How to Write an Obituary: Examples, Tips and a Template

How do you summarize a person’s life in a few short paragraphs? Obituaries are an essential part of the death arrangements as they communicate not only your loved one’s passing but also give light to the life they lived.

An obituary often includes specific elements such as biographical information, life milestones, personal characteristics or stories, and a list of close family and friends. When writing an obituary, you must personalize these elements to your loved one’s life story.

This article will detail the elements you should include in an obituary and give examples of other obituaries for any situation you may find yourself in. There is also a template at the end to get you started on your writing journey, so be sure to read until the very end.

How to Write an Obituary

An obituary is an article published online or in newspapers detailing the life of a loved one who recently passed away. These articles are personal, written as a celebration of the person’s life and a way to mourn together as a community.

It is usually up to a close family member or friend to write an obituary, though some people choose to write their own before they pass.

What You Should Include in an Obituary

When writing an obituary, you should include the following sections:

  • Basic Information: In an obituary, note things like the name, age, location, and date of death.
  • Life Milestones: It is common to include life milestones such as marriages, births of children, or military service.
  • Alma Mater: Many also list their alma mater in the obituary. This detail could help inform old friends who may have lost touch with the deceased over the years.
  • Personal Stories: Obituaries aren’t just a notice of death; they should be personal and tell the life story of the person who passed. It is good to include personal stories from yourself or other loved ones.
  • Hobbies and Passions: It is good to mention any hobbies or passions the deceased enjoyed. This will give the readers insight into who they were and what they liked to do.
  • Profession: Careers are significant to some people, so many choose to note their job in an obituary.
  • Surviving Family Members: Towards the end of the obituary, you’ll also want to note any surviving family members, close friends, or other important people to the deceased.
  • Preceded in Death: Any family members who would otherwise be listed in the surviving list but have passed away should be listed in this section.
  • Funeral Information: Lastly, to wrap up the obituary, you should note any funeral arrangements for the deceased or where people can send flowers or donations.
  • Final Thanks: This section is more common in obituaries for those who died of illness or old age. Some families give a quick thank you to the care team or others who significantly impacted the deceased in this section.

Who Should You Name in an Obituary?

In addition to writing about the deceased, you’ll also need to decide who should be listed in the “surviving family members” and “proceeded by” sections. You don’t need to restrict these sections to immediate family members.

It would be best to list anyone close to the deceased in the obituary. This can include:

  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Siblings
  • Other close family members
  • Close friends

The people should be listed in order of closeness to the deceased and in birth order when necessary.

Anyone who was close to the deceased and is still living will be noted in the “surviving family members” section. Anyone close to the deceased who has previously passed will go in the “proceeded by” section.

If the deceased had a significant other, you’d want to list them first. This would have been the person they spent the majority of their lives with and is usually the person they were closest to.

Next will be children listed in birth order. You’ll also want to list each child’s spouse and any grandchildren in birth order. For example, Joe Smith is survived by his son, Brett Smith, and his wife, Kelly Smith, along with grandchild Emma Smith. He is also survived by his daughter Beth Banks and her husband, Bob Banks.

After children and grandchildren, you’ll want to list parents and grandparents if the deceased was close with them.

Then you’ll want to include any siblings. If they were close with their nieces and nephews, you can list them in birth order, similar to how children and grandchildren were listed.

Lastly, you can name any other family members or friends you want to mention in these sections.

The critical thing to remember for these sections is that you want to note people of extreme importance to the deceased. If your loved one had a large family, you do not need to list every family member by name, but you should always mention spouses and children.

Should the Cause of Death Be Included in the Obituary?

It is not required to list the cause of death in an obituary. You should make this decision on a case-by-case basis depending on the cause of death and if the deceased would have wanted that information shared. 

For example, if your grandmother peacefully died of old age in her sleep, that detail may be appropriate. However, if your sister was murdered and it is an ongoing investigation, that may be information to keep private.

Obituary Outline

While each obituary should be personalized to the deceased and won’t include every section mentioned here, this is the general outline that you should follow for an obituary:

  • General Information
  • Life Milestones
  • Short Biography
  • Passions / Hobbies
  • Personal Stories
  • Family Members (“proceeded by” then “survived by”)
  • Arrangement Information

Obituary Examples

Sometimes it is easier to write when you’ve seen some examples for inspiration. Check out these obituary examples below for different family members. Hopefully, these will give you guidance and ideas for writing an obituary.


This short and sweet obituary for Daniel “Dan” James Ferguson does a great job of illustrating personality characteristics and passions. This obituary also gives a brief bio at the beginning and is an excellent example of how to list family members in the article.


For a great example of an obituary for a wife, look no further than this article about Mrs. Cecilia “Yellow Bandit” Marie Austin. This obituary details her career and accomplishments and highlights her love for her family. This article also uniquely leaves a quote from the deceased at the end, leaving the reader with a positive memory and inspiration.


Writing an obituary for a child is heartbreaking, but this parent was able to tell the story of her beautiful son Spencer Watson Seupel in addition to educating the reader. This family chose to not only celebrate their son’s life but also use his story and the tragedy their family endured to make the world a better place.


For a great example of an obituary for a mother, look no further than the obituary for Shirley-Anne Owden, who passed away in 2018. The family mentions quirky things she used to do, like sending squirrel birthday cards to loved ones and sprinkles humor throughout the article. 

They also say things that others close to her may not know, like that she kept a journal of who gave her each Christmas ornament that she had.

When writing your obituary, don’t be afraid to highlight fun things about your loved one or tell stories others may not know.


This obituary for Dr. Robert Lee Butchofsky is an excellent example of an obituary for a father. This article is a great example of how to list several family members in your obituary and does a great job of highlighting his love for his family.

Additionally, this obituary is an example of how to showcase passion, career, and life accomplishments. It details his love for animals, his career as a veterinarian, and the awards he won in his profession.


Though her daughter wrote the obituary for Terese Halene Wyatt Williams, this is a great example of an obituary for a grandparent. In this article, the family addressed each grandchild directly instead of listing their names in a “survived by” list. This left each with a beautiful memory to hold on to.

Obituary Template

After reading the examples above and gathering the information you need for the obituary, you can follow this template to write a fantastic article to celebrate the life of your loved one:

With great sorrow, we announce the passing of [Name]. [Name] passed away in [death place] on [date] and the age of [age]. [Pronoun] is survived by [list of living loved ones]. [Pronoun] is preceded in death by [list of deceased loved ones]. 

[Name] was born in [birthplace] on [birth date]. [A few sentences to describe their childhood and their family here]

After high school, [Name] [went to college/went to trade school/entered the workforce]. [A few sentences to describe this era of their life.]

[A few sentences describing how they met their spouse, any children they had, and what their family liked to do together.]

[A personal story about the deceased that showcases their personality and characteristics.]

[Passions or hobbies the deceased enjoyed.]

[Final thoughts, memories, or quotes you’d like to share.]

A special thanks to [anyone you want to thank and why].

There will be [describe funeral arrangements, dates, locations, and times.] 

In lieu of flowers, please donate to [place of donation]. 

Final Thoughts

While writing an obituary can be emotional, following a template like the one described above makes the article easier to write. Remember to throw in personal stories, humor, and touching details throughout the obituary to make it unique and representative of the person you are honoring.

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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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