After a Death: Common Definitions & Terms

Last updated on July 7, 2022

When closing the affairs of a person who has died, you will encounter some words that aren’t used often in ordinary conversation. Find out what some of these words mean.



Responsible for administering the estate of someone who died. Like an executor, but appointed by a court. See Wills & Estates for responsibilities of the administrator.



A coroner is someone who investigates deaths that are:

  • Unnatural
  • Sudden and unexpected
  • Unexplained
  • Unattended

They also investigate child deaths, deaths in custody and deaths in designated institutions. Learn more at "What does the Coroners Service Do?"

See Coroners Service for more information.



Land that is set apart or used as a place of burial of human remains or cremated remains.


Death Registration

A process that creates a legal record of a death with the Vital Statistics Agency.



The process of dealing with a dead person’s body. Burial or cremation are two types of disposition.


End of Life Care

An approach to care to improve the quality of life when faced with a life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering.

Like palliative care, but with a focus on the end of a person’s life.



The sum of a person’s assets. This could include land and real estate, possessions, financial accounts, cash, legal rights and interests.



The person or one of the people named in the will and responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will and administering the estate. See Wills & Estates for responsibilities of the executor.



A person responsible for a child’s care and upbringing.


Medical Assistance in Dying

A physician or approved practitioner helps a patient who wants to voluntarily and intentionally end their life.


Medical Certificate of Death

The medical certification of a death, not to be confused with the death certificate.



The act of burying a body. Interment can sometimes refer to part of a funeral or memorial event, even when no body is involved.



The written announcement of someone’s death. Typically published in newspapers or on memorial pages on the internet. An obituary can let a community know that someone has died and make funeral arrangements clear. It can also share the story of a person’s life once they have died. It can also become an archival record of someone's life as a piece of history, such as for ancestry research. An obituary can sometimes act as additional proof of death when cancelling services or accounts.


Palliative Care

An approach to care to improve the quality of life when faced with a life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering.



A type of retirement fund that a person pays into while employed. It provides monthly income once they retire.



Probate is a process that verifies a will is real under B.C. laws.


Pro Bono

Work undertaken without a charge, especially legal work.



Stillbirth is the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before the baby is born. It can happen during the pregnancy or during labour.

Parents who wish to commemorate the stillbirth of their child can apply for a Stillbirth Certificate of Remembrance (PDF, 1.1MB).



A legal document left by someone who’s died. It lets the court know what to do with that person’s estate. See Wills & Estates.



After a Death Checklist (PDF, 3.8MB)

Wills & Estates

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