Funeral & Legal Estate Terms


Acknowledgement Cards

Preprinted note cards expressing thanks for thoughtful acts toward the family of the deceased.

Arrangement Conference

The meeting between a funeral director and family and friends of a recently deceased person to decide on a plan for a final resting place and services or gatherings to acknowledge the death.


Any person granted the power of attorney.

Authorizing Agent

A person appointed by an individual to carry out their wishes at the time of their death.

Authorizing Agent Form

Official document allowing someone other than the next of kin to be in charge of funeral arrangements at the time of their death.


Recipient of the proceeds of a will or insurance policy.


Gift of property made in a will.

Body Donation

Donation of the whole body after death for medical research and education. Often the recipient organization will cover the cost of cremation or burial once the body has served its medical purpose and is returned to the family for interment.


Placing human remains in the ground.

Burial Permit

Required by the state of Wisconsin for human remains to be buried or cremated.


Container designed for holding human remains. Usually made of wood, metal, or fiberglass.


Structure or building at a cemetery designed for housing cremation urns.

Committal Service

Final portion of the funeral service when the deceased is interred or entombed.


Regulated process using intense heat in a chamber to burn human remains.


Chamber in a mausoleum that holds a casket and human remains.

Death Certificate

Legal document signed by a medical professional certifying the death of an individual.

Direct Cremation

Cremation without services of any kind. In Wisconsin, a signed permit by a medical examiner or coroner and a 48 hour waiting period are required.


Refers to any manner in which remains will be finally taken care of, including burial, entombment, or cremation.


Procedure to temporarily preserve a body, making it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition. It also sanitizes the body and restores the appearance after a traumatic death or illness.


Casket placed in an above ground crypt in a mausoleum.

Estate Recovery Program

After the death of a person who has received Title XIX funded medical assistance, federal law requires states to have a program in place that requires that the individual’s assets be used to provide repayment to the state.


Speech given to pay tribute to and memorialize the deceased.

Executor/Executrix or Personal Representative

Person named as the person who administers an estate.

Final Disposition

The last process remains go through, including burial, cremation, entombment, or body donation.

Funeral Service

Religious or secular ceremony for the bereaved to say goodbye to the deceased.

Grave Liner

A box or receptacle made of concrete or other durable materials into which the casket is placed to prevent the ground from shifting or collapsing. Most states do not require it, though most cemeteries do. Also, see vault or outer burial container.

Grave Marker

A method of identifying the occupant of a grave. A permanent grave marker is usually metal or stone and gives the name, date of birth, and death.

Graveside Service

Also called a committal service, the final portion of the funeral service when the deceased is interred.

Green Burial

Green Burials are natural burial alternatives that often aim to avoid chemical preservatives or traditional metal and wood caskets. Remains may be put directly into the ground, either shrouded in cloth or buried in containers made of easily biodegradable materials, such as cardboard, wicker, or pine. Outer burial containers may or may not be required. There are a few Southeast Wisconsin cemeteries with dedicated sections for green burial.

Keepsake Urn

A container made to hold cremated remains. It is usually smaller than a traditional urn as cremated remains may be split between multiple keepsake urns or a combination of scattering and keepsake urns.

Immediate Burial

The remains are buried without a service of any kind.

In State

The custom of allowing friends and family to visit and possibly view the body of the deceased.


Placing an urn in a niche or grave.


The act of burying a dead body in a grave.


Dying without a legal will.

Living Trust

A trust that has been established during the life of the trustee.

Living Will

Legal document that details the wishes of an individual concerning his or her medical care, especially with respect to life-sustaining technology and resuscitation.

Mass Card

Card sent to a bereaved family that says the sender has arranged for a Catholic Mass in memory of the deceased.


Building (usually on cemetery grounds) that holds caskets and remains.

Memorial Service or Gathering

Religious or secular ceremony for the bereaved to say goodbye to the deceased without the remains being present.


In a columbarium, an individual chamber where an urn is placed.


Term used in death notices to indicate a person’s maiden name.

Opening and Closing Fees

Cemetery fees for the digging and refilling of a grave or preparing a crypt or niche.

Outer Burial Container

Container that surrounds the casket in the grave. Also see vault or grave liner.


Individuals (usually close family and friends) asked to carry the casket.

Perpetual Care Trust Funds

Certain portion of the cost of a burial plot that is set aside in a trust fund for its ongoing care (usually for groundskeeping).


Specific area of ground in a cemetery owned by a family or individual, usually containing two or more graves.

Power of Attorney (POA)

An authorization to act on someone else’s behalf in a legal or business matter.

Prearranged Funeral (sometimes called Preneed or Preplanning)

Funeral arrangements completed by an individual prior to his/her death.

Prearranged Funeral Trust

Method by which an individual can prefund their funeral expenses.


Court process of proving the validity of a will.


The vehicular movement of the funeral from the place where the funeral service was held to the cemetery. May also apply to a church funeral where the mourners follow the casket as it is brought into and taken out of the church.


Body of the deceased.

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.


Person making a valid will.

Title XIX (Nineteen)

1965 federal law that provides for medical assistance to those who cannot afford to pay for it.

Trisagion Service

In the Greek Orthodox tradition, a prayer service held the evening before the funeral service.


Usually a fund, though it may be made up of property. It is held and managed by one person for the benefit of another (or others).


Container made for holding cremated human remains.


Solid container, usually made of concrete, to keep the casket and its contents clean and dry. Also see outer burial container or grave liner.


In Catholicism, a service held on the eve of the funeral service.


Usually held at the funeral home before or after a funeral service, this is a scheduled time when friends and family pay respects and visit. A casket or urn may or may not be present.


Watch kept over the deceased, sometimes lasting the entire night preceding the funeral. Sometimes used to mean “visitation.”


Legal document stating the intentions of the deceased concerning the dispersal of their belongings, the care of their remains and other relevant matters.