Is there a legal requirement to print an obituary in the newspaper?

Check with an estate planning attorney or the county office that administers probate proceedings (often called a Surrogate) in the area where the deceased person lived. Most regulations regarding estate planning issues are state-specific. Many states do not have a legal requirement to have an obituary printed in a local newspaper.

If someone decides that he or she doesn’t want a printed obituary, or if the deceased person’s survivors decide not to have one, there is no state law that compels them to do so.

However, state law will require that a death certificate be filed with the state’s office of vital statistics.

A deceased person’s executor or a court-appointed administrator in the case of intestacy (i.e., someone dying without a will) will also need copies of the death certificate to transfer and retitle assets.

The attending physician or a health care facility (e.g., hospital, nursing home, hospice) usually takes care of requesting or preparing this document. Again, check with local officials regarding local laws about notification of a loved one’s death in a particular state. Public notice of death is often used in probate to provide known creditors notice of the probate case by mail.

The notification process also includes publishing a notice in a local newspaper. The latter is intended to reach unknown creditors to give them an opportunity to make a claim against the estate.

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