How To Write a Death Announcement

A death announcement, or death notice, is one way to relay the news of a loved one’s passing to the community. It’s different from an obituary, though there are similarities between the two.

This article includes:

Obituary vs. death announcement

An obituary details a person’s impact and life accomplishments. A death notice tends to be more straightforward, including only basic facts. In days past, an obituary was written by a newspaper’s editors, while writing a death notice and paying to post it was the family’s responsibility.

However, in today’s digital age, obituaries and death notices can be written by loved ones and posted online—usually for free. Depending on what’s right for your loved one's situation, you can post an obituary or death notice in print media or digital newsletters or on online obituary or news sites.

There’s no legal requirement to post an obituary. However, sometimes there is a legal need to publish a death notice—generally in one of the following situations:

  1. There are beneficiaries to the loved one’s estate who are unknown or unreachable. A death notice serves as a way for beneficiaries to learn of the death and, by extension, their eligibility for an inheritance.
  2. There may be creditors who are not known to the family or the executor. A death notice signals to creditors they should approach the estate to reconcile outstanding payments.

In cases when a death notice is legally required, usually a probate court and an estate attorney will work with the estate executor to direct the posting of a death notice to the relevant outlets.

States have different laws regarding death notices. For example, a state may require a death notice be published:

  • soon after the death.
  • in the county where the person last lived.
  • more than once.

The above is offered as general guidance only and you are encouraged to speak with an estate attorney for legal advice regarding any such requirements.

There are things everyone needs to know before planning a funeral or cremation memorial. Get the facts with The Insider's Guide to Funeral & Cremation Planning.

Death announcement templates

We suggest that you speak with an estate attorney to determine whether a death announcement is required and if there are any requirements. If not, we suggest including the following basic information in a death announcement or death notice:

  • Name: Your loved one's full name, maiden name and/or nickname.
  • City or town: The place where your loved one lived most recently.
  • Date of death: Either the day of the week (if the announcement will be published quickly) or the date (if it won’t be published for some time).
  • Funeral information: Service details if the service will be open to the public. If the service will be private or no services are scheduled, let readers know.

If you’d like to offer more details, you can also include:

  • Age: Your loved one's age at the time of death.
  • Cause of death: A mention of how/why your loved one died.
  • Biographical information: Maybe profession, military service, education, accomplishments or favorite pastimes.
  • Next of kin: Names of relatives who are still living, as well as their hometowns.
  • Predeceased: Names of close relatives.
  • Donations: Names of organizations to donate to in honor of your loved one. You can also state simply: “Donations to the charity of your choice.”
  • Photograph: A picture of your loved one.

Here are templates for very simple death notices when there are no legal requirements.

If services are public:

[Full name of loved one] passed away on [date] in [location; i.e., city, state]. [He/she] was born on [date of birth, including month and year].

A celebration of life will be held on [date] at [time] at [location]. Burial will follow at [location]. Donations may be made to [list of organizations] in [the loved one’s name]’s honor.

If services are private:

[Full name of loved one] passed away on [date] in [location; i.e., city, state]. [He/she] was born on [date of birth, including month and year].

Funeral services will be private. Donations may be made to [list of organizations] in [the loved one’s name]’s honor.

One or two other close family members or friends can help you proofread the death announcement before you submit it for publication. Together, you can make sure all names and places are spelled properly and that the details are correct.

Announcing a loved one’s death to family, friends and co-workers

In addition to writing and submitting a death announcement, you may want to directly contact those who knew your loved one. Depending on how much you’re feeling up for, there are many options. You can also delegate these tasks to a friend or close family member.

  • Reach out individually via phone, text or email.
  • Tell just a few people, asking each of them to inform others.
  • Send a mass email or text message to many people at once.
  • Make an announcement on a social media platform, where it can be shared easily and quickly.
  • Once the obituary or death notice has been published, post a link on social media.
  • For clients or other, more distant relations, send out simple cards announcing the death that include some basic information about the funeral.
  • If applicable, reach out to the human resources department where the person worked—they’ll take on the duty of announcing the death to colleagues.

If you'd like assistance, a Dignity Memorial® professional can help you with the publication of a death notice. For us, the details aren’t the little things. They’re everything.