How to Submit an Obituary Online or to a Newspaper

Updated

When you lose someone you love, you must let people know about his or her death. One of the most meaningful ways to do this is to write an obituary.  

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Obituaries can help memorialize your loved one. They also offer information regarding the memorial service, viewing, and burial arrangements. An obituary can eliminate unnecessary stress and questions so you can focus on the things that matter the most — mourning your loss and being with family.

Here are several steps for how you can post a free obituary online.

Newspaper vs. Online Obituary

Most people automatically think of submitting an obituary to a newspaper. Often, the publishing company has a corresponding website where it'll also publish your obituary, making the process a sort of two-in-one option.

However, there are reasons for opting to go the online-only route. You may not be aware of it but the traditional method of publishing an obituary in a newspaper can put quite a dent in your budget. Costs start around $200 and can go as high as $1,000. You may not consider it to be worth it since fewer and fewer people read newspapers.

Your loved one’s memorial can also easily be tarnished with errors, including incorrect dates and misspellings. Once it has been printed, there’s no going back and you can no longer correct those mistakes. For these reasons, more and more people choose to print online. There are a plethora of free online obituary services to choose from. 

Publishing an obituary online makes it easier to share the beautiful story of your loved one with the world on your terms and your schedule. It also gives you the option to share it only with a small group or to share it to your social media page and tell the world. You'll have a link that you can easily use to post the information anytime and anywhere or email to family, friends, and colleagues.

How to Submit an Obituary Online

It’s never been easier to submit an obituary online. Whether you want a free place to submit or a paid, dedicated webpage, there are many options to suit your needs. It’s as simple as writing your own obituary, uploading photos, and adding relevant links. When you take the time to submit an obituary online, your loved one’s legacy lives on forever in cyberspace. 

Popular free online obituary websites

There are plenty of online services and websites that offer free obituary posting. Here are some of the best we’ve found.

  • Beyond the Dash: This beautiful website offers 100% free obituary hosting with a generous number of options and a pristine layout. Whereas some free obituary sites lack style and professional quality, Beyond the Dash looks just as good as paid versions. The user interface provides an easy-to-use process for creating your loved one’s obituary, complete with the ability to add photos, a cover photo, information on service times and locations, and a GoFundMe link. Visitors to the page can print the obituary, share it on social media, and plant a tree in your loved one’s honor.
  • OBITUARe: OBITUARe has both free and paid options on its website. The free version is somewhat limited in what it offers, but if you’re looking for a short-term obituary hosting website, this will do the trick. With the free version, you’ll receive three days of hosting (after which the obituary becomes searchable and archived), three days of access to edit the obituary, the ability to upload three pictures, and unlimited words in the obituary. You’ll also receive writing guidance, a guestbook, a donation link, and the ability to share on social media.
  • Never Gone: Never Gone doubles as an online obituary and memorial page that provides free hosting that never expires with unlimited features. When creating an obituary with Never Gone, you’ll receive unlimited words for the obituary/life story, unlimited photos, videos, and music, a condolences section, a guestbook, a section for funeral service information, and customizable privacy settings. To top it all off, they offer what might be their best feature: a free tribute video creation tool.
  • Remembered: This is another website that doubles as a memorial page for your loved one. Most of the features are free and easy to use. Free features include an unlimited word count for the obituary write-up, a guest book for friends and family to leave messages and pictures, a photo gallery with up to 100 pictures, a video gallery, and customizable privacy settings. 
  • Memories: Memories has a simple interface and a user experience design that resembles building a social media page. The free version provides unlimited wording for the obituary, three separate timelines with pictures, and 1 GB of storage. With the free version, visitors can only see the tribute. If you want the ability for friends and family to comment and contribute, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version.
  • Forever Missed: This is a website that provides a clean user experience and a pristine layout for obituaries and memorials. Though the free version only offers a basic set of features, it’s still a viable option for those looking for an inexpensive place to host a loved one’s obituary. Basic features include a customizable website with numerous themes to choose from, a limit of five photos, an unlimited word count for biographical and obituary contributions, unlimited collaborators, and the ability to control privacy.
  • Keeper: Keeper is a free service that provides a full suite of features including customizable themes, an unlimited word count for biographies, unlimited photos, embedded videos from YouTube and Vimeo, page-wide commenting, a guestbook and tribute center, a memorial donation link, a family tree, geotagging for grave and niche locations, and privacy settings.
  • GatheringUs: GatheringUs includes a free suite of features including the ability to share pictures and videos, an unlimited word count for biographical and obituary information, and sharing event information and updates. There is also a free, integrated link to raise funds for funeral expenses, the family, or a charity.

Step 1: Search free online resources to publish an obituary

A quick online research using the phrase “free online obituary” will help you find the right platform to post your deceased family member's obituary. You can check the following places, most of which allow free online obituary publishing:

  • Newspapers
  • Funeral home websites
  • Churches
  • Community resources or organizations
  • Online obituary websites or other online publications
  • Social media platforms

Most of these offer obituary publications at no cost but make sure to inquire if there are any terms or conditions you should know about.

Choose a user-friendly resource that you feel comfortable interacting with. The last thing you want is to encounter any problems or frustrations that add to your grief.

Before deciding on one of the online resources listed above, sign up for free accounts on several of them. Poke around and play with the features to get a feel for how each page functions. As you become familiar with the sites, you’ll quickly narrow down which option you prefer. Delete your accounts with the sites you don’t like, and proceed with creating an obituary on the site you choose.

Step 2: Ask the local funeral home, mortuary, or crematorium about free online obituary services

If you want to keep your research to a minimum, start with the funeral home you’ll be using to hold the service for the deceased. Most funeral homes, mortuaries, and crematoriums provide free online obituaries hosted on their websites as part of their services.

Also, ask if they have an obituary template for you to use to make the writing process easier. If they don’t have one, a quick search online will turn up plenty of templates that you can use for free.

Step 3: Sign up for a free service

If you’ve decided to go the research route and choose a free online service, sign up with the website to publish your online obituary. Be sure to read all terms before signing up. If the website asks for any payment information, even if you’re signing up for a free trial, contact the site to find out the specifics about charges. 

Make sure there are no hidden costs down the road so you aren’t surprised by charges you didn’t expect. You'll find a lot of sites that provide the bereaved with a chance to post a loved one's obituary online without any charge at all.

For those sites, there shouldn’t be any payment information necessary. If there is, be very cautious — you could be looking at a scam site.

Step 4: Clarify requirements and process for posting

Most web services have a link on their site where you'll be given step-by-step instructions for how to submit your loved one’s obituary.

If instructions are not readily available, ask the admin of the site about requirements and how the process works to post an obituary through the free online obituary service. Be sure to ask about:

  • Text length requirements  
  • Photograph requirements (size and resolution)
  • Upload file type  

Step 5: Prepare and write

Take your time as you write an obituary and choose a photo to represent your loved one. The short summary should contain a brief recounting of the life of your deceased family member. Read our guide on how to write an obituary for all of the steps.

Furthermore, it should be written with respect and proper obituary etiquette in mind. 

Step 6: Submit all required items for posting

Before submitting your loved one's obituary and photo, make sure that it's in the right format and file type. Not all websites have the same requirements. Some will ask you to submit image files and a copy of your text.

Other sites will let you write a free online obituary for your family member or friend directly on their website and upload a picture at the same time.

Before you submit, be sure to proofread your work. Once you're 100 percent sure all information is correct, the obituary is ready for submission. If possible, ask if you can see it before it goes live to make sure the formatting and picture look correct.

Benefits of posting online obituaries 

Anyone can easily throw a newspaper away. Even if you save a newspaper clipping of an obituary, you can easily misplace it or accidentally damage it. No matter how carefully you store it, the paper will eventually deteriorate over time because of its acid content.

On the other hand, an online obituary post of your deceased relative could be made available anywhere from several weeks to an entire lifetime.  

Some sites give you the option to store the obituary of your loved one in its permanent database. Others will choose to make it accessible online for a certain period. If you want a permanent and lasting location for your loved one’s obituary, choose a site that has permanent archival storage. This way, you can keep the memory of your beloved in a more permanent manner. 

Storing an obituary online also provides friends and family with the opportunity to preserve the obituary by printing it on high-quality paper. They also have a choice to download or bookmark the link for future reference. You can even screenshot the obituary post and save it permanently on your computer or phone, which is something you can't quite do with a newspaper. 

Aside from these, here are some more reasons why online obituaries may be the better solution.

  • Many websites offer free online obituary posting with no strings attached.
  • You have more control over its creation, including the text length. Newspaper obituaries have a limited word count due to the cost of printing. 
  • You'll have a personal link that you can easily share online via email or on your social media accounts.
  • An online obituary is more visually appealing compared to printed ones. Newspaper layouts are typically black and white. Online obituaries provide you with more customized options, from fonts to colors, to ensure it reflects the personality of your loved one.
  • Online obituaries provide a more interactive option. Those who knew the deceased can share stories and memories in the comment section for the obituary. Some sites even allow visitors to post videos and photos about the person.
  • It's also an eco-friendly option that you can easily access whenever you want and wherever you are in the world.

How to Submit an Obituary to a Newspaper

Though submitting an obituary online is easy and inexpensive (or even free), you might still choose to go the traditional route of submitting one to a newspaper. Traditionally, this was the only way to inform the local community of a passing. 

Because this process requires using traditional press, there are stricter rules and requirements to understand. These vary depending on the specific newspaper, but you’ll generally follow the steps below. 

Step 1. Visit the newspaper’s website

To begin, go to the newspaper’s website. Determine which papers near you publish obituaries, and decide which are a good fit for your loved one. Your newspaper’s website lists all of the information, forms, and required information for submitting an obituary. Some even allow you to do this virtually, while others are more old-fashioned. 

Which newspaper should you choose? The general rule of thumb is to submit to any paper where your loved one spent a significant amount of time. This could be their hometown, a place of retirement, and so on. If your loved one had national influence, you could also choose a newspaper with national circulation. 

Step 2. Compile the right information

Once you’ve decided on a newspaper, it’s time to compile information for your loved one’s obituary. You’ll want to consider the cost per obituary, whether there is a character limit, and if you have to pay an extra fee for a photograph. Also, consider the deadline so you know when to send your finished obituary to the publisher. 

The cheapest way to submit an obituary to a newspaper is to submit a short death notice. This includes only the bare minimum information about your loved one’s life, legacy, and death. If budget isn’t an issue, feel free to use a larger space to share your loved one’s story or to include a photo. 

Step 3. Proofread your obituary

Before you submit, make sure you take extra care to proofread. When you submit an obituary online, it’s a bit more forgiving. You can usually edit your submission over time, adjusting if you spot any spelling errors later on. With print, it’s one and done. There are no do-overs. While most editors will examine obituaries with a close eye, don’t rely on this alone. 

Read your draft yourself and let other family members read it for feedback. Double-check any personal information names, relatives, and so on are spelled correctly. Also, be mindful of what you choose to include. Unfortunately, identity thieves target the recently deceased. Avoid including any sensitive information (birthdays, maiden names, addresses) that could become a target.

Step 4. Add any extras

You might also choose to include extras in addition to your written obituary. While this depends on the specific publication and their requirements, you can easily add special things like:

  • Photos
  • Mementos
  • Large quotes
  • Community tributes
  • Invitations for the memorial service

It’s entirely up to you what you wish to include. However, always consult with your specific newspaper about additional fees, pricing, and size limitations. They tend to have strict requirements for including photos, and you’ll want to be mindful of their limitations. 

Step 5. Submit the obituary

Lastly, submit your finished obituary. You usually do this through an online form or email. If possible, ask to see the mockup of the obituary before it’s published so you can check it for errors one final time. Be sure to note the date of publication so you can secure a copy for yourself at your local newsstand. This is something you’ll want to keep for your records. 

Though completely optional, a printed newspaper is a special tribute. This is a traditional way to honor someone’s life, and it dates back hundreds of years. Though internet tributes are equally meaningful, there is something especially unique about holding a printed notice dedicated to your loved one. 

The Difference Between an Obituary and a Death Notice

A death notice is usually a brief announcement regarding the death of your loved one. Since it only consists of a few lines, it won’t include most of the biographical information about your deceased family member. This is one of the most common ways to inform the entire community that your loved one has passed. 

On the other hand, an obituary is a type of announcement with more details about the deceased person. It provides a snapshot of your loved one's life and includes his or her biographical details that a death notice excludes. However, it will also contain information about the memorial service or funeral.

So which one should you choose?

Both types of announcements serve different purposes. The purpose of an obituary is to pay tribute to the wonderful life of your loved one by sharing your loved one’s accomplishments with the world. A death notice, on the other hand, is a way to simply inform the public of the death and share pertinent details about the funeral service itself.

Choosing a Free Online Obituary is Smart

Losing someone dear can take an emotional toll. One of the most vital parts of the grieving process is paying tribute to your loved one.

Telling his or her story and publishing it online is an easy and convenient way to share it with your family and friends. The best thing about it is that you can preserve his or her memory for all time at no extra cost to you.

If you're looking for more on obituaries, read our guide on how to submit an obituary to a newspaper.

infographic of how to submit an online obituary for free

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