Willed Australia

A Guide to writing a death notice

While losing a loved one can be difficult enough, the responsibilities and challenges faced by family, friends and next of kin, following a person’s death can make things exponentially more complicated for the unprepared.

Once you’ve made funeral arrangements, it’s time to craft and publish a death notice (or obituary). This should include everything the deceased’s relatives and friends need to know about their death and departing ceremony.

Our guide below explains the ins and outs of writing a death notice and provides tips for publishing one that communicates the correct specifics more effectively and informs others of all the relevant details accurately.

Why do I need to write a Death Notice?

A Death Notice’s primary purpose is to notify both immediate and extended family members and close friends of a person’s passing.

It’s a formal, written publication detailing personal, family and funeral information intended to inform both the family and the community of the death while also providing instructions or outlining any special requests regarding the funeral.

Appropriate Format & Information to Include

While the way your Death Notice is worded is completely up to you, a general list of helpful and suitable information exists as a guide to ensure nothing critical has been neglected or left out.

It’s quite common to see death notices written in two parts; Personal and family information followed by funeral ceremony details. In terms of specifics and actual format, here’s what’s usually included and the order in which it should be inserted:

Key Personal Information to include in a Death Notice

  • The deceased’s full name – (nickname optional)
  • Date and location of the person’s passing
  • Date and place of birth – including their age at death
  • Mentioning of spouse followed by children, oldest to youngest
  • Mentioning of children’s spouses, any grandchildren and surviving family such as siblings
  • Mentioning of parents
  • A memorable photograph
  • Their achievements, volunteer work or other community involvements
  • Other information depending on the person’s life; e.g. Career, military service, religion or other interests and talents.

Key Funeral information to include in a Death Notice

  • Date, time and location of the funeral service
  • Food, flowers or other decorative or attire requests
  • Special or personalised instructions from the family
  • Details of a contact person to answer any related questions or enquiries.

The Death Notice’s format and presentation will largely depend on the media outlet you choose to publish it in. It’s important to select and contact them in advance to discuss their specific publishing/formatting requirements.

Where should a Death Notice be published?

With the purpose being to inform those closest to the deceased, most people opt to publish a Death Notice in a local newspaper either in the deceased’s hometown or where they lived most of their lives or both.

It’s a good idea to publish the notice in both print and digital formats to maximise the reach, ensuring the appropriate people are notified of the death and funeral arrangements well in advance.

Tips for Writing a Better Death Notice

While showcasing your creative writing skills isn’t necessary when putting together a death notice, it’s important you ensure to include everything with correct details as you’ll only have one chance to publish a thorough and proper notice.

Here are our tips for writing and improving a Death Notice:

o Hold a family meeting or conference-style call to gather all the information required effectively and accurately. This is also the perfect way to discuss and agree upon inclusions, exclusions and other announcement or funeral arrangement details.

o Double-check that the spelling of people’s names, places and organisations are correct before submitting it to the newspaper.

o Try to avoid mentioning the cause of death – if this is not possible, limit the details. It’s important to focus on the celebration of the deceased’s life rather than placing emphasis on the nature of a person’s death and the surrounding circumstances within a death notice.

o Remember you’ll likely be charged per line of lettering – Decide what’s absolutely necessary to include, editing and reducing any unnecessary information to align the notice with your budget.

o Ask several different people to proofread the notice – Often others will identify errors in your writing that you may have overlooked, especially if you’ve been amending and rewording sentences for hours.

o Make the notice clear and concise – Ensure the date, time and location details of the funeral service are correct and check that any special instructions are easily understood.

How much does it cost to place a Death Notice in AUS?

The cost of publishing a Death Notice can vary between newspapers. It would be in your best interest to contact the newspaper and discuss your notice and its details for a more accurate cost estimate.

Be mindful that some newspapers have limitations on what they’ll accept regarding photos, character lengths or other restricted content or subject matter. Remember to ask about their specific pricing structure to optimise and adjust your notice to maximise your publication value.

You can find out more about the administrative tasks required when a loved one passes away through our Probate and Letters of Administration guides.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice.

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