It can be difficult to write an obituary, especially when the need for it is unexpected. These guidelines may be of help in writing one for someone else—or even your own.

Obituaries vary greatly in length, style, and information content. The usual policy in the southern Finger Lakes area is that the funeral home supplies the newspaper with a brief death notice at no charge to the survivors. Those who want an obituary usually must generate it themselves but may utilize the help of a funeral director. Newspapers typically charge for obituaries. In 2016 the cost to run an obituary in The Ithaca Journal, for example, was $4.50 per column line plus a $25 photo fee and a $50 set up fee. If a separate, short notice of a memorial service is published, the charge is likely to be at the same rate as an obituary.

The following list corresponds to a common format for an obituary in a newspaper. Some of the information may not be available or you may not wish to list it. Information in a regional or national publication is usually more abbreviated than that in a local newspaper. It would be a help to your survivors if you file this guideline document and/or your obituary with your funeral planning documents.

  • Full name of person (including middle, family, or maiden names)
  • Age and area of residence at death, date of death
  • Place and date of birth, names of parents
  • Area where lived and/or worked prior to coming to this area
  • If married, when and to whom
  • Military history, honors
  • Education, where and what years, degree(s)
  • Awards, honors
  • Important publications or other noteworthy accomplishments
  • Work history, where and when
  • Important or special organization memberships
  • Volunteer activities
  • Special interests and/or hobbies for which the person will be especially remembered
  • Survivors: immediate family, children, other relations, special friends
  • Family members and/or special friends who predeceased the person
  • Funeral or memorial service plans, dates, location.
  • Cemetery/place of burial or where ashes are to be scattered
  • Where memorial contributions/donations may be made (list full address if possible and especially if not local)
  • Funeral home in charge of arrangements