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How To Stop Mail Of A Deceased Person? A Simple Guide

By Larry Li

August 2, 2022


There’s nothing more difficult than dealing with the loss of somebody you cherish. Whether it’s a spouse, friend, or family member, you need time to grieve and honor the life of your loved one.

But how do you stop the mail of a deceased person?

The executor of the deceased person’s estate must notify the post office of the death. After the executor completes the probate process, they can hand-deliver or mail a copy of the probate order to your loved one’s local post office. Then, the executor should register the loved one on the Deceased Do Not Contact List. 

The United States Postal Service (USPS) runs an efficient system where nearly nothing stops them from delivering mail, even the deaths of the recipients. Therefore, the deceased person’s loved ones are responsible for stopping the mail or forwarding it to another address.

In today’s in-depth guide, you’ll learn:

  • What happens to mail when a person dies

  • How to stop mail for a deceased person

  • If you can stop all mail to the deceased

  • How to plan ahead with Trustworthy

What Happens to Mail When a Person Dies?

When someone passes away, mail continues to be delivered to the last address on record until someone notifies the post office. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of the survivors or executors to handle these notifications. 

While the Social Security Administration takes care of some notifications, such as pensions, mail for things like subscriptions, credit cards, and utilities must be handled by the executor of the deceased one’s estate. 

Although there are no laws or estate planning rules that require you to stop the mail for a deceased person, the letters can be a consistent painful reminder of your loss. Furthermore, if the mail falls into the hands of the wrong person, they can use the information to impersonate the deceased with malicious intent.

However, receiving mail for a deceased loved one may be important for a temporary period of time as you pay off bills and close certain accounts. Once you settle all outstanding matters, it’s in your best interests to stop all delivery of mail for the deceased. 

How to Stop Mail For a Deceased Person

Let’s dive into how to stop mail for a loved one who passed away. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as calling your local post office to tell them about the death. However, the process of stopping mail delivery for a deceased person is relatively straightforward if you know what to do and which steps to follow.

Before we start, you must know that only the executor of the deceased one’s estate has the authority to stop the mail. The executor is the individual who was appointed by the probate court to handle the closing of the deceased person’s estate. 

This includes closing all of their personal affairs and notifying the United States Postal Service, Social Security Administration, and credit bureaus. 

If you currently receive your loved one’s mail but are not the executor of their estate, you should forward the mail to the executor’s address. The executor is the only person who’s legally authorized to open, manage, and stop mail on behalf of the deceased loved one. 

Here are the five steps you must take to stop mail for a deceased person:

Step 1: Notify Post Office

Your first task is to notify the post office of your loved one’s death. Then, once the estate has handled and closed the probate process, you can mail or hand-deliver a copy of the probate order to the local post office.

The court order should state that the estate is closed and clears you from executor tasks. For this reason, you don’t need to open and read the deceased person’s mail. 

You must also include a letter requesting that all mail services be stopped immediately. However, it’s important to remember there are no exceptions for certain types of mail, so you must wait until the probate process is complete to cancel mail delivery entirely. 

The process of mail cancellation also varies from post office to post office. Some post offices have an online form you can fill out to notify them of the death. Furthermore, you may need to visit the post office physically to fill out a form.

Our best recommendation is to call the post office for exact instructions for your specific case. This way, you’ll know with certainty what steps you must take in order to stop mail for your deceased loved one.

Step 2: Register on the Deceased Do Not Contact (DDNC) List

After requesting to stop mail delivery with the post office, your second task is to submit a request to stop all mail, phone calls, and emails from marketing agencies.

You can do so by contacting the DMA Choice, which is a non-profit organization that runs the Deceased Do Not Contact list. As a member of the Association of National Advertisers, the DMA manages a list of direct marketing agencies.

Once you register through the DMA’s DDNC list, you can reduce unnecessary messages from most advertisers. You can enroll in the DDNC by visiting the DMA Choice website and filling out the form. Members inside the DNCC are removed from the DMA Choice’s direct marketing lists.

However, you must understand that there are marketers that don’t belong to the DMA Choice. Therefore, this step doesn’t eliminate all marketing efforts but reduces them significantly. 

Step 3: Forward Mail to a New Address

Instead of stopping mail immediately, you can forward all of your loved one’s mail to a different address. For example, if you are the deceased person’s relative and estate executor, you can forward all the mail to the surviving spouse.

This way, your loved one’s spouse can receive essential information such as bills and certain notifications. However, you must obtain permission from the other individual before forwarding the deceased’s mail to the new address.

You can forward mail to a new address by filing a request with the local USPS office. The USPS will request you to fill out a forwarding change of address order. Once you’re ready for this step, be prepared to show proof that you are authorized to manage your deceased loved one’s mail.

This proof is usually in the form of a court order stating you are the appointed administrator or executor of the deceased one’s estate. 

Step 4: Cancel Subscriptions

The fourth step is to cancel subscriptions and all recurring mail delivered to your loved one’s mailbox. These include subscriptions for services such as magazines, newsletters, or newspapers.

You can cancel these subscriptions by contacting the subscription company directly. It’s important to cancel the subscriptions as soon as possible so they don’t continue to charge your deceased loved one’s bank account.

It’s also important to cancel non-physical subscriptions, such as streaming services (Netflix, Spotify) and online media catalogs (Wall Street Journal). 

Step 5: Utilize Return to Sender

The last step you can take is to use the “Return to Sender” function of the post office. You can utilize this function by writing “Deceased, Return to Sender” on all the mail addressed to the deceased person.

Simply put the letter back in the mailbox or other outbound box, and the mail carrier will collect and forward it the following business day. 

However, you should understand that the systems for stopping a deceased person's mail aren’t perfect. It may take some time for your requests to be fulfilled. Therefore, expect to continue receiving mail for a reasonable timespan. 

Can I Stop All Mail to the Deceased?

Sadly, it’s difficult to stop all mail to the deceased. This is because junk mail is nearly impossible to stop. However, you can stop the majority of junk mail by registering with DMA Choice by following the steps above.

If you continue to receive mail from junk mailers, you should contact the sender and explain how the person has passed away, and they must stop sending mail to the deceased person. You should also follow step five and write “Deceased, Return to Sender” on the original envelope and drop it in an outbox.

However, you can only utilize step five for first class mail. There are two types of USPS mail: first class and non-first class. First class mail is first class stamped, metered, priority, and special endorsed. Non-first class mail usually contains marketing letters and junk mail.

Unlike first class mail, non-first class mail does not provide free automatic returns and mail forwarding. Therefore, your best plan of action is to contact junk mailers directly to stop all mail to the deceased.

Planning Ahead With Trustworthy

At Trustworthy, we understand how difficult it is to deal with losing someone you care for and love. However, in the midst of your grieving and remembrance, you also need to deal with all aspects of handling the deceased person’s estate. 

Trustworthy is an innovative digital storage and collaboration platform dedicated to storing and securing sensitive information. You can use Trustworthy as a comprehensive estate planning tool to plan ahead for the future.

With Trustworthy, we’ll help you with all of your estate planning procedures. This includes creating a will, power of attorney, and living will (advance care directive).

This way, the executor of a deceased person’s estate knows the specific wishes of the deceased person and how to carry out the final steps. 

You can use Trustworthy (click here to start your free trial) as a comprehensive storage platform for all of your family’s important documents, passwords, and files. Then, you can share access with trusted loved ones, so they have everything they need to carry out end-of-life tasks such as handling the probate process.

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