Obituaries and Death Notices Explained

Funeral Costs

Posted on August 05, 2014 by Cindy Phan

Within the puzzling series of events and course of action that follow a loved one’s death, there is often a formal announcement of the death - the placing of an obituary or death notice in a newspaper and/or online. The announcement of death is never something someone wants to hear, but almost like the act of dying itself, it is something necessary and essential.

It would be both awkward and painful to run into a distant relative one day, or an old family friend, and have them ask you about a loved one who’s already passed away, and you would have to break the news to them right there. In some respects, the purpose of a formal death announcement serves as the middle barrier to eliminate this potential awkwardness and pain.

In terms of formal death announcements, the funeral home could serve as the liaison between your family and the newspaper to place an obituary or death notice. In most cases you could also contact the newspaper yourself and with proof of death and the request to place an obituary or death notice. Often times, it is simply much easier to go through the funeral home, as they have the contacts on hand and can handle the necessary tasks associated with submission. The charges for a death notice will be part of the Cash Advance items. The funeral director may charge for their service in writing or placing the death notice, so be sure you inquire whether that service is extra or included in their Basic Service Fee.

There are two types of formal death announcements:

Death Notices:

A death notice is  a service in which you pay the newspaper to publish information on the deceased and the funeral service information.  Placing a death notice is a equivalent to paying for an advertising spot or a classified ad but specifically in the Obituary section of the newspaper or online publication.

Most people get a death notices over an obituary. In this section, a formal announcement of death is issued, as well as whatever you decide you want it to include. You are paying for this information to appear, which is often by line, by word, or by inch - whatever the company indicates. Since there is a fee involved with publishing a death notice, death notices tend to be relatively short, and only include essential information such as the name of the person, date of death, a list of the deceased’s survivors, as well as funeral and charitable contribution information. Death notices are guaranteed to be published because they are paid for.

Here is an example of death notices from a regional newspaper website: Death Notices.

Obituaries:

An obituary is a biographical article written by an editor or writer for the newspaper. The article illustrates the major events and captures the story of the deceased’s life. Obituaries are viewed as stories for the newspaper and are generally published for free; therefore only a small number of obituaries are published in a newspaper per day. As such, publication is not guaranteed for everyone.

You would have to contact the newspaper company and submit an obituary request, drafting the interesting events in the deceased’s life. It is then up to the newspaper to decide which requests will be published and which will not. Often times, the editor decides on the obituary submissions deemed more interesting and publication-worthy. Obituaries may or may not contain funeral information.

The Main Different Between an Obituary and Death Notice

A lot of the times, people mistake an obituary for a death notice, or use them interchangeably, when in fact both terms mean very different things. To place an obituary is to submit a request for a story to be written about the deceased, while placing a death notice is more to the definition of formally announcing a death.

Most commonly, when a person dies, a death notice is issued in the newspaper. Both death notices and obituaries, when published, appear both on the physical paper edition, and online. In order to publish a death notice or place an obituary, you or your funeral director can contact the newspaper company through their department for death notices and obituary, either by e-mail or phone.

A special thank you to The Philadelphia Inquirer for information on death notices and obituaries.