What is the Purpose of Obituaries?
An obituary is a written announcement of a person’s death, notifying the public of the individual’s passing. It can offer an opportunity to highlight the deceased’s accomplishments, significant life moments, and provide details of the visitation, memorial, and/or funeral services.
There are a variety of reasons why acknowledging a death in the form of an obituary has stood the test of time. Obituaries pay tribute to the unique life of the deceased and can include their favourite hobbies, foods, sports teams, and life accomplishments. An obituary is an opportunity to honour the life of the deceased.
Further, obituaries can be equally as important for the family, friends, and community of the deceased. Online obituaries may include sections for individuals to post memories or send their condolences to the deceased’s loved ones. Writing an obituary can also be part of the grieving process and sharing the loss with members of your community can provide support. An obituary may take many forms; it can be somber, uplifting, biographical or funny, but it should be representative of the individual for whom it is written. Obituaries can be published in a local newspaper, on social media, through funeral home websites, or on dedicated obituary websites.
When the estate of a deceased becomes a part of ongoing litigation, obituaries may become evidence. For example, in Nelson Estate (Re), 2014 ABQB 413 the deceased passed away without a will and there was a disagreement as to who would become the executor of the estate. In an application to the Court, the brother of the deceased claimed to have priority as the executor of the estate, as he stated that the deceased had never co-habited with a common law partner. However, a subsequent application to the Court was made by a woman claiming to be the Adult Interdependent Partner of the deceased. In deciding which party would be the executor of the estate, the Court referred to the obituary of the deceased, written by both parties stating:
“[the deceased] leaves his devoted girlfriend… to mourn his passing… Seven years ago, he moved to Calgary and became involved in real estate and investing. While in Calgary, he found the love of his life”
Ultimately, the Court concluded that the woman was an Adult Interdependent Partner of the deceased and had priority over the brother as executor of the estate.
Obituaries can serve a variety of purposes from honouring the deceased and paying tribute to their life to providing evidence in litigation. Additionally, with the rise in genealogy, obituaries can also help researchers identify ancestors and trace lineage. Publishing an obituary secures that person’s place in history for future generations.