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Why writing your obituary should be part of your estate planning efforts

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2024 | Estate Planning

One of the best reasons for creating an estate plan is to save your loved ones time, money and confusion after you’re gone. Many people who take this important step, however, still leave the writing of their obituary to their family.

That means that they may be tasked with doing this while still grieving and not thinking clearly. Unfortunately, this can lead to writing an obituary filled with names, places and other information that can be used by identity thieves to steal from a deceased person and their family.

How obituaries are used by fraudsters

Obituaries that are posted on sites like and on newspaper and other websites are available to anyone. Fraudsters can use the information to access accounts, steal benefits, rack up credit card debt and even burglarize homes.

If you look at even a few online obituaries, you’ll see information like the deceased’s birthplace, maiden name, family members’ and even pets’ names. Many list where the deceased last lived and previous cities where they resided. Former employers, alma maters and organizational affiliations are often listed, as are favorite vacation destinations. All of this can be used to commit identity theft. There’s even a name for people who steal deceased people’s identities: ghosters.

This information can also be used to scam surviving loved ones into providing their own account numbers and other information because fraudsters have enough information about the deceased to be convincing  in their efforts. Scams involving non-existent life insurance policies are particularly common.

Rethinking the purpose of an obituary

Don’t think of your obituary as an autobiography or a LinkedIn profile. Think of it as a way to let people know what was important to you, what you sought to accomplish, what you’re proudest of and what kind of legacy you want to leave. What do you want future generations to know about you? What kind of work do you hope others will carry on? These are all more important than where you went to grade school or what your first job was.

Even if you plan to live many more years, you can write an obituary that could be used tomorrow if necessary. This is a common exercise in writing classes and in therapy. It helps people focus on what is most important to them and what they still hope to do.

This is just one thing you can do to protect your assets and help loved ones after you’re gone. With experienced estate planning guidance, you can explore others that are right for you and your family.