After loved ones pass, you can stop or forward mail from being sent to their registered addresses. A death in the family is a traumatic and sad event. Sometimes, family members or friends forget subtle issues, such as notifying certain agencies about the deceased. One of those agencies is the Postal Service, which will send mail to the deceased until proper notification is given. The post office has several steps loved ones can follow to end mail to the deceased.
If you are the personal representative of an estate that has been through probate court and the estate is officially closed, hand-deliver or send a copy of the probate order closing the estate and dismissing you as the executor to the deceased person’s local post office, and request that all mail service be stopped immediately. If you don’t take this step and find that some mail continues to trickle through two or more years after the death, this is because the post office only honors forwarding orders for one year. The only way to completely stop delivery is to request that all mail service be discontinued.
For magazines and other subscriptions and mail that is technically not “junk” mail (for example, solicitations from charities to which the deceased person made donations while they were living), contact the organization directly to inform them of the death. Most publishers will issue a refund for any unused subscription. If you shared the mailing address with the deceased person or if you are the new owner of the deceased person’s home, write “Deceased, Return to Sender” on any mail addressed to the deceased person and leave it in your mailbox for pick up. Remember it is a federal offense to open and read someone else’s mail, so unless you’re a legal representative of the deceased person, don’t open their mail.
A lot of additional mail landing in your box can attract unwanted attention to your property. Maybe you’ve been appointed as the executor of your parent’s estate, and you thought it would be a good idea to have all his mail forwarded to your own address. Or maybe you purchased a home from an estate and now you’re receiving the decedent’s mail. The Change of Address form (COA) is the technical form required for all Post Office notifications. These forms are typically used for people when they move and inform the Post Office of where they are moving too. However, the same form is used even in the case of a deceased person. The Change of Address form has a section for the previous address of the addressee and a section for the new address of the addressee. In the case of the deceased, the relative or friend can utilize the Change of Address in two ways. The first option is for the relative or friend to write on the Change of Address their address so that the deceased’s mail can be forwarded to a different address. Mail can also be forwarded to an executor. Neither option cancels mail from being processed and sent to the deceased.
Legal notification is the only way to permanently cease mail to the deceased. The family member or friend must send a legal document from the executor of the estate since a death certificate is not enough for the post office to confirm the deceased’s passing. Legal forms from the executor should be sent to the local post office branch where the forms will be processed.
To make sure commercial mail never makes it to the deceased person’s address, the family member or friend can contact the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). The Direct Marketing Association (must cease all mailing to a person listed under the Deceased Do Not Mail List.
Accessing A Deceased Person’s Mail
If you are the authorized representative of a deceased person and wish to proceed with an application to obtain the contents of a deceased person’s Gmail account, please carefully review the following information regarding our two stage process:
We require the following information:
1. Your full name
2. Your physical mailing address
3. Your email address
4. A photocopy of your government-issued ID or driver’s license
5. The Gmail address of the deceased person
6. The death certificate of the deceased person. If the document is not in English, please provide a certified English translation that has been prepared by a competent translator and notarized
7. The following information from an email message that you have received at your email
There are varying reasons why patients may not want family members to access their records after death. A common reason for privacy is when a person is dying from a “catastrophic disease” such as HIV and does not want family members or others to know. The patient deliberately shielded his or her health information from them while alive, and that decision must be protected after death. Dealing with a previous resident’s mail can be a hassle, and unless you do something about it the problem may continue. Sometimes, the postal service needs assistance in this matter if they’re unaware of a problem. Action must be taken to resolve the issue.
Write “Return to Sender” on the exterior of the envelope. Then place the mail in an outgoing mailbox. This notifies the post office and the original sender that the recipient no longer lives at that address. Hopefully, the original sender will update the records, and you will stop receiving the mail. You can also write “No Longer at This Address” or “Moved” on the exterior of the previous resident’s mail. Individuals sending mail and small companies are more likely to respond to this. Large companies rely on the National Change of Address database for address updates.
Place a sticky note on your mailbox. State “[Former Resident’s Name] does not live at this address” on either the door or the mailbox itself. This serves as a constant reminder to the postal carrier to look through your incoming mail, and possibly sift out the previous resident’s mail. Leave a more precise note if the first one you placed inside your mailbox does not seem to be effective.
Cross out the barcode. Sometimes writing “Return to Sender” does not get the job done because of the automated system the postal service uses. Mark through the barcode at the bottom of the envelope and write “Return to Sender” on the mail. Marking out the barcode will cause the system to register the mail as “undeliverable.” Mail carriers receive mail in bundles for each individual address. The previous resident’s mail could be in between pieces of mail that are actually for you.
Approach your mail carrier directly. Speak to your personal postal carrier or the local post office about the problem and ask that they please stop previous resident’s mail that arrives in your mailbox. Give your mail carrier some of the mail you have written “Return to Sender” on. This may be more effective than simply writing a note on the piece of mail. Speaking with your mail carrier in person may encourage them to look into the matter and check and see if a change of address has been filed.
If you accidentally open the mail, tape the envelope and write “return to sender” or “wrong address” on the envelope and place it back in the mailbox. If you throw the mail away after you open it, you are obstructing the delivery of that person’s mail. You can serve up to 5 years in prison or pay a hefty fine for opening someone else’s mail in some countries. Opening someone else’s mail is considered theft. Do not throw the mail away. Throwing away someone else’s mail is another form of mail theft because you are keeping the other person from getting the mail and guaranteeing that the person will never receive it. In addition to being a Federal crime, throwing away the mail is counterproductive and will not solve your problem. If you always throw the mail away, the sender may never find out that the person no longer lives at that address. Keep in mind that the person may have filed a change of address and there has been a mistake. The person likely still wants their mail. Be courteous and help the person out.
Do not fill out a change of address. It may be tempting to redirect the mail of the previous resident. Even if you know where the previous resident now lives, do not file a change of address form with the postal service. You must be the previous resident, executor, guardian, authorized officer, or agent to file a change of address. Filing the form on behalf of the resident is a Federal crime. You could be fined or go to prison. If you file the change of address for the other person, a Customer Notification Letter will be sent to their new address. This could get you in a lot of trouble. This may not stop you from receiving junk mail addressed to them completely, but it should cut down on the amount. You will need to enter the deceased person’s name, their address, your name, email address, and relationship to
Registering the person through the Direct Marketing Association will not stop magazine and subscription services from sending mail. Only companies that use marketing and mailing lists will receive the notification. Opening and reading a deceased person’s mail is still a crime.
Most people understand that it’s illegal to open mail that’s not addressed to them. What’s not so widely understood is just how serious the consequences can be. Intentionally opening, intercepting or hiding someone else’s mail is the felony crime of mail theft. It comes with some heavyweight penalties, including five years’ incarceration in a federal prison. You should be okay if you open mail accidentally, however, as long as you take the proper steps to reunite the mail with its owner. Doing anything at all to someone else’s mail could land you in serious hot water, even if you just glance at the return address while handing it to them. A couple of federal laws make it illegal to take, steal, intercept, open, damage or destroy someone else’s mail, or impede the delivery of mail. You could be looking at charges of mail theft or “obstruction of correspondence” if you’re caught doing any of these things.
Toss the mail in the garbage and you’re potentially obstructing the mail delivery. This might seem like the safest response in getting rid of the evidence – but it’s a federal crime. The best thing to do is re-seal the letter, write “Return to Sender” on the envelope and pop it back in the mail.
The owner or tenant before you might continue to receive mail at your home if you just recently moved in. This is especially common if they didn’t forward their mail with the U.S.P.S. or if they receive mail that services can’t forward. It’s reasonable to assume that mail in your own mailbox is yours without looking at the name, so if you open the previous tenant’s letter on accident, you might be off the hook. Knowingly and purposefully opening another person’s mail is still illegal if the mail came to your address with someone else’s name on it. Don’t discard letters or packages that come to your home addressed to the person who lived there before. Simply write, “Wrong Address” or “Return to Sender” on the envelope instead and give it back to the service that sent it. Redirecting the mail is the safest way to make sure you stay on the right side of the law. It’s not illegal to open someone’s mail if the addressee has died and you’re authorized to manage her estate. You’ll have to fill out a redirection request at the post office in this situation, and the U.S.P.S. will make sure that the deceased’s mail is delivered to your own address. It’s against the law to break into someone’s mailbox even if you’re legally permitted to read the mail – do this, and you could be charged with the crime of mailbox tampering.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506