Glossary

Funeral planning is stressful enough without being confused by funeral industry and insurance terms. We’ve compiled this glossary to give you an insider’s advantage when preplanning your own funeral or funeral planning for a loved one.

Click on a letter to locate a specific term.

A

ADB: accelerated death benefit
Fixed life insurance benefits that are paid while the insured is still living, which decreases the benefit amount paid after his or her death.
Advance funeral planning
Planning one’s own funeral in advance, and sometimes paying for it, in order to relieve his or her loved ones from the emotional and financial burden.
Advance healthcare directive
Also referred to as a living will, this legal document lets others know one’s preferences for medical care and takes effect when someone is no longer able to speak for himself or herself.

B

Bereavement guilt
The remorseful reaction after losing a loved one that one has failed to live up to expectations to the deceased or the death.
Burial insurance
A Term Life or Whole Life insurance policy that pays benefits directly to the beneficiary to cover the cost of the insured’s funeral or cremation expenses upon his or her death.

C

Casket
A rectangular coffer that the deceased is placed in and then buried in the ground. Also referred to as a coffin.
Celebration of Life
An informal gathering of friends and family where they can share stories and pay respect to the life of the deceased in a positive manner. 
Conservation burial
A natural burial that goes a step further by also committing fees to pay for land acquisition, protection, restoration, and management.
Cremains
A deceased person’s cremated remains, also known as ashes.
Cremation
The disposal of a deceased person’s body through burning it to ashes, oftentimes after a funeral ceremony has taken place.
Cremation funeral
A funeral service that can include any of the elements used in a traditional burial. This service can take place before or after cremation, and oftentimes, incorporates the burial of the cremated remains.

D

Death benefit
The payment that is given to a beneficiary from the life insurance provider after the insured policyholder passes away. Also known as face amount.
Direct cremation
The process of cremating a deceased body within the days immediately following death and before a funeral service.

E

Eco-friendly caskets
Coffins made from a variety of different materials that are not harmful to the environment and oftentimes are even biodegradable. Also known as biodegradable caskets.
Embalming
Involves injecting a deceased body with fluids that are used to temporarily slow the body’s decomposition. This process is typically used to preserve the body for a public or open casket funeral.
Endowment care
Funds that cemeteries use to cover the costs of grounds and facilities maintenance.
Entombment
The act of placing a deceased body or cremated remains into a burial chamber.
EOI: Evidence of insurability
Medical and personal information that an insurance provider uses when deciding on coverage for an individual or group applying for health or life insurance. Also known as medical underwriting.
Estate planning
A plan made in advance that instructs who is entitled to an individual’s possessions after he or she dies.
Eulogy
A speech or piece of writing that positively reflects about someone who has died.

F

Final Expense insurance
An insurance plan that is used to cover funeral costs and additional expenses of the insured after they die.
Funeral care
All of the services that a funeral home provides, such as planning the funeral service and preparing and transporting the body.
Funeral insurance
A life insurance policy that is used to cover the insured’s funeral, burial, and any final expenses they may leave behind.
Funeral procession
A motorcade or march of people after a funeral from the funeral home to the cemetery.
Funeral recession
A hymn sung at a funeral that represents the mourners saying goodbye to the deceased. It is also seen as a processional from the funeral service to the deceased’s final resting place.
Funeral service
A service that is held when the body of the deceased is present in a coffin with a burial immediately following.

G

Graveside service
A funeral service held at the deceased’s gravesite that can be a stand-alone event or follow a traditional funeral service.
Green burial
A burial in a “green cemetery,” where the body is not cremated or prepared with any embalming chemicals, but it is placed in a biodegradable casket and buried with the goal of complete decomposition of the body and the casket.
Green cemetery
A cemetery that does not use pesticides to maintain the property and none of the bodies have been embalmed or buried in a traditional casket.
Green cremation
An eco-friendly alternative to flame-based cremation that involves the use of water and potassium hydroxide to breakdown the body into bone ash.
Green funeral
A funeral service that incorporates environment-friendly alternatives to a typical U.S. funeral, such as not embalming or embalming with formaldehyde-free products, using recycled paper for programs, selecting locally grown organic flowers, or choosing a natural or green burial.
Guaranteed assurance
The amount or size of a plan that someone automatically qualifies for without having to prove good health during the life insurance application process. Also known as guaranteed issue maximum.
Guaranteed funeral plans
A guaranteed price contract where the cost of specific funeral services and products can never increase, regardless of inflation or price changes that may occur by the time the insured dies.

I

Interment
The burial of a deceased person in a grave.

M

Memorial service
A service that is held when the deceased is not physically present because the burial has already taken place, or the body has been cremated (with or without an urn present).
Mortuary
A business that provides funeral services for the deceased and their families. Also known as a funeral home or funeral parlor.

N

Natural burial
The burial of a deceased person directly in the ground in a manner that allows the body to decompose naturally. Embalming fluid, a casket, and a vault are not used.

O

Order of service
A program that is handed to funeral attendees and lists the elements and order of the funeral.

P

POD (payable on death) account
A bank account an individual deposits money into to cover funeral costs when he or she dies. It accumulates interest and is payable upon the individual’s death to a designated family member or friend to use for his or her funeral.
Preneed Funeral insurance
Insurance that is purchased in advance at a funeral home. The individual who purchases it chooses the specific arrangements they desire for their funeral and pays the costs in a lump sum or in payments.
Preplanning
The process of planning a funeral in advance to ensure one’s wishes have been made known and to eliminate the need for family to make arrangements while mourning.

R

Rider
An amendment to an insurance policy to add benefits or exclude coverage for a health condition, body part, or body system.

T

Term Life insurance
A life insurance policy that pays a benefit if the insured dies within a specified term.
Traditional funeral
The most common type of funeral in the United States that often includes a viewing ceremony one or two nights before the funeral service, which is usually held three to six days after the death.

V

Vault
A box made of concrete, plastic, or metal that encases a casket in order to protect it from the weight of the earth and cemetery maintenance equipment. It is similar to a grave liner, but a vault is sealed and lined, which better protects the casket from weather. Also known as a burial vault.
Viewing
A designated time when family and friends are able to view the deceased and say their goodbyes before the burial.
Visitation
A period, typically one or two days before the funeral service, when family, friends, and colleagues come together to express sympathy to the family of the deceased with the body present either in an open or closed casket.

W

Wake
A social gathering usually held before the funeral service at the deceased’s house or a funeral home with the deceased body present.
Water cremation
An alternative to traditional burial or cremation based on alkaline hydrolysis that involves dissolving human remains in a chamber filled with water and lye. The process produces less carbon dioxide and pollutants than cremation. Also known as aquamation.