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Glossary of Terms

When planning a funeral, you may come across some words and phrases that you’ve never heard of. We’ve put together a glossary of terms to help make the process of planning a funeral a little easier.

A
Administrator
A court-appointed person or organisation that oversees a deceased person's estate when there is no will in place.
B
Beneficiary
A person or organisation that benefits from a will or insurance policy.
Bereaved
The close family of the deceased, e.g. spouse, siblings and children.
Bereavement allowance
A payment provided by the government if you are widowed between the age of 45 of the state pension age.
Bereavement payment
A tax-free lump sum of £2,000 from the government that can be claimed if your civil partner or spouse paid National Insurance contributions, were under state pension age when they died or they were not entitled to a Category A state pension when they passed.
Burial
Burying the deceased in the earth.
C
Casket
A container - known as a coffin - designed to hold the deceased. It can be made from wood, metal or fibreglass.
Catafalque
The stand the casket is placed upon during the funeral service.
Celebrant
A person that provides personalised funeral services to create a meaningful ceremony.
Cemetery
The ground used for burial of the deceased.
Chapel of rest
The place where the body is kept before a funeral.
Columbarium
An above-ground structure that houses urns of cremated remains.
Committal Service
A short ceremony held at the grave side while the casket is lowered into the ground.
Coroner
An official who holds an inquest into a death deemed to be violent, sudden or suspicious.
Cortege
The funeral procession.
Cremation
A two to four-hour process that uses intense heat to burn human remains.
Crematory
A building that houses the furnace used in cremations.
D
Death certificate
A legal document signed by a medical professional certifying that an individual has died.
Death notice
A paid declaration in a newspaper that announces a person has died and provides the details of the funeral or memorial service.
Deceased
The person who has died.
Disbursements
The payment of money from a fund or account to third-parties on behalf, such as minister, celebrant or officiant fees.
DIY funeral
A funeral that is organised without the assistance of a funeral director.
E
Embalming
A process using chemicals - such as formaldehyde - to temporarily preserve the body.
Estate
A person’s net worth when they are alive or dead. Typically, it is used by executors to pay off any debt or taxes owed by the deceased.
Eulogy
A speech made by someone at a funeral praising or honouring the deceased.
Executor
A person or organisation that is appointed by the deceased to carry out the terms of their Will.
Exhume
The process of digging up a body for an important reason, such as a medical or legal investigation.
F
Funeral
A ceremony that honours the end of the deceased’s life.
Funeral Director
A professional who prepares the body for burial, supervises the funeral service and liaises with other organisations. Also referred to as an undertaker.
Funeral plan
A way of paying for and planning a funeral in advance, allowing the person to take care of the cost and decisions before they die.
Fuenral procession
A number of vehicles or people travelling to or from a funeral service.
Funeral spray
A bouquet of flowers that are sent to the funeral home as a tribute the deceased.
G
Grant of representation
The legal right to administer the deceased’s estate.
Grave
A hole made in the ground to hold the deceased’s remains in a container. It is typically marked by a stone or mound.
Grave marker
A headstone, tombstone or gravestone that marks where the deceased is buried.
Green burial
A way of burying the deceased so that it has minimal impact on the surrounding environment and aids conservation of natural resources.
Guardian's allowance
A payment made to you if you are bringing up a child whose parents have deceased. In some cases, you may be eligible if one parent is still alive.
H
Headstone
A slab of stone used to mark a grave, typically inscribed with the name of the deceased and the dates of their birth and death.
Hearse
A vehicle for transporting the deceased to the funeral and burial site.
I
Inheritance tax
A tax on the estate of the deceased. There is no tax to pay if you leave everything to your civil partner/spouse or charity, and if the value of the estate is less than £325,000.
Intestate
The term used when a person has died without leaving a valid will.
Interment
The act of burying the deceased in a grave.
L
Letters of administration
The authority of administering an estate of someone who has died without leaving a will behind.
Living Will
A legal document that contains the wishes of a person when it comes to medical care, such as life-sustaining technology and resuscitations.
M   
Mausoleum
A structure - usually within a cemetery - that holds remains and caskets.
Medical certificate of cause of death
A document that is signed by a doctor and contains the cause, date, and a place of a person’s death.
Memorial service
A religious ceremony that commemorates the life of a person who has recently died.
Morgue
Establishments ran by local authorities that hold bodies that are yet to be identified by next of kin.
Mortician
A mortician - also known as an undertaker or funeral director - organises the funeral process.
Mortuary
A regulated business that cares for the deceased before they are buried or cremated. It also conducts and arranges funeral and memorial services.
O
Obituary
An article that provides a biography of the deceased. It is written by an employee of the newspaper, rather than relatives of the deceased.
P
Pallbearers
Individuals who are asked to carry the casket, typically close friends of family of the deceased.
Plot
A spot where a body is buried.
Post-mortem examinations
The examination of the body after death, usually done to determine the cause of the death.
Prepaid funeral plan
A way to plan and pay ahead to beat the rising costs of funerals.
Probate
The process of proving a will is valid in court.
R
Repatriation
The return of a body to the deceased’s home country.
S
Social fund funeral payment
A payment made to those who are on low incomes and are struggling to pay for a funeral.
U
Undertaker
A person who prepares bodies for funerals and cremations, and makes arrangements for funerals. See also funeral director and mortician.
Urn
A container for cremated human remains.
W
Wake
A social gathering held after a funeral, held at a family home or the funeral home.
Widowed parent's allowance
A payment that can be made to a person with at least one dependent child who has been widowed under the state pension age.
Widow's pension
This was replaced by the bereavement allowance in 2001.

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