How To Write An Obituary: A Simple (But Complete) Guide

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Today I had a client ask me if I could help him write his obituary. This way his kids would have this part done for them when they get their death benefit from his life insurance policy to cover his funeral.

I did some research on putting together a plan to pass on directions for how he wants his obituary written. This article is a summary of what I did for this client. It is for you to use as a model for how you  can write an obituary for yourself or  for you to write an obituary for  your loved ones. 

Identity Theft In Obituaries: How To Fix And Avoid This

how to write an obituaryObituaries have become a popular target for data collection by marketing departments for sales organizations, or even worse – identity thieves. So it may be helpful to you to indicate that your obituary leaves out minor details.

For example, many obituaries will offer when we were born and when we died. Instead of leaving the exact date, use just the month and the year but leave the calendar day out.

If you are married, then leave out your maiden name. Maiden names are commonly used to bypass security features for login credentials. 

How To Write Memorable Obituaries

The key to writing memorable obituaries is to start off with a story. Pick a funny story that you know about the deceased.

how to write an obituaryYou probably have several really funny memories of the deceased. If nothing is coming to mind, then. Look through photos and videos. You’ll definitely find a great story to tell!

We will include an example, but first let’s go over a couple of formalities. 

Think about where the obituary will be seen. Generally, obituaries are found online for free  or in newspapers for a fee.   It will basically have our names, an official announcement of our death, and some basic background information about us.

Optionally, the obituary may offer information on the memorial services being held for us for visitors to reference. It also is useful to include instructions for anyone to make donations in our names.

Make sure to indicate what the funds will be used to help with so that donors are motivated to donate. 

No one is legally required to publish an obituary therefore they are not mandatory. 

You can also give serious consideration to the following:

  • Details about your education
  • Employment information
  • Military service
  • Memberships in the community
  • Awards and achievements
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Charity work 

Next you’ll want to include family members deceased and surviving in order you would like. Traditionally, obituaries will use the following order when including family of the deceased in an obituary:

  • Spouse: list the spouse first
  • Children: List the children along with the children’s spouse if applicable
  • Parents: if there are no children then list the parents. Otherwise, you should list the parents next. 
  • Extended family: if you have room, then include cousins, nephews, aunts and uncles. 
  • Pets: are never left out! Don’t forget to include pet family members!

After you put everything together you can use the following example;

Sarah had an amazing voice. I remember when my daughter started crying when Sarah was singing twinkle twinkle little stars to her.

I asked my daughter why she was crying. She asked me to make it stop because her ears hurt. 

Oh how we miss Sarah when we were in the living room watching TV  while she sang in the shower as she bathed before going to bed.

Sarah Smith. Born in Any City, Any State on a beautiful winter evening in January 1950. Passed away during a beautiful winter evening January 2020.

Services to be held at ABC Funeral Home in any city, any state at 6pm January 31st, 2020. She is survived by her spouse of 35 years John Smith.

Together they have 2 children Robert Smith and Joseph Smith. Her parents Roy Smith and Jane Smith came to Any City, Any State in 1920 from Any Country. 

You’ll want to select a photo for print or maybe video for an online obituary. 

One thing that’s commonly overlooked is directing flowers as gifts. Many times no one remembers where to ask people to send flowers.

You can indicate that you don’t want flowers and to make donations. If you do not mention flowers people will be confused as to send them to the home of the surviving family or the funeral home.

So remember to provide instructions.

What Is A Death Notice? And Why Should You Care?

A death notice is a simple summary of a few lines in length giving simple details that include:

  • Name
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Memorial service details
  • How to make donations

how to write an obituaryIt is generally written by a funeral home with the assistance of surviving family members and published in newspapers. Publishing in rural newspapers can be close to free while publishing in a metro area newspaper can cost thousands of dollars.

The more lines in the publication, the more expensive the cost to publish.  Keep this in mind when budgeting the cost of the funeral.

A newspaper will usually require a death certificate prior to publishing which usually leads to a delay in publishing. The original purpose of a death notice is to alert creditors to make a claim on the estate of the deceased.

No one is legally required to publish a death notice therefore they are not mandatory. 

Cause of death should always be left out.

Never ever include the cause of death in a death notice or an obituary. It could be something that misrepresents the quality of life well lived, or it may risk harming the reputation of the surviving family.

The death certificate has a space for the cause of death. However, it may not even be accurate in describing how someone died. 


Thinking about how to write an obituary feels like a monumentally honorable task. Usually, the person writing an obituary is doing it for the first time.

This guide will provide you with a  format to make sure you glorify the deceased to everyone’s satisfaction. Did we forget to go over something you had questions about?

Is there something we can improve on? Let us know in the comments!

We are interested in helping our clients in any way they would like us to. You can use the form on the right to get an instant life insurance quote or contact us at 908-292-0814 anytime with your concerns and questions.

About the author

Victor Vega has over a decade of experience in working with individuals regarding their personal finances after starting in 2007 at Merrill Lynch as a financial advisor. I started Garden Mutual in 2020 so that you could have access to a life insurance agent that puts your interests first! As an independent agent, I work with over 10 carriers. This means that my loyalty is to my customer and not any one particular insurance company . Let me provide you with objective information that you can use to pick the best life insurance policy for yourself today.  We are always looking to improve ourselves for your benefit!

If there are any problems with the information in this article would it be ridiculous to let us know in the comment section below?

Email me at info@gardenmutual.com or call me at 908-388-4916.

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