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As with any profession, the funeral profession has its jargon, a specialized vocabulary unique to the business. Only those intimately familiar with the profession know what everything actually means. At times, this can be a problem because people need to be able to understand in order to make good decisions. Therefore, the need for a glossary! Hopefully, it will help you better understand any future conversations you may have with funeral professionals.

Advance Planning

The act of making funeral, memorial, ceremony, or other service/plans prior to death. This can refer to recording one’s funeral wishes and paying in advance or simply to recording one’s funeral wishes.

Aerial Scattering

The act of scattering a loved one’s ashes via airplane, hot air balloon, or some other airborne device.


A term used to refer to services that are available to families following the death of a loved one, commonly grief resources.

Alkaline Hydrolysis

Also called flameless cremation or water cremation, alkaline hydrolysis is an alternative to traditional burial or cremation. The body is placed under high pressure at a lower temperature than traditional cremation. The body breaks down, and the ashes go to the next of kin. This method allegedly produces less carbon dioxide and pollutants than regular cremation. It is not yet legal in all 50 states of the United States.

Alternative Container

An unpainted, undecorated container designed to hold the deceased, usually made of unfinished wood, fiberboard, composition materials, or very rigid cardboard (also known as the minimum basic container). The alternative container must be combustible since it is used for cremations. Oftentimes, people use alternative containers for direct burials or green burials. They are generally less expensive than typical hardwood or metal caskets.


The act of separating cremated remains. Reasons for dividing the remains may be to enable the family to scatter some and keep the rest or to give an allocation to different family members.


The probate court appoints an administrator to an estate to act on behalf of a person who has died without a will in place or who did not name an executor in the will.

Anatomical Donation

The act of giving a deceased body, organs, or tissues to science to improve medical education. It can also be a donation of organs and/or tissue from a deceased person to enhance a living individual’s life.

Arrangement Conference

The arrangement conference is a time set aside for family members to discuss a loved one’s funeral arrangements with the staff of a funeral home. During the arrangement meeting, family members will relay important information about the person who has died, as well as discuss their desires and preferences for the funeral service.

Arrangement Room

The room in which a funeral director meets with the deceased’s family to plan ceremony/service arrangements.


A term given to the remains of the human body after cremation.

At-Need Funeral

A funeral and its associated planning that takes place at the time a death occurs. It is not planned ahead of time.


An Attorney-in-Fact refers to the person named in a legal Power of Attorney document. In essence, this person legally acts on a person’s behalf according to the powers granted in that document. Ask a trusted friend or loved one to accept this responsibility.

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