Legal Terminology Associated with Death Care


When a loved one dies a facet of the death care that follows is to handle any legal requirements and requests. A few legal situations that can arise involve preparing the funeral, insurance policies and probate. You may be exposed to quite a bit of unfamiliar terms during this time. To help you prepare for this eventuality, the R.W. Baker team has put together some common vocabulary and phrases you may encounter while handling legal matters.


The individual that will receive proceeds of a legal will or life insurance policy.


A gift that is made within a will.

Burial/Cremation Permit or Certificate

A legal document given by the local government to authorize a burial.

Certified Death Certificate

A legal copy of an original death certificate that is issued by the local government.


A legal amendment to a will.


When a legal challenge is issued that questions the validity of a will.

Death Notice/Obituary

A write up that is usually placed with news agency (print or internet) that publically announces a death and gives service and/or memorial details. Sometimes the deceased person’s life is summarized and/or other details are given as requested by survivors.

• Get Answers to your Frequently Asked Questions on Funeral Pre-Planning


A person who has died.


A person who is appointed in a will as a legal administrator of an estate.

Funeral insurance/burial insurance

A monetary policy that covers costs of a funeral or burial and other expenses associated with them.


A legal hearing that is called if a situation arises that questions the circumstances of death.


The situation that occurs when a person dies with no will.

Living Will

An official and legal document which lists the desires of an individual about his/her medical care if they are no longer fit to make decisions.

Perpetual Care Fund

A fund that is set aside in a trust that allows for continual maintenance of a burial plot.

Prearranged Funeral, Funeral Trust, and Preneed

These are terms that refer to plans and contracts for preplanning funeral arrangements and prepayment prior to death.


Validating a will through the court system.


The person creating an official will.

Transit Permit

An official permit that allows the deceased to be transported to the burial site.


A monetary fund that is managed by one person for the benefit of others.


A legal document that states the wishes of the deceased upon their death. This usually involves the handling of their estate as well as their final arrangement instructions.

*This list is for reference only and not meant to replace any legal documentation or legal advice.