Writing an Obituary

An obituary includes a biographical outline and possibly a picture of the deceased. As early as possible, begin compiling the information for the obituary. Friends and family can help write this. The following list is a guide rather than a requirement.


Get a daily paper and review obituaries for that day; use elements from ones that best fit with what you need.

WHN TIP: Obituary Expense

The definition of “obituary” and “death notice” vary from paper to paper. Some newspapers offer these free, others charge by the line. Find out what your paper(s) charge before placing an obituary -- it can get very expensive.


  1. Vital statistics about the deceased (date of birth and death)
  2. Location, including phone number, day and time of services (all appropriate memorial, funeral, and burial services)
  3. Address of where to send floral tributes, requests for donations to charity, if any
  4. Photo (optional, often additional costs)
  5. Cause of death (optional)
  6. Place of residence and length of time the person lived in the area
  7. Education, work and volunteer history, military experience
  8. Memberships in local organizations; religious or other affiliations
  9. Honors and awards
  10. Names of all spouses, including marriages that ended in divorce or death. If a spouse is deceased, the year of death.
  11. Names, relationships and current towns of residence for surviving spouse, children, parents and siblings
  12. Number of surviving grandchildren and great-grandchildren

Deadline and Fees

  1. Call to find out the deadline of the paper(s) you choose to run the notice in. For placement in the next day’s paper, obituary deadlines are generally between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day.
  2. Ask how the fees are calculated. (This is usually a per-line rate for both copy and a photo.)
  3. Ask if a short 6–8 line announcement of a death or of pending services is printed free of charge — answers vary.
  4. Ask how the payment must be made: cash, check or credit card.


Have someone working on an obituary well in advance of the deadline.


  1. You can place an obituary yourself; many newspapers are very helpful and answer any questions you may have.
  2. If you choose, you can place an obituary in a home or birth town as well as the town the deceased most recently lived in.
  3. Funeral homes may handle placing obituaries and notices for you. Check if this is part of their service.
  4. Updated: 5/2009