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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.

Balloon Release

A ceremonial event where individuals release hydrogen or helium balloons to honor a loved one’s passing and “let go” of grief.

Basic Services Fee

Basic service fees cover a proportionate amount of overhead. Generally, this includes the services of the funeral director and staff, facility maintenance and utilities, equipment and inventory cost, taxes and insurance, and other administrative expenses. Also, feel free to speak with a funeral professional about any additional services the fee covers.


The beneficiary is the entity or individual(s) who receives benefits from the estate plan, trust, life insurance policy or legal will of another person. In general, it is required to name a beneficiary when completing any of these legal documents.


A period of mourning after a loss or a state of intense grief after the loss of a loved one.

Body Donation

The donation of a deceased body for purposes of medical research and education. In general, bodies are used for surgical dissection and the study of gross anatomy in medical practice.


A type of interment; the ritual act of placing a deceased loved one’s remains into the ground following final commemoration services.

Burial Flag

A flag that is provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to honor the memory of an eligible veteran, which is often displayed at the funeral and/or committal service. In addition, the family can request a Presidential Memorial Certificate.

Burial Garments

The garments worn by the deceased when buried or cremated. If a funeral is preplanned, they may be chosen by the deceased, but if not, they are chosen by the family. The funeral home may also assist the family in selecting burial clothing, especially if there is to be a viewing that requires a certain type of clothing (e.g., high neckline, long sleeves, etc.).

Burial Insurance

An insurance policy intended to pay for the cost of a burial/cremation and funeral. Burial plans may be set up as exempt assets for Medicaid qualification for long-term care. For more information, speak with a local funeral professional.

Burial Permit

Official authorization license to transfer the deceased to the burial site.

Burial Plot

A specific parcel of land where a deceased loved one lies after death. A burial plot and a cemetery plot are the same thing.

Burial Trust

A burial trust is a contract between an individual and a funeral and/or burial service provider. In some cases, the funeral home may lock in costs for future funeral or burial/cremation services at an agreed-upon price. If this is the case, the funeral home sometimes serves as trustee, or manager, of trust assets. Generally, a person funds the trust with cash, bonds, or life insurance. There are two types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. You can cancel a revocable burial trust at any time. However,  you cannot change or cancel an irrevocable trust. On top of that, a person does not have access to the funds except to pay for funeral services. By doing this, the funeral funds are protected and/or exempted from assets for the purpose of Medicaid qualification. A burial trust and a funeral trust are the same thing.

Butterfly Release

A commemoration ceremony; release butterflies into the environment to celebrate the life of a loved one.

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