditional healthcare up until you pass away. This type of care centers on stress relief, emotional support, and assistance mitigating symptoms — in an effort to improve overall quality of life. This care has saved patients money on medical costs because it reduces the need for ER trips and hospitalizations. One study concluded that $95.30 per day was the average cost of care for those getting palliative care services. 

Hospice Care

Once treatment for a terminal illness has ended and there are no other options, the next step is usually hospice care. It can happen in a care facility or at home, with the goal being to manage pain — not extend life. In recent years, over one million Medicare users have spent some time in hospice care, and it has cost an average of $11,800 per patient.

While these end-of-life healthcare expenses seem heavy, most are covered by a combination of private insurance, government entities, or charitable organizations.  

Legal Expenses 

It can be easy to overlook legal expenses. But it’s essential to write a will, specify your wishes, assign power of attorney, and specify burial, cremation, or other arrangements. Your financial advisor or estate planning attorney can help you with the legal documentation. If you don’t have a lawyer or financial planner, try using an online tool like LegalZoom.  

Also, it’s best to inform your family and medical team of any end-of-life directives. Preparing the information in advance will spare you and your family of hassles or errors when you need medical care. 

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Funeral and Burial Costs

You also can’t forget about funeral and burial costs. The National Funeral Directors Association estimates that average funeral expenses linger between $7,000 and $8,000 — although they could be more. This includes viewing services and cremation. 

Note: Cremation is usually cheaper than traditional burial.  

Consider Final Expense Insurance

So, what can you do to neutralize these funeral costs? 

Many older adults buy final expense or burial insurance, which is a small whole life insurance policy with a lump sum death benefit payout. The beneficiary can use the money to pay for funeral expenses (cemetery plot, grave market, etc.) and other final expenses — like outstanding debts that aren’t forgivable upon death. When you buy a policy, you can rest easy knowing that your end-of-life costs will be taken care of.   

Talk to Your Loved Ones, Too

If you want to make sure your family or loved ones will follow your burial instructions, you can 1) clarify them in your estate planning documents and 2) discuss them often with family members and friends.

Speak with a Licensed Insurance Agent

Buying final expense insurance is an affordable way to ensure peace of mind. Final Expense Direct offers whole life plans with no medical exam required. Plus, we handle everything right over the phone. Call 1-877-674-0236 to speak with a licensed agent.  

When a loved one passes away, it’s often a sad and overwhelming stint for the family. They must make many decisions and take care of many details in a short amount of time. If you neglected funeral planning in advance, your family would have to do it on short notice. Don’t let your family go through this emotional and financial agony.

Final Expense Direct has created a step-by-step guide to help you plan your funeral

Review current financial situations

When looking for a policy, first consider your current expenses and the potential costs you may incur. Also, take those who depend on your income into account since they may have trouble paying their debts without your assistance. Then, think about what your beneficiaries’ futures hold. Are they in need of help with student loan payments? Are they at an age where they are considering buying their first home? Do they have children of their own to provide for?

Taking all of these together, you see that your departure will have a ripple effect on everyone around you. They will have to move on and cope with your loss, enduring the grieving process as they face financial obstacles.

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Choose a funeral home

The venue for your funeral is worth considering since different funeral homes offer different prices. It is also good to discuss these arrangements with your loved ones.

Picking the wrong funeral home for you can lead to unnecessarily high costs if you do not carefully analyze your choices. If it’s not thoroughly planned and you do not have an insurance policy that will cover these costs, this can lead to expensive out-of-pocket costs that will leave your loved ones responsible.

Also, if you are not clear with your loved ones on the type of service you would like to have, it is possible for things to not go according to your plans, which in return, could impact the costs considerably.

Learn About the Different Types Of Funerals

As you do some research, you’ll see that funerals can be complex. Your family will be handling the details when you pass, so it’s important not to treat it lightly. We suggest contacting some funeral homes in your area to get pricing and explore your options. There are six main types of funeral services:

  • Direct burial
  • Burial with viewing
  • Burial with memorial service
  • Direct cremation
  • Cremation with viewing
  • Cremation with memorial service  
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Estimate Your Funeral Costs

When you contact a funeral home, get a rough estimate of what it will cost. A funeral can cost between $7,000 and $12,000, on average. This cost includes viewing and burial, service fees, transportation, embalming, a casket, and other preparation means. A funeral with cremation is $6,000 to $7,000, on average.  

However, it will cost more if you include flowers, a cemetery, monument, or marker.

Communicate Wishes with Your Family

You don’t want to leave your family feeling uncertain about your wishes. They might think you made all the arrangements. Perhaps you already purchased a burial plot, but you haven’t explored other funeral expenses such as the ceremony, a casket, viewing, transportation, etc. It would be best to provide your loved ones with copies of your insurance policy, final wishes document, and burial title. 

Consider Buying Final Expense Insurance

Final Expense Insurance, aka funeral or burial insurance, is an affordable way to provide your family with the resources to pay for your funeral. Funeral directors like it because they can get the money as soon as the beneficiary delegates it to the funeral home. Final Expense Insurance is often purchased by anyone 50 and older. To discuss your options, contact Final Expense Direct today.    

Tasks to Do After Your Passing

Soon after you pass away, your family should do the following:

  • Contact the county coroner
  • Notify close friends, relatives, and coworkers 
  • Call the estate’s executor or whoever is responsible for billing expenses
  • Reach out to the funeral home director to coordinate arrangements 
  • Collect info necessary for the death certificate at the funeral home 
  • Call the insurance company to see if there’s an active final expense policy 

Additional Tasks to Do After Your Funeral 

Soon after your funeral, your loved ones will need to take care of a few things:

  • Inform the employer to pick up last paycheck and other benefits
  • Complete the life insurance policy claim
  • Contact the Social Security Administration to report the death
  • Claim the $255 Social Security funeral benefit 
  • Contact the bank to close checking accounts and credit cards

What Funeral Rights Do You Have?

Funeral rights protect you from being taken advantage of as a result of unscrupulous business practices. This enables you to get your funeral the way you want it, while also giving you full knowledge of what you are paying for.

Your Right to Know – Funeral Planning and Costs

Funeral planning rights revolve around who you trust. If you don’t trust your next of kin to honor your funeral wishes, then you can have what’s known as Appointment of Agent. This is someone who you can work with to ensure you get the funeral you want. Also, you have the right to know exactly how much everything costs, from the funeral service to the casket to the vault. The funeral home is legally required to let you see an itemized list of prices and descriptions of everything mentioned. 

The Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule mandates that funeral homes cannot hide costs from you, and funeral homes cannot force you to buy items you don’t want (hence why you won’t be forced to buy bundle packages).

You’re also allowed to have autonomy over the services. You don’t have to hire a funeral director. You can hire a home funeral consultant, prepare the body, obtain the paperwork needed, and you can hold the service yourself.  However, in the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and New York, you’re required to get a funeral director.

You Control What’s Done with Your Body

You have rights to how your body is dealt with, too:

  • You can choose whether you want to be embalmed. Some things like immediate burial and direct cremation don’t require preservation. If they don’t require preservation, then it only makes sense for you to save on embalming costs. Despite this option, you MUST get embalmed if your body crosses Alabama, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Nebraska state lines.
  • With cremation, you can choose what container you’re cremated in. You’re not forced to buy a cremation casket. Your ashes can be scattered anywhere as long as it’s done discreetly. Your ashes can be placed in any urn you want. But if your ashes are transported, it must be done via the US Postal Service. If ashes are transported via airline flight, the ashes must not be in a metallic container.
  • One compromise you may have to make is the vault. You can’t choose to have no vault at all, as that would have a destructive effect on the cemetery. However, you can choose a lower-cost alternative – a concrete grave liner.

Rights Outside the Funeral Home

Other businesses are not subject to the same regulations. Cemeteries are included here. This is mainly considering headstones. You may use a headstone from a different source, but it’s going to cost less to have a headstone that was purchased from the cemetery. As far as veterans buried in National Cemeteries, the headstone and burial itself are free of charge. 

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. 

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If you’re planning a funeral during the current pandemic, your funeral director should follow the latest instructions from the National Funeral Directors Association and the CDC. Social distancing will be practiced during visitations and funerals. But there are things to be mindful of when you make the actual funeral arrangements. Here are some expectations and questions to ask your funeral director. 


Whether you would like a small, large, or family-only gathering, your funeral director should be taking extra precautions when helping you plan arrangements.

  • When you speak to your funeral director, he or she will most likely ask: “Is anyone feeling ill?” and “Is anyone known to have been exposed to the virus?” If so, the director will ask that those folks stay home or join the conversation via Zoom. 
  • The director may also ask you to restrict the number of people who join you at the funeral home for the arrangement meeting. Other family members can participate in the live video stream or Facetime.  
  • For everyone’s safety, avoid handshakes and wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer) when you arrive at the funeral home and before you leave. You will also likely be required to wear a mask and maintain social distancing requirements of six feet at all times.  
  • The funeral director may forgo an in-person meeting and ask to make the arrangements through video conferencing. 
  • Your director should tell you about local, state, and federal orders and suggestions, and local cemeteries’ guidelines that may impact your funeral arrangements. 

If your loved one has passed away from complications due to COVID-19, your funeral director will take additional precautions when handling and preparing the body. If you’ve decided to embalm your loved one’s body, talk to your funeral director about any private instruction they may be following. 


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What Are My Options if I Can’t Have the Funeral I Want?

If you’re limited to having immediate family at a funeral or if local restrictions keep you from having even a small one, speak with your funeral director about your options for a delayed or future memorial service.

Are Webcasting Services Available?

Many funeral homes prepare to host a web service for guests who cannot attend in person. With this option, you can invite friends and family to tune in from the convenience of their homes.  

How Is the Funeral Home Limiting Exposure to the Virus?

Your funeral home should adhere to all CDC guidelines to protect you, your family, and their staff. Safety is paramount at this time. Your funeral director can notify you about the specific preventative measures they’re taking.  

Should I Be Concerned About Attending the Funeral of a Person Who Has Died of the Virus?

At this time, CDC guidance declares: There is currently no known risk resulting from being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of a person who died of COVID-19. 

But, the CDC also states, “People should consider not touching the body of someone who has died of COVID-19.” 

In other words, use common sense. You can visit the CDC’s website for more on funeral guidance during this time.

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Do I Need to Be Embalmed?

Making decisions and talking about your end-of-life wishes are not the most desirable tasks. However, preparing in advance will help leave your loved ones with fewer burdens after you’re gone. There are many variables to consider when you plan for your final arrangements. Did you know that a final expense insurance policy could help cover them? 

Initial Questions to Ask 

First, ask yourself: Do I want to be buried or cremated? 

And: Do I want an open or closed casket ceremony? 

Also, you should consider whether embalming is something you think is necessary.

What Is Embalming?

Embalming is the process of preserving human remains to (usually) make the deceased suitable for viewing — public or private — as part of the funeral ceremony. 

What’s the Purpose of Embalming?

It generally disinfects a deceased body and improves the appearance for people who decide to have an open casket. As a result, close family members and friends can see the deceased — like they appeared when they were alive.

Early Considerations and Cost

If you choose to be embalmed, funeral homes will consider these aspects, and you should keep them in mind:

  • Your condition upon death
  • What caused the death
  • Medications you took before death
  • Climatic conditions

Some corpses decay faster than others. After considering the aspects above and examining the body, the embalmer should provide a timeline for decomposition. Know that embalming doesn’t preserve the body forever and it can cost around $750.

Is Embalming Really Necessary?

It depends on what funeral arrangements you make. For a service with public viewing, embalming is probably necessary. 

If you don’t want embalming, you typically have the right to say no and choose an arrangement like immediate burial or direct cremation. These don’t require you to pay for embalming. 

Some folks don’t like the idea of it for personal or religious reasons.

What World Religions Say About Embalming

Most branches and denominations of Christianity allow embalming. It has no origins in Christian religion. Muslim, Bahá’í and orthodox Jewish faiths view embalming as a violation of the body, and disallow it. Meanwhile, Hindus and Buddhists prefer cremation over traditional burial — so they don’t need embalming.       

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What the Law Says About Embalming

Embalming is not normally required by law — except in certain situations. Family and friends can have a private viewing of the body without embalming, if desired. With public viewings, such as in a funeral home, the laws vary between states. Some funeral homes require embalming, and some states will, too, if long-distance travel is needed to move the body.

Legal and Health Considerations

Embalming is instructed when a cadaver (corpse) crosses state lines from Alabama to Alaska. Other states (5) require embalming when the corpse exits the state via airplane or train. They are:

  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • California
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “embalming has no community health benefit.” Embalming chemicals are quite toxic, which is why embalmers must wear a respirator and full-body covering while doing the procedure. 

At What Age Should You Plan Your Funeral?

The decision to begin making a funeral plan can be difficult but is incredibly worth it. If you’re wondering when you should begin, know that there’s no specific time. As life can be unexpected, it’s always better to start making a funeral plan sooner rather than later. Beginning early will give you time to think, and those decisions will be beneficial to your loved ones. 

When Should You Begin?

Making funeral arrangements will take some stress off those close to you, as they will have to make fewer decisions when the time comes. Making the decisions for your funeral is an excellent way to be involved and share how you imagine the service. How you want your funeral to be is important, and the only way to make it a reality is to share those wishes.

If you want to start planning your funeral today, it can be good to start with the larger aspects. Where you want the service held or what environment you’d like it to be in can be useful ways to start planning. From there, you can begin planning more details, such as the food or what photos you would like to be showcased.

What Should You Include in Your Funeral Plan?

When creating your funeral plan, don’t be afraid to be specific. Including details is one of the most beneficial opportunities a funeral plan presents. When making lists, they can include everything from food to your favorite songs or someone you would like to speak to. Including people in your service makes the moment even more meaningful and is an excellent way to show them just how much they mean to you.

What Are the Benefits of a Funeral Plan?

Funeral plans are an excellent way to share your wishes and take some pressure off the ones you love. Creating a plan for your funeral not only allows your loved ones to carry out your wishes but gives you control. Planning your funeral can provide you with peace of mind and give those close to you an idea of what you imagine your service would be like.

Why Make a Funeral Plan?

When someone is grieving, making decisions can be extremely difficult, which is one of the reasons why it’s important to make a funeral plan. Being able to take the pressure off those you love will allow them time to grieve and ensure that your service honors your wishes. By outlining how you would like your funeral to go, any arrangements that should be made, and the details that are important to you, you can make important decisions and be involved in the process.

What Should You Include in Your Funeral Plan?

Funeral plans vary in their specificity. Some choose to include vague details, possibly including general ideas or locations they would like to be included in the service. On the other hand, it’s possible to record lots of details and be extremely specific when creating your funeral plan. You can include everything from a location to food, as well as who you would like to speak to and in what order.  

There are many details that go into planning funerals. Everything from flowers to the order of the program can vary, depending on the individual and those close to them. When creating your funeral plan, make sure that it mirrors you and your desires. Being specific is an excellent way to share your wants and allow your family to provide the service that you imagine.

Steps You Can Take In Funeral Planning

Funeral planning is difficult. There are seemingly endless options in what you want your funeral service to be and deciding between burial and cremation. You also have to think about your death throughout this process, which is unpleasant in itself. You’re also having to consider what you want and what your loved ones can afford. If you're worried about planning your grandparents funeral, don't fret. You can even get final expense insurance for your grandparents.

With these three steps, you can make this process faster and easier.

Get a general idea of what you want

This is where you decide upon whether you want a service and what will be done with your body afterward. This is also a major influence on cost.

Funeral services include many other costs, such as embalming ($725), cosmetic preparations for the body ($250), and the funeral staff to manage the funeral service ($500). These are only a few costs, but these costs are omitted if you opt for a direct burial or direct cremation. You’re not forced to have a funeral, though. Direct burials cost roughly between $1,000 to $3,600. Direct cremations on the other hand cost $500 to $3,000.

When you decide on this, you now have a way to reference costs between funeral homes. You can also have an idea of what coverage amount you should have when getting a final expense policy.

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Contact funeral homes

It is encouraged to have open communication with funeral directors. With funeral directors, you get an idea of what your costs are. That includes how much you will pay the staff and mandatory fees, plus how much other items such as caskets, embalming, and burials or cremations are. And when you speak with funeral directors, they can inform you of more options available to you. Some may even offer packages that consolidate the features into one easy payment.

Funeral directors can also help you make decisions based on what aspects of your funeral are most important to you. You have expert assistance in personalizing everything, from the music played to the photos on the memorial package to the people who get to offer their words in the eulogy.

Get your loved ones involved

Your loved ones can also help by sharing their ideas for how to go about your funeral. They can offer insights plus provide support during this planning process. Also, when you get your loved ones involved, they can help get relevant information from the funeral homes in your area so that you do not have to do all the work on your own. 

Also, it is best to do all the planning as far ahead of time as you can. The future is unpredictable, but when you take a calm approach to funeral planning, you and your loved ones can make a decision that you are satisfied with without spending too much on items you don’t need.

1) Coming to terms with the future

Death is inevitable and it’s something most of us do not plan on facing. Part of funeral planning requires confronting the uncomfortable reality that you will pass away one day. And the amount of time it takes before you begin the planning process reflects this. Planning conjures thoughts about your loved ones grieving your death and that you can only fight to live for so long before you lose consciousness forever. It’s no coincidence that funeral planning parallels the five stages of grief, particularly denial and acceptance.

Once you come to terms with this, planning becomes much easier.

2) Gather Your Options

First, assess the funeral homes in your area and see which is best for you. Every funeral home has its own costs and benefits, much like when you’re shopping for insurance policies. Also check to see if they offer any unique services, because you may discover something you hadn’t considered before.

Make lists of everything you want your funeral to be. Think flower arrangements, the clothes you’ll wear, pictures, how the obituary is written, music, and the hairstyle or makeup you want.

If you’re concerned about paying for your funeral expenses, you can benefit from burial insurance. Final expense insurance gives your loved ones peace of mind after you pass away. Your beneficiary gets paid money, which can be used to pay for funeral costs or any emerging needs.

3) Consult Others

Getting others involved is a good idea for multiple reasons – you can get ideas that never occurred to you before, your friends and family feel secure in how your funeral will be carried out because they will know you will have the service you wanted, and getting others involved will make the process go by faster.

Different people have different resources, which saves you the time and effort of compiling all the information yourself. Make sure to consult the funeral home and your insurance company to see which option works best for both your tastes and death benefit funds.

Without your input, your family may be stressed because of having to make such big decisions in such a short matter of time. The time between a person’s death and his or her funeral can be anywhere between two days to two weeks. Your family will be pressed for time and have to make many big decisions about the single aspects of your funeral. This increases the likelihood of them wondering if they made the right choices.

In short, the benefit of getting others involved is a two-way street. It’s faster and easier for you and a form of closure and reassurance for them.

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10 Questions to Ask When Planning a Funeral

For many people, funeral services are a way of saying a last good-bye. For others, funerals are a sense of closure. It may surprise you that they can cost between $7,000 and $12,000, on average. But, how you spend your money and plan your final arrangements is totally up to you. 

When you’re price shopping and doing research, it’s important to ask a lot of questions so you can know your options and do some forward planning. We suggest you ask these questions as you plan your funeral:  

1) Can I Get a Copy of Your General Price List?

Funeral homes must give you a general price list. Some like to offer verbal prices because it lets them inflate items above their regular pricing. Make sure the casket and urn pricing is on the price list. Caskets should be chosen carefully — they’re a very high-priced funeral item. If you see a price or service listed that you don’t understand, it’s always smart to ask.

2) Do You Offer Headstone Services?   

These days, some funeral homes are “full-service” and offer to handle headstones for you. This could come at a steep price, though. Compare this price to what it would cost to work directly with a monument provider. 

3) Is There Anything Excluded from the General Price List? 

Part of being thorough is making sure you’re aware of every possible expense. It never hurts to ask. It shows that you’re doing your homework.

4) What Are the Options for Embalming?

In some states, embalming is in the law. It’s recommended if a final viewing is being requested. Embalming may cost around $750.  

5) Do You Offer Cremation?

Some funeral homes charge a fee of $300 – $400 to cremate the body. Get the cost of a cremation casket, too. We figure it’s roughly $1,200. If saving money is your top priority, ask the funeral home about direct cremation

6) Do You Provide an Officiant or Do I Need to Secure One?

The director of the funeral home can lead the service. Some funeral homes may provide an officiant. You can also bring in a clergy member (priest, pastor, minister), or a friend or family member can officiate. Whatever you prefer, it’s wise to iron out these details beforehand.   

7) Am I Able to Customize the Service?

Funerals are a celebration of a person’s life. They’re unique to the individual. If you can customize the service, find out if there are additional fees that come with it.

8) Can I Provide a PowerPoint Instead of Printed Materials?

Several funeral homes give the choice for PowerPoint or Google Slides. It could save you a couple of hundred bucks to skip the printed pamphlet.  

9) Do You Offer Payment Options?

Today, most funeral homes expect full payment upfront. Most families use cash, a check, or a credit card to pay for all (or part) of the funeral costs. The funeral home might also have payment programs.  

10) Do You Work with Insurance Companies? 

Last but not least, ask if the funeral home is familiar with final expense policies. They should be. 

Burial Vaults: Do You Need One?

A burial vault is a container, often made of concrete, that surrounds a coffin to help keep a grave from sinking. Most cemeteries have rules that require burial vaults for caskets, but federal law doesn’t require you to choose one. However, graveyard operators typically stress the importance of vaults to keep the ground level and maintain the beauty of the cemetery.

A Burial Vault Can Lessen Burdens

If the weight of the casket causes the ground to collapse, this calls for ample maintenance. Too much maintenance can lead to economic, ecological, and administrative burdens. Thus, burial vaults play an important role in reducing these strains. 

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A Burial Vault Can Bear Loads

Whether you need a burial vault comes down to sheer science. During a burial, certain loads will be placed on site. Burial vaults can sustain these weights, which include impact, dynamic, and static loads. 

  • Static (stationary) loads — The weight of the earth pushing directly on the burial vault. This can be up to 4,000 pounds.
  • Dynamic loads —  Tractors, heavy-duty lifts, and other equipment can cause dynamic loads, with varying pressures, while moving over the grave.
  • Impact loads — Often result from the tamper used during the backfilling process. The impact is usually stronger than that of dynamic or static loads. While it usually occurs briefly, impact involves steering high pressure to a small area.

How Much Does a Burial Vault Cost?

Burial vaults are typically more expensive than grave liners. Grave liners normally cost between $700 and $1,000, while burial vaults normally cost between $900 and $7,000 — but they can be up to $10,000 or even $12,000. Yes, we know this is a broad range! 

So, Should You Buy a Burial Vault for a Deceased Loved One?

It depends on which cemetery you decide to bury your loved one. You often hear folks say that you can’t buy peace of mind, but you can purchase a burial vault to help protect their remains from underground processes. 

To avoid being misinformed, consider these points of information:

  • Burial vaults simply stop the ground from decaying around your loved one’s casket. It doesn’t block the decomposing process of the dead body.
  • According to the Funeral Rule, it’s illegal for funeral providers to declare that burial vaults or grave liners keep water, dirt, or other debris from getting into the casket.
  • Certain companies convince customers to choose intricate burial vaults with ornamentation, storage compartments, etc. Consumer experts say that you don’t need to spend gaudily.

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.    

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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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