Funeral terms, explained

All the definitions, in one place.
Funeral terms, explained

Currently arranging a funeral? Here’s a short explainer on every term you’ll likely come across, so you can feel in-the-know and make educated decisions.


The person responsible for managing the estate of a person who has died if;

  • Will hasn’t been written, or

  • If an Executor hasn’t been named in a Will, or

  • If the chosen Executor has decided to reject their responsibility


The remains of a deceased person who has been cremated. The ashes can be buried in a cemetery or columbarium, or they can be kept in an urn in the home of the deceased’s family.


A person who is entitled to parts of an estate. For example, money, property, or personal possessions.


A gift that’s specified in a Will (typically money). Did you know you can leave a bequest to charity as well as your family and friends?


This refers to a person (or multiple people) who have lost a loved one. It’s commonly used to refer to the family of the deceased.


This can refer to a coffin with rectangular edges.


The person who leads the funeral service. They typically speak to the congregation and act as ‘MC’ of the funeral, if you will. They can be either religious or non-religious.


An empty monument in honour of someone who has passed away and is buried elsewhere. For example, in another country.

Chapel of Rest

A space within a funeral home where family and friends can view the body of the deceased before the funeral commences.


Often used interchangeably with a casket, a coffin is a long wooden box that houses the body of the deceased. It differs from a casket as its ends are tapered.


A building where cremation ashes are stored. There are usually niches within the walls which hold individual urns.

Committal Service

The very end of a funeral service where the coffin or casket is buried or removed for cremation. Sometimes the coffin or casket will remain in sight until funeral-goers have left the room.


A government official who investigates suspicious deaths. They’re also responsible for investigating the death of a person whose identity is unknown.


Some individuals opt to be cremated after they have died. ‘Cremation’ refers to a process that uses intense heat to turn the body of a deceased person into ashes. These ashes can then either be scattered, or stored in an urn in the home of a family member or in a columbarium.

Death Certificate

An official statement that proves someone has died. It is issued by the Department of Births, Deaths & Marriages in each state or territory, after a death has been registered and is required in order for an estate to be managed.

Death Notice

An announcement placed in a newspaper that informs the community of a person’s death.


This refers to the costs a funeral director pays on your behalf to third parties, such as flower companies, venue hire, or crematorium fees.


When chemicals are used to preserve a deceased body. This occurs when the bereaved are wanting to view the body before a funeral.


Everything that’s owned by a person at their time of death. A person’s estate is stipulated in their Will and can include finances, shares, property, and personal possessions.


A person named in a Will who is responsible for managing the estate. This person is usually a close friend or family member of the deceased.


The act of removing remains from a burial site. This only typically happens when the remains need to be buried elsewhere. A licence is required to do this in Australia.

Funeral Procession

A ceremonial line of cars that drive at a slow speed towards the venue of the funeral. It is typically led by the funeral director (who walks), followed by the hearse.

Grant of Representation

This refers to probate or letters of administration.

Grave Marker

A temporary label placed on a grave after burial, before a more permanent gravestone is installed.

Green Burial

An eco-friendly funeral. There are special ‘green’ burial sites across the world that help ensure a funeral is as environmentally-friendly as possible.


A vehicle that is specifically designed to carry a coffin/casket.

Letters of Administration

A legal document that allows someone to administer the estate of a deceased person who did not leave a Will.

Living Will

Yep, this is exactly what it sounds like. A ‘Living Will’ is a document that details how a person wants to be cared for in their later stage of life, while they’re still ‘living’.


A building that houses tombs.

Memorial Service

A funeral-like service where the deceased’s body isn’t present.


The person who prepares a body for burial or cremation.


A note in a newspaper that announces someone’s death. It typically gives a brief overview of their life and achievements, and can include funeral details.


The people who carry the coffin to the funeral service. Pallbearers can either be hired, or family members of the deceased can fulfil this obligation.


The land within a cemetery reserved for multiple people. Usually a family will reserve a plot of land for all of them so they can be buried next to each other.

Post-Mortem Examinations

An examination of a deceased body, ordered by a coroner and carried out by a pathologist. A post-mortem exists to discover the cause of death.


Probate gives the Executor the legal authority to deal with the deceased assets.


The process of bringing a loved one’s body back to Australia if they have died overseas.


No, this is not the WWE wrestler. Good try, though. An undertaker is an alternative word for a funeral director.


A container used to store cremation ashes. It’s available in different shapes, styles and colours, and can be completely customised.


A vigil held after a person’s death and funeral.

Wrap up

There can be a lot of jargon involved when it comes to the end of one's life. Understanding some of the key terms can make the funeral planning process a little bit easier. Another way to make things easier is to work with a professional team. Our dedicated and compassionate funeral planners have extensive experience and can be contacted on 1300 945 533.

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