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 elseā€”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