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It is wise to pre-plan what will be said about you in an obituary. This is particularly so because of the emotions survivors will be dealing with and the short time frame required to get the obituary into the newspaper.  When it comes time, only last details will have to be completed.

You can write the obituary yourself, ask a relative or friend to do it, or hire a professional obituary writer.

An obituary should tell the story of your life. The more interesting the title of the obituary, the more likely the local newspaper will run it. It should not include your residence address or date of birth.

Store your Obituary in an easy to access location and give a copy to the relatives and/or friends who will be in charge of your funeral arrangements.

For more information see:

NOTE: Unless an obituary obit runs in the paid obituary section, it is likely that a reporter will edit the obituary that is submitted to the newspaper. You can post a complete obituary (with photos and possibly even video) online at such web sites as offsite link or offsite link. Obituaries etc can also be posted on websites of family, friends or the funeral home. Obituaries can also be printed out and distributed to mourners at the funeral or mailed to people who don't make it to the funeral.


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Funerals 101

Why pre-plan an Obituary

It is wise to pre-plan what will be said about you in an obituary for several reasons.

  • You will have an opportunity to tell your version of your life. 
  • An obituary has to be written quickly if it will inform readers about a funeral and related matters.
  • Your loved ones are likely to be too grief-stricken to think straight when their loved one's time comes, even if they have been aware of the pending death for a long time. All too often, families make the mistake of assigning the task of writing an obit to a daughter-in-law or other relative who really didn't know the deceased.
  • You can increase the likelihood that the obituary will be run in your local newspaper by creating a headline that the average reader will find of interest.

How to pre-plan an Obituary

You can write the obituary yourself, pull together the facts for a friend or relative to write, or ask a relative or friend to pull together the facts for you so you can review them.

If you prefer, funeral homes write obituaries for a fee. Professional obituary writers are also available for hire. You can find a professional obituary writer through the Society of Professional Obituary Writers by e mailing to iinfo at obitwriters dot org. It is not necessary for an obituary writer to meet the family face-to-face. The job can be done through emails and phone calls.(You can make the job easier if you record the information in a Word document for easy e mailing.) Fees can range from $50 to $500 or higher, depending on the obit writer. A higher fee does not necessarily indicate a better product. It simply reflects what the writer wants to charge.

If you will be interviewed, Alana Baranick, Director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, recommends that the interview be recorded on video or audio and that the interview be done in segments. The first should be an overview of the person's life. Subsequent segments could focus on one time period or aspect, such as childhood, career, the war years, love and marriage, hobbies, etc. The interview segments should be transcribed sa Word documents so the information can be emailed to the person who is compiling the obit.

What to include and not include in an Obituary

An Obituary should at least include the following:

  • Biographical Information
    • Your name as you want it to appear
    • Location of birth. 
    • Space for date of death and age
    • Schools attended
    • City or township of residence
    • Military service
    • Occupation
    • Organization memberships, including professional, charitable and religious.
    • Hobbies
    • Honors or other distinctions
    • Special achievements
    • Choice of photograph
    • Any additional information that you want people to know about you
  • Family
    • Name of spouse or significant other. (Possibly also include names of ex-spouses).
    • Names of living children and of children who predeceased you
    • Brother and sisters, including those who predeceased you.
    • Consider including other family members such as grandparents or grandchildren.
    • Family members who are predeceased.
  • Education
    • Schools
    • Degrees
    • Year Graduated
  • Service
    • Leave space for time, location and type of service, including details of pre-burial activities such as a wake - if any.
    • If services are private, say so. 
  • Donations, Flowers or Gifts
    • The obituary should state your preference. If a donation is preferred, list the name of the organization(s) and contact information needed to make a donation. 
  • An interesting headline. 
    • The more interesting and distinctive the headline, the more likely the local newspaper will run the obituary. For example, instead of "Iraq veteran," a title more likely to attract attention would be something like "Iraq Veteran Medal Winner." "Raised 13 Children" is more interesting than "Beloved Parent."
On Obituary should not include
  • Your residence address. Burglars read obituaries looking for information about empty houses. 
  • Your birth date. This helps prevent identity theft. However, if you are going to ask a professional to write an obituary, the date of birth should be provided to the writer to help determine age at date of death and whether certain milestones have been achieved.
NOTE: It is advisable to have someone stay in your residence the day of the funeral "just in case." The more visible his or her presence, the better.

Using an Obituary

When the time comes, survivors will only need to:

  • Fill in the sentence about when, where, how and at what age the person died. 
  • Provide a phone number where a family member or the funeral home can be reached. 
  • Email the completed obituary to the appropriate reporter and/or department at the newspaper. 
  • Call the newspaper to make sure the email was received.