Publication - Factsheet

Funeral Payment and Funeral Poverty: glossary of terms

Published: 13 May 2019

Explanations of the most common terms used by the funeral industry.

Published:
13 May 2019
Funeral Payment and Funeral Poverty: glossary of terms

Organising a funeral for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. During the process you may hear terminology that you haven’t come across before and don’t understand.

We have produced this glossary to help explain some of the most common terms used by the funeral industry.

Terms

Definition

Aftercare

Care of the deceased after death.  It could include washing and dressing the body, religious practices or more invasive procedures. This also could apply to the next of kin or bereaved and in that case would refer to counselling and accompanied services.

Ashes

The material to which human remains are reduced by cremation.

Autopsy

An examination of a body to find out the cause of death. It is carried out by a pathologist (a doctor who specialises in understanding the nature and causes of death). This is also called a post-mortem.

Bereavement 

When a person loses someone significant through death.

Bereavement Support Payment

If your husband, wife or civil partner has died, you may qualify for this support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).  You can find out more at https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/bereavement for more information.

Bier

A wheeled frame or trolley used to move a coffin.

Body donation

Some people decide to donate their body to medical science instead of having a traditional burial or cremation. You can only donate your body to a university, in Scotland these are Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews. Formal arrangements for this must be made with their chosen university by the person before their death.

Bringing into our care

The act of transferring the deceased from where they have died, such as their home or a hospital to the Funeral Directors.

Burial

The act of burying the deceased person in the ground. Also called interment.

Burial and Cremation Act (Scotland) 2016

This Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament to provide a revised legal framework for burial and cremation in Scotland which is relevant for current burial and cremation practices.

Burial at sea

A water burial taking place from a boat in a pre-authorised location.  This is currently only permitted off the North West coast of Scotland. Contact the Burial, Cremation and Death Certification team certificationofdeath@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Burial Authority

The person or organisation which manages a cemetery.  This is defined in the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016.

Burial fees (lair and interment fees)

These are the fees that are paid when arranging a burial.  They include the purchase of the Exclusive Right of Burial for the lair (grave) plus the administrative and other fees that are charged for burial, such as for digging and preparing the lair before and after the burial.

Burial ground

An area of land which is used primarily for the burial of human remains such as a church cemetery or woodland burial ground.  May be publically or privately owned. 

Burial Lair (or lair)

Another name for a burial plot or grave, often used in Scotland.

Casket

Usually a container for ashes. Alternatively, this is also sometimes used as another word for a coffin.

Catafalque

A stand upon which a coffin is placed during a funeral service or viewing of the deceased.

Celebrant

Within the context of funerals this is a person who leads a funeral service commemorating the life of the deceased person. A funeral service may be religious or based on other belief (e.g. humanist) or may have no religious or belief content.

Cemetery

An area of land which is used for burial.  May be publically or privately owned.

Certificate of Registration of Death (Form 14)

The document people receive from the Registrar after registering a death. This document should be given to the funeral director as it is required to accompany any application to cremate or bury someone.  It is not the same as the death certificate. See also Registering a death.

Chapel of Rest

A remembrance room in a funeral home, hospital or church where people can visit to view the deceased before a burial or cremation ceremony.  See further detail under Viewing.

Chesting

A Scottish term describing the act of placing the deceased in their coffin.

Code of Practice

This is a set of written rules that explain how members of the profession should behave.  Codes typically set out the minimum quality standards and responsibilities for each part of the industry.  Codes that are issued by trade associations such as NAFD (National Association of Funeral Directors), SAIF (National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors), ICCM (Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management), FBCA (Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities) and linked to membership of those organisations, are voluntary and cannot be enforced.  Statutory codes issued by the Scottish Government are compulsory legal documents which must be complied with and are inspected against. The Scottish Government Code of Practice for Funeral Directors is currently being developed.

Coffin

A box or other container the person who has died is placed in.  May be made of wood, wicker, bamboo, wood effect material, wool or cardboard.  The material that the coffin is made of will have an impact on the price charged for it.  Sometimes called a casket.

Cold room

An insulated room fitted with temperature controlled refrigeration for the proper care and storage of the deceased until the time of the funeral.

Columbarium

A room or building designed to store urns containing ashes.  See further detail under Urn.

Cords

Lengths of decorative rope attached to the handles of a burial coffin to assist with the lowering into the grave. Mainly used in Scotland and nowadays mostly ceremonial.

Coroner

This is the name used in the rest of the UK for the role performed by the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland see Procurator Fiscal definition for full details

Container for Ashes

Ashes will be packaged by the crematorium into a container in the first instance.  This could be a bag or box made of a variety of materials, typically plastic or paper.

Cremated Remains

The material to which human remains are reduced following cremation, also called Ashes.

Cremation

The disposal of the deceased by burning of remains to ashes.

Cremation Authority

The person or organisation which manages a crematorium.  This is defined in the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016.

Crematorium

A building in which cremations are carried out and its surrounding land.

Cremation Certificate

Issued to the applicant by a crematorium along with the ashes when remains have been cremated and returned. Only one certificate is issued, even if the ashes have been split.

Cremation Fee

Charge for carrying out a cremation.

Cremation Lair

A lair suitable for the burial of ashes only.

Cremator

The machine in which a coffin containing a body is placed for cremation.

Crypt

An underground vault or chamber, especially one beneath a church, that is used as a burial place.

Death Certificate

The statutory certificate issued by a Registrar when a death is registered, see Registering a death.

Direct Burial

When the person who has died is buried without a funeral service or mourners present.  Sometimes a memorial ceremony or wake is held at  a different time and location to the burial. 

Direct Cremation

When the person who has died is cremated without a funeral service or mourners present.  The ashes are returned to the family.  Sometimes a memorial ceremony or wake is held at a different time and location to the cremation.

Disbursements

May also be called third party costs. These are costs, such as cremation and burial fees, minister or celebrant's fees and newspaper notices, that are out of the control of the funeral director.  They are usually paid by the funeral director in the first instance on the client's behalf who will then reimburse them.  Sometimes the funeral director will ask the client to pay third party costs on arranging the funeral. 

DWP Bereavement Services Helpline

DWP advice service that can advise on what assistance may be available to you when a family member has died, see also Bereavement Support Payment, Funeral Expense Payment.  Refer to https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/bereavement for more information.

DWP Funeral Expenses Payment

See Funeral Expenses Payment.

Embalming

The process of temporarily preserving a body using chemicals, often used where a body will be viewed. The process can be invasive and is usually not essential, particularly where no viewing is intended.  It is a personal choice as to whether the deceased is embalmed or not and there may be an additional charge for the service. Permission for embalming must be obtained by the funeral director or embalmer from the  person arranging the funeral.

Estate

Everything owned by a person at the time of their death.  This could include belongings, property, cash, investments and so on. The deceased can state their wishes for the distribution of their estate in their Will and appoint an Executor to ensure they are carried out.

Eulogy

A speech or written piece that is a tribute to someone who has died, often read out during a funeral service.

Excavation

Digging a hole in the ground in preparation for a burial.  Also called grave opening.

Exclusive Rights of Burial (EROB)

The purchase of the right to be buried in a grave, not the purchase of the land itself.  In some cases it may also allow others to be buried in the grave. It also includes the right to apply for permission to erect a memorial.

Executor

A person named in a Will or appointed by the court who will be responsible for distributing the Estate. They may also be responsible for instructing burial or cremation but not always.

Family car

The chauffeur driven limousine used to transport family or chief mourners to a funeral.

First Offices

The processes involved in preparing and presenting a body for viewing. These may vary between funeral directors but generally includes cleaning of the deceased and washing of hair.

Floral tributes

Arrangements of flowers to commemorate a loved one, could be anything from a small bouquet to a larger spray or wreath. May be organised by the funeral director and reimbursed by the client or organised directly by the client.

Form 14 (Certificate of Registration of Death)

See Certificate of Registration of Death (Form 14).

Foundation

Solid concrete base or strip to allow safe erection of a headstone.

Foundation Fee

Charge for the installation of a new headstone foundation.

Funeral Director

A person whose business consists of or includes the arrangement and conduct of funerals.  Also called an Undertaker.

Funeral Expenses Payment (FEP)

You may be eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment (also called a Funeral Payment) if you are on certain benefits and need help to pay for a funeral you’re arranging.  Refer to https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/bereavement for more information. This will be replaced in Scotland by Funeral Expense Assistance in summer 2019.

Funeral home

Funeral director premises.

Funeral package

The bundle of services and products supplied by a funeral director to a customer.  Funeral directors may package specific services together for a particular fee and name them, e.g. Traditional Funeral Package.  These packages and their cost may vary between firms.

Funeral Planning Authority (FPA)

An organisation set up by the Funeral Plan industry to enable UK providers of pre-paid funeral plans to be self-regulating.

Funeral procession

A procession of vehicles or people travelling to or from a funeral.

Grave

An excavation where a coffin can be buried in the ground.  Called a lair in Scotland.

Green Burial

Ways of burying a body so as to have the least impact on the environment.

Hearse

A ceremonial vehicle used in funerals, designed to transport the deceased within a coffin.

Hygienic Treatment

Washing and/or dressing of the deceased. This phrase is sometimes used as another word for embalming so obtain clarification if there is any doubt.

Interment

Burial of the deceased in the ground.  May also refer to burial of ashes.

Interment Fees

The cost to prepare a grave for burial, such as opening the space, laying any foundations required and relaying the grave once the burial has taken place.

Inspector of Cremation

An Inspector of Cremation has been appointed by Scottish Ministers to ensure that a suitable standard and compliance with any professional codes of conduct are maintained.  The Inspector’s remit includes the entirety of the cremation process and the work of cremation authorities.

Inspector of Funeral Directors

An Inspector of Funeral Directors was appointed by Scottish Ministers to inspect and report on funeral director businesses.  Initially the Inspector’s remit is to make recommendations for the industry and to ensure that a suitable standard and compliance with any professional codes of conduct are maintained.

Lair

Another name for a burial plot or grave, often used in Scotland.

Lair Certificate

The certificate that grants rights of burial in a lair.

Lair Holder or Lair Owner

The person who has the right of burial in the lair.  They can legally pass on this right with the agreement of the issuing body. Otherwise, it will automatically pass to the next of kin when the lair owner dies.

Lair Purchase

Before a burial can take place, the right to be buried in a lair must be purchased by paying a lair fee. This right is called the Exclusive Right of Burial. The purchase only provides the right to be buried in the lair, not ownership of the land itself.  In some cases it may also allow others to be buried in the lair. It also includes the right to apply for permission to erect a memorial. When a burial takes place there will also be other fees charged in addition to this such as an administration fee and other fees that are charged for burial, such as for digging and preparing the lair before and after the burial.

Lair Transfer

The ownership of the Exclusive Right of Burial is transferred upon death to the titleholder’s next of kin.  It is also possible for a titleholder to arrange a lair transfer to another beneficiary during their lifetime.

Laying out the body

The process of taking the clean and prepared body and placing in the coffin ready for viewing as requested by the client. It could also include posing and dressing the body in a particular way.

Local Authority Funeral

A local authority funeral is carried out under section 87 of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 when no other arrangements are being made for the burial or cremation of the deceased.  This could be because there are no known relatives to make the arrangements or where the family cannot afford to pay for the funeral.

Mausoleum

A stately or impressive building housing a tomb or group of tombs.

Medical Certificate for Cause of Death (MCCD)

The medical certificate issued by a doctor confirming the time, date and cause of death where there are no suspicious circumstances. This form is handed to the Registrar when the death is registered. Also see Registering a death.

Memorial permit

Permission granted to place a memorial such as a headstone onto a grave.

Memorial registration fee

Payable to obtain a memorial permit.

Memorial Service or Memorial Ceremony

A service or ceremony to honour the life of the deceased person.

Mercury Abatement

Controlling the dispersal of mercury from crematoria into the environment, especially from dental amalgam used in fillings in teeth.

Mercury Abatement Fee

Fee associated with crematorium efforts to eliminate mercury. Payable as part of the cremation fee.

Mortuary

The designated room or building where bodies are kept until they are buried or cremated.

National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)

National trade association representing the interests of the funeral directing businesses who are members.

National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)

National trade association representing the interests of the funeral directing businesses who are members.

Next of Kin

Broadly defined as the closest living relative to the deceased. However, there is a more technical definition in the context of who can be appointed to administer an estate where there is no will. Further information on this can be found at https://www.gov.scot/publications/what-to-do-after-a-death-in-scotland/

Non-Resident Charge

The additional charge that is sometimes made by local authorities to cover the cost of a funeral of a person who does not reside in the local authority area.

Notices

An optional notice that can be placed in a newspaper or online announcing a death and providing details of the funeral. Often called death notice, funeral notice, death announcement or funeral announcement.  

Obituary

A written article reporting the death of a person and giving an account of their life.

Officiant

A person who leads the service at a funeral, see also celebrant.

Order of Ceremony, Order of Service

A printed leaflet giving details of a funeral service.  It may include words to songs or hymns, photographs of the deceased and readings and can serve as a keepsake.  This is optional.

Over 50s Life Insurance

A type of insurance policy for over 50s that pays a lump sum upon death.  This is different to a pre-paid funeral plan (see definition below). The insurance premium must be paid for the rest of the policy holder’s life after it is taken out which could lead to the holder paying in more than the cash sum ultimately paid out.

Ownership of Burial Plot

This is also known as Exclusive Right of Burial (EROB). The purchase of the right to be buried in a grave, not the purchase of the land itself.  In some cases it may also allow others to be buried in the grave. It also includes the right to apply for permission to erect a memorial.  See also Lair purchase.

Pallbearer

A person helping to carry a coffin at a funeral, generally a family member or friend or funeral director employees.

Post Mortem

An examination of a body to establish the cause of death, also known as autopsy.

Pre-paid funeral plan

A savings plan which allows a person to pay towards their funeral while they are still alive.  Funeral plan providers may offer a choice of packages at different prices.  As the packages may cover different costs it is important to check exactly what is included before purchase.

Private Burial

A burial on private land, which will require permission from the landowner and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Procurator Fiscal

The Procurator Fiscal is a Law Officer in Scotland and part of their duty to investigate all sudden, suspicious, accidental, unexpected or unexplained deaths.  The Procurator Fiscal will firstly work out the cause of death, a post mortem examination may be needed to assist with this.  The Procurator Fiscal may require police officers to make enquiries and collect evidence. This does not imply criminality.

Public Health Funeral

Public health funerals are carried out to protect the public from infection, for example if someone died from Ebola or there was a flu pandemic.

Re-opening a lair

When an additional burial is to take place within a lair there is likely to be a charge for reopening the lair.

Refrigeration Unit

A cabinet fitted with temperature controlled refrigeration for the proper care and storage of the deceased until the time of the funeral. 

Registering a death

Deaths should be registered within 8 days with a registrar and can be done by a relative, person present at the death, executor of the deceased person’s will or their legal representative. In Scotland a death can be registered at any Registration Office. The Medical Certificate for the Cause of Death should be given to the Registrar who will issue a Certificate of Registration of Death (Form 14) to be given to the funeral director so that the funeral can go ahead. The registrar will also issue an abbreviated Death Certificate and a form 334/SI "Registration or notification of death" for use in obtaining or adjusting Benefits or for National Insurance purposes.

Religious funeral

A funeral that observes the traditions and rituals of a particular religion.

Repatriation

The process of returning the deceased to their place of origin. It could involve the transfer of a body or ashes. The Death Certification Review Service offers advice on this. Please see http://www.healthcareimprovementscotland.org/our_work/governance_and_assurance/death_certification.aspx for more information.

Resomation

Resomation is an alternative to flame cremation. The deceased is placed in a pressurised water chamber with a chemical solution which breaks down the body to leave bone ash and sterile liquid. Also called alkaline hydrolysis or water cremation). This is not currently available in Scotland.

Right of Burial

See Exclusive Right of Burial in a lair or grave.

Ritual washing

Traditional washing and shrouding of the deceased before cremation in accordance with some religions e.g. Sikhism and Hinduism.

Self-arranged funeral

A funeral where the family of the deceased or other individuals undertake the tasks that would typically be carried out by a funeral director.

Single Use Lair

Lairs suitable for a single coffin only.

Tell Us Once

A telephony service which allows a bereaved person to inform the government once of someone dying, so they don't have to inform a number of different individual agencies (HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Passport office, local council and so on). 

Third Party Costs

Another name for Disbursements, see definition above.

Title Deed of Lair

Document defining ownership of the right to be buried in the lair.

Transfer of Lair Ownership

Transferring exclusive right of burial to another.

Trestles

Wooden stands upon which the coffin sits during a service, may also be called catafalque.

Uplift of the deceased

Collection of the deceased person from the place of death and transportation to the designated funeral director premises.

Undertaker

Another name for a funeral director.

Urn

A container used to hold ashes, often decorative.

Viewing

If desired this is where family and/or close friends have a private opportunity to view the deceased person in an open coffin.

Wake

A gathering arranged just before, or more often after, a funeral by friends and family of the deceased in order to remember them.  Food and drink are often served.

Will

A legal document setting out your wishes regarding the distribution of your possessions and property after death.  This may also include the care of your children.  It names an Executor who will ensure your wishes are carried out.

Woodland burial

An eco-friendly option for a burial that takes place in a natural or woodland burial ground.  Graves are not marked by a headstone but by a natural memorial such as a tree or plant or sometimes a wooden or engraved natural stone plaque.  Alternatively, there may be no marker and the position of the grave is simply plotted on a map.