Complete Guide to Writing and Distributing an Obituary or Funeral Announcement

Complete Guide to Writing and Distributing an Obituary or Funeral Announcement

12th Jun 2024

An obituary is a written announcement of a person's death, typically including a brief biography of their life, achievements, and family connections. Historically, obituaries have informed the community of an individual's passing, providing details about their life and the arrangements for their funeral or memorial services. Today, they remain a vital part of estate and funeral planning and can be found in local newspapers, national publications, and increasingly on digital platforms.

An obituary's primary purpose is to notify the public of the death and celebrate the deceased's life. It usually includes the deceased's full name, age at the time of death, dates of birth and death, and details about their family, education, career, and community involvement. Additionally, obituaries often feature personal anecdotes and accomplishments, painting a fuller picture of the individual’s life and character.

While not legally required, obituaries play a significant role in honoring and remembering loved ones. They offer a way for family and friends to share their grief and memories, and they can serve as a historical record for future generations. As New York Times obituary writer Glenn Rifkin put it: “I want what I write to be a marker that illuminates, not just an ending, but a beginning — and a journey that mattered.

What is an Obituary?

An obituary typically consists of several key components, each designed to provide a comprehensive and respectful account of the deceased's life. These elements ensure that the obituary is informative, honors the individual, and meets the audience's expectations (Overnight Caskets Checklists).

  1. Full Name and Nicknames: Start with the deceased's full name, including any nicknames or maiden names that were widely used. This helps readers immediately recognize the individual being memorialized.
  2. Dates: Include the date of birth and date of death. These dates inform readers of the individual's age and provide a life timeline.
  3. Residence: Mention the deceased’s birthplace and their last place of residence. This adds context to their life story and helps readers place the individual geographically .
  4. Family Information: List surviving family members such as spouses, children, grandchildren, and siblings. It is expected to mention predeceased family members, providing complete picture of the person's familial relationships.
  5. Brief Biography: Write a short biography that includes significant life events, education, career achievements, and contributions to the community. Highlighting notable accomplishments and personal milestones paints a fuller picture of the deceased's life and legacy.
  6. Personal Traits and Anecdotes: Include personal anecdotes and traits that capture the essence of the individual. This might involve hobbies, interests, or unique characteristics that defined them. Such details make the obituary more personal and relatable.
  7. Funeral or Memorial Service Details: Provide information about the funeral or memorial services, including the date, time, and location. If services are private, you can indicate that details… flowers, favorite charity, etc. This can be a meaningful way to honor the deceased’s memory and the causes they cared about.

Writing Tips and Best Practices.

Writing an obituary can be a daunting task, especially when grappling with the loss of a loved one. However, following a few key tips and best practices can make the process more manageable and ensure that the obituary honors the deceased appropriately.

Gathering Information: The first step in writing an obituary is gathering all necessary information. Collect details such as the deceased’s full name, age, date of birth, date of death, and place of birth and residence. It’s also important to include information about surviving family members, career accomplishments, educational background, hobbies, and community involvement. Collaborate with close family and friends to fill in any gaps and gather stories that capture the essence of the person’s life (

Structuring the Obituary: Start with basic details such as the full name, age, and birth and death dates. Next, provide a brief biography that covers important life milestones, education, career achievements, and contributions to the community. Including personal anecdotes and stories helps to humanize the obituary and provide a fuller picture of the deceased’s personality and life. The structure can be flexible, but a logical flow helps readers understand the narrative.

Tone and Style: The tone of an obituary should be respectful and empathetic, reflecting the deceased's personality while also considering the readers' feelings. Writing in the third person is recommended to maintain a formal tone. Avoid overly sentimental language; instead, aim to balance emotion and factual detail. This approach ensures that the obituary is both heartfelt and informative.

Including Personal Touches: Adding personal touches such as favorite hobbies, notable achievements, and unique traits can make the obituary more memorable. For instance, mentioning a love for gardening, involvement in local charities, or a penchant for storytelling can help paint a vivid picture of the deceased’s life. Including a favorite quote or saying can also add a personal touch that resonates with readers.

Proofreading and Finalizing: Once the obituary is written, it’s crucial to proofread it carefully. Check for spelling and grammatical errors, and ensure that all names and dates are correct. Having another family member or friend review the obituary can help catch any mistakes and provide a fresh perspective on the content. It’s alessentialant to remove any sensitive information that could be misused, such as home addresses or exact birth dates, to protect against identity theft.

Using Photos: Including a photo can enhance the obituary by giving a face to the name and evoking fond memories. Choose a photo that reflects the deceased at their best, whether it’s a recent picture or one from a happier time in their life. Ensure that the photo meets the publication’s requirements in terms of size and format .

Final Considerations: Consider the publication requirements for both print and online obituaries. Different platforms may have varying guidelines regarding word count, photo inclusion, and submission formats . Adhering to these guidelines ensures that the obituary is published without delays. By following these tips and best practices, you can create an obituary that respectfully honors the deceased, comforts grieving loved ones, and serves as a meaningful tribute to the community.

You can even use generative AI or a freelancer to get started.

Examples and Templates

Writing an obituary can be simplified by using templates and examples as guides. These tools provide a structured format and ensure that no essential details are overlooked. Here are some practical examples and templates to help you create a meaningful obituary.

Traditional Obituary Template

A traditional obituary typically includes several key sections:

  1. Announcement of Death: Begins with a statement of the person's death, including their full name, age, and date of death. Example: "John Michael Doe, 75, passed away peacefully on January 1, 2024."
  2. Biographical Sketch: Provides a brief overview of the person's life, including birth details, education, career, and personal achievements. Example: "Born on June 15, 1948, in Springfield, IL, John graduated from Springfield High School and earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois. He worked as an engineer for 40 years at XYZ Corporation."
  3. Family Information: Lists surviving family members and predeceased relatives. Example: "He is survived by his wife, Jane Doe; his children, Mary (John) Smith and Robert (Emily) Doe; and three grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Michael and Sarah Doe, and his sister, Patricia Doe."
  4. Personal Attributes and Interests: Highlights hobbies, interests, and personality traits. Example: "John was an avid golfer, enjoyed woodworking, and was known for his sense of humor and kindness."
  5. Funeral and Donation Information: Provides details about funeral services and where to send donations. Example: "A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on January 5, 2024, at First Presbyterian Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society."

Modern Obituary Template

Modern obituaries can be more personalized and may include additional elements such as quotes, anecdotes, and digital links. Overnight Caskets, through its partnership with Cake, offers a free digital memorial.

  1. Announcement of Death with Personal Touch: "Jane Marie Smith, 68, passed away surrounded by loved ones on February 10, 2024, after a courageous battle with cancer."
  2. Detailed Biography with Anecdotes: "Jane was born on March 3, 1955, in Miami, FL. She met her future husband, David, at Florida State University. Jane had a passion for teaching and spent 30 years as an elementary school teacher. Her students remember her as a kind and inspiring mentor. Jane loved gardening, traveling, and baking cookies with her grandchildren."
  3. Family and Personal Stories: "She is survived by her husband of 45 years, David Smith; her children, Laura (Mark) Johnson and Thomas (Kelly) Smith; and four grandchildren. Jane's life was a testament to love and perseverance. Her family fondly recalls her holiday traditions and adventurous spirit."
  4. Funeral and Memorial Details with Digital Elements: "A celebration of Jane's life will be held at 10 a.m. on February 15, 2024, at Grace Church. For those unable to attend, a live stream will be available. The family requests donations to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in Jane’s memory."

Online Tools and Resources

Several online tools can help streamline the obituary writing process. Websites like and Cake provide tools that guide users through each step, ensuring that all necessary details are included. These tools can be particularly useful for those writing an obituary for the first time.

Where to Post an Obituary

Posting an obituary involves choosing the right platforms to ensure the announcement reaches the intended audience. Here are several traditional and online options to consider:

Traditional Platforms

  1. Local Newspapers: Local newspapers remain a popular choice for obituary postings. They are ideal for reaching the immediate community where the deceased lived and worked. Most local newspapers have a dedicated obituary section and offer print and online publication options. This traditional method is valued for its local reach and community engagement.
  2. National Newspapers: National newspapers can be an effective platform for individuals with broader recognition or connections across different regions. Publications like The New York Times or The Washington Post offer national and sometimes international reach, making them suitable for prominent individuals or those with widespread family and friends.
  3. Community and Church Newsletters: Community organizations and church newsletters can be a personal and respectful place to post an obituary. These platforms are especially meaningful for individuals who are actively involved in local groups or religious communities. They target people who share common interests or faith with the deceased

Dedicated Obituary Websites

Dedicated obituary websites like and EverLoved offer comprehensive services tailored for memorializing loved ones. These platforms provide templates and tools to create detailed and personalized obituaries, including options to upload photos, videos, and significant life events. These websites also feature guest books where visitors can leave condolence messages and share their memories of the deceased. This helps create a lasting tribute and facilitates widespread sharing through email and social media, ensuring the obituary reaches a broader audience quickly and efficiently.

Social Media Platforms

Social media has become a powerful tool for sharing news of a loved one's passing. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow for instant dissemination of the obituary to a wide network of friends and family. These platforms enable users to share the obituary post, comment with their condolences, and share their own stories and photos of the deceased. Facebook, in particular, has memorialization options where the deceased's profile can be turned into a memorial page, preserving their digital footprint and allowing friends and family to continue sharing memories.

Online News Sites

Many online news sites offer obituary posting services, catering to both local and national audiences. Local newspapers' websites often include an online obituary section, providing the same content as their print editions but with the added benefit of digital reach. Larger news platforms might have dedicated obituary sections that can accommodate a broader audience. This dual presence ensures that the obituary reaches both traditional and more digitally inclined readers, offering flexibility and extensive coverage.

Funeral Home Websites

Many funeral homes provide website obituary posting services as part of their package. These postings are often included in the service costs and are convenient since the funeral home handles the details. Funeral home websites often have features for guests to leave messages of condolence and to find details about the funeral services, which can be particularly useful for friends and family who may not have been directly informed of the arrangements.

By utilizing these online platforms, families can ensure a wide and inclusive reach for the obituary, allowing more people to learn about the passing, share their condolences, and participate in the memorialization process. This digital approach complements traditional methods, providing a comprehensive strategy for honoring and remembering loved ones.

Costs and Considerations for Posting an Obituary

Cost and other practical considerations are crucial when deciding where to post an obituary. The expenses associated with obituary postings can vary widely depending on the platform and the extent of the obituary’s reach.

Print Newspapers

Posting an obituary in a local or national newspaper can be relatively expensive. Local newspapers typically charge by the line or word, with costs ranging from $200 to $500, depending on the newspaper’s circulation and the length of the obituary. Major national newspapers can be significantly more expensive due to their broader reach. When considering print publication, it’s important to inquire about specific pricing and word count limits.

Online Obituary Websites

Online platforms like and EverLoved offer more affordable options for posting obituaries. These sites often charge a flat fee ranging from $50 to $100 for basic postings, which can include additional features such as photos, videos, and unlimited text. Some platforms offer premium packages with enhanced visibility and additional customization options, which may increase costs slightly but provide greater reach and personalization.

Social Media and Digital Platforms

Posting obituaries on social media platforms like Facebook is generally free, making it an attractive option for those on a budget. Social media allows for instant, wide-reaching announcements without the financial burden of traditional publishing costs. However, families should consider the privacy settings and the intended audience when using social media to share such personal news.

Funeral Home Services

Many funeral homes include obituary posts as part of their service packages. While the costs for funeral home services can vary, having the funeral home handle the obituary posting can save time and ensure that all necessary information is accurately conveyed. Funeral homes often post obituaries on their websites and can also manage submissions to local newspapers and online platforms.

By weighing these costs and considerations, families can choose the most suitable and cost-effective methods for sharing their loved one’s obituary, ensuring that it reaches the intended audience respectfully and meaningfully.

Importance of Digital Memorials

Digital memorials have become increasingly significant in honoring and preserving the memories of deceased loved ones. These online tributes offer several advantages over traditional memorials.

Digital memorials provide accessibility and permanence. Unlike physical memorials, which can be limited by location and subject to weathering or decay, digital memorials are accessible from anywhere in the world at any time. This allows family and friends, regardless of their geographical location, to visit and contribute to the memorial, ensuring that the memory of the deceased is preserved indefinitely.

Secondly, digital memorials offer a dynamic and interactive way to commemorate a loved one’s life. These platforms allow for the inclusion of photos, videos, and personal stories, creating a rich, multi-dimensional tribute. Visitors can leave condolence messages, share their memories, and even contribute multimedia content, making the memorial a collaborative and evolving space.

Digital memorials can also facilitate ongoing support and connection among mourners. They provide a centralized space for grieving individuals to come together, share their feelings, and offer mutual support. This sense of community can be particularly comforting in the grieving process, helping individuals feel less isolated during a difficult time.

Choosing a Platform

Selecting the right platform for creating a digital memorial is crucial to ensuring that it serves the intended purpose effectively. Here are key considerations and popular options:

Platform Features

  1. Customization: Look for platforms that offer extensive customization options. This allows families to personalize the memorial with photos, videos, and specific sections dedicated to various aspects of the deceased's life. Platforms like EverLoved and ForeverMissed offer customizable templates that make it easy to create a unique and fitting tribute.
  2. Multimedia Support: A good digital memorial site should support various media types, including photos, videos, and audio files. This helps to create a richer, more immersive experience., for example, allows users to upload multimedia content and offers tools for creating slideshow presentations.
  3. Interactive Features: Interactive elements such as guest books, comment sections, and forums enable visitors to leave messages, share memories, and interact with each other. This can be vital to the grieving process, as it allows for communal support. Both EverLoved and ForeverMissed provide these interactive features, fostering a sense of community among mourners.
  4. Privacy Settings: Privacy is a significant concern for many families. Choose platforms that offer robust privacy controls, allowing you to decide who can view and contribute to the memorial. EverLoved, for instance, allows for customizable privacy settings, ensuring that only invited guests can access certain parts of the memorial.

Popular Platforms

  1. CAKE: Overnight Casket offers a free digital memorial through its partnership with Cake.
  2. EverLoved: This platform is known for its user-friendly interface and extensive customization options. It supports various multimedia and interactive features, making it a popular choice for creating comprehensive digital memorials.
  3. As one of the most established names in digital memorials, offers a variety of tools for creating detailed and interactive tributes. It also provides options for connecting with broader obituary services, enhancing visibility.
  4. ForeverMissed: This platform is praised for its simplicity and ease of use. It allows for extensive personalization and includes features like virtual candles and online memorial events, making it a fitting choice for many families.

Choosing the right platform involves balancing customization, multimedia support, interactive features, and privacy settings to create a meaningful and secure tribute.

Steps to Create a Digital Memorial

Creating a digital memorial involves several steps to ensure it is a fitting and comprehensive tribute to your loved one. Overnight Caskets offers a free memorial through its partnership with Cake. Here’s a detailed guide on how to set up a digital memorial:

1. Choose a Platform

Start by selecting a platform that suits your needs. Popular choices include EverLoved,, and ForeverMissed. Consider factors such as customization options, multimedia support, interactive features, and privacy settings.

2. Register and Set Up an Account

Once you’ve chosen a platform, you must register and create an account. This typically involves providing basic information such as your name and email address and creating a password. After registration, you can start building the memorial page.

3. Upload Photos and Videos

Begin by uploading photos and videos that capture important moments in your loved one’s life. These could include family gatherings, holidays, or significant milestones. Most platforms allow you to create galleries or slideshows to present these memories in a meaningful way.

4. Write a Detailed Biography

Craft a detailed biography that highlights key aspects of the deceased’s life. Include information about their early years, education, career, personal achievements, hobbies, and community involvement. Anecdotes and personal stories can add depth and personalization to the biography.

5. Enable Guest Contributions

Let friends and family contribute to the memorial by enabling guest books or comment sections. This feature lets others share their memories, leave condolence messages, and post photos and videos. It fosters a sense of community and collective remembrance.

6. Add Interactive Features

Utilize interactive features such as virtual candles, online memorial events, or video tributes. These elements can enhance the memorial, making it a dynamic and engaging space for visitors. For example, some platforms allow for live streaming of memorial services, which can be particularly valuable for those unable to attend in person.

7. Share the Memorial

Once the digital memorial is complete, share it with family and friends. Most platforms provide easy sharing options via email and social media. Ensure to set appropriate privacy settings to control who can view and contribute to the memorial.

By following these steps, you can create a thoughtful and lasting digital memorial that honors your loved one’s memory and provides a space for collective mourning and celebration of their life.

Managing and Sharing the Memorial

Managing and sharing a digital memorial ensures that it remains a meaningful and accessible tribute to the deceased. Here are some steps to effectively manage and share the memorial:

Managing the Memorial

  1. Regular Updates: Keep the memorial site updated with new content. This could include additional photos, videos, and stories shared by friends and family. Regular updates keep the memorial active and engaging, encouraging ongoing visits and interactions.
  2. Moderation: Actively moderate the content to maintain the memorial’s integrity. This involves reviewing and approving guest posts, comments, and contributions to ensure they are appropriate and respectful. Many platforms offer moderation tools to help manage these tasks efficiently.
  3. Privacy Settings: Adjust the privacy settings to control who can view and contribute to the memorial. Most platforms allow you to set different access levels, such as making the memorial public, private, or accessible only to invited guests. This helps protect the memorial from unwanted intrusions and maintains a safe space for genuine interactions.
  4. Technical Maintenance: Ensure the technical aspects of the memorial site are functioning correctly. This includes checking that all links, photos, and videos are displayed properly and that the site is accessible on various devices and browsers. Technical maintenance helps prevent issues that could detract from the user experience.

Sharing the Memorial

  1. Email Invitations: Send email invitations to friends, family, and acquaintances to inform them about the memorial site. Include a brief message explaining the memorial's purpose and how they can contribute. This personal touch can encourage more people to visit and participate.
  2. Social Media: Share the memorial on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media can significantly expand the reach of the memorial, allowing people from different parts of the deceased’s life to connect and share their memories. Use privacy settings to control who can see these posts.
  3. Printed Materials: Include the memorial site’s URL in printed materials such as funeral programs, thank you cards, and community newsletters. This helps spread awareness among those who may not be active online but would still appreciate visiting the memorial.
  4. Community and Church Bulletins: Leverage local community and church bulletins to announce the digital memorial. This traditional method can reach a different audience, ensuring that everyone who knew the deceased has the opportunity to participate and remember them.

By effectively managing and sharing the digital memorial, families can create a lasting tribute that honors their loved one’s memory and facilitates a supportive community for mourning and remembrance.

Crafting an obituary is a heartfelt task that goes beyond merely announcing a death; it's an opportunity to celebrate a loved one’s life, honor their achievements, and bring together a community in remembrance. Whether you're writing an obituary for a loved one or preplanning your own, understanding the nuances of this tradition can help create a meaningful tribute.