What is the difference between an obituary and a death notice?

difference between an obituary and a death note

What is the difference between an obituary and a death notice?

When someone dies it is common to put an obituary or a death notice in the press. As an expat living abroad, you can contact the local English-language press to arrange the publication of a notice to announce the death of a loved one.

Different publications use different terminology, so check first that you are clear about what you’re getting, but generally these are the differences:

Death notice

A death notice is a paid announcement in a newspaper giving the name and age of the deceased and details of their funeral or memorial service (date, location), and where donations can be made.

A death notice is generally written by the family to be submitted to their chosen publications. They can include some details about their life, but are typically only a few lines long.

They are usually printed in local and national newspapers, or in publications issued by communities to which the deceased belonged, such as churches and associations. They can be both in print or online. The publication will request confirmation of the death.


An obituary is an article written by a newspaper’s staff with a detailed biography of the deceased. Families can ask for it to be written and submit the details, but it is ultimately the newspaper that decides whether to publish it.

Major newspapers only write obituaries for well-known people, but local newspapers will probably be open to publishing the obituary of someone prominent in the expat community. Social groups, associations and religious communities may also agree to print an obituary in their newsletters. An obituary can include details about the funeral or memorial service and are usually several paragraphs long.


You will probably be allowed to include a photo of the person, which when accompanying a death notice will probably come at an extra charge. Most newspapers will require digital images not printed photographs.

Helping hand

If needs be, find out from the funeral home if they can help to write the death notice and arrange for it to be published. Most will do this, some for free and others for a small fee. This will allow you to avoid the stress of having to contact the newspapers and making payments.

Choosing between them

Death notices and obituaries serve different purposes; while the death notice simply informs the community of the death and details of where and when the funeral or memorial service will be held. An obituary is more of a tribute to the life of the deceased and shares their accomplishments with the community. The choice of which one is best for you to honour your loved one is a very personal decision.

Going digital

In this digital day and age, many websites have been created which are dedicated exclusively to obituaries. They can be written and published on the site by relatives of the deceased or written in advance by the person themselves to be published at a later date. Writing an obituary for yourself may seem daunting, but it allows you to highlight your accomplishments, choose how you want to be remembered, express what life has meant to you and explain how you would like your loved ones to honour your memory.

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Written by

David Arias