What to Look for When Going through the Mail of a Deceased Loved One
Going through the mail of someone after they pass away is an important part of gathering documents that are likely to be needed during the probate process and/or when taking care of accounts for a deceased individual. Knowing which mail to keep and which to discard can feel confusing, but some preparation and knowledge around what to keep an eye out for can help you navigate this task with ease.
What happens to mail when a person dies?
The USPS is not immediately notified of deceased individuals, so when someone dies their mail continues to be sent to their registered mailing address. This is why it's important for the executor to handle the deceased person's mail as the decedent will likely continue to receive important documentation after they've passed away. One of the first things you'll need to do as the executor is notify the USPS of the death and to have the mail forwarded.
How is the USPS notified of a death?
An executor of the estate or authorized family member will need to notify the USPS of a death. In order to notify the USPS of a death, you'll need to visit a local post office branch and provide them with the following documentation:
- A certified copy of the death certificate
- A legal notification of death from the executor of the estate
Do you need a death certificate to forward mail?
In order to forward a deceased person's mail, you'll need to visit your local postal office. When you visit the post office, bring the following information with you:
- Documentation showing you're legally authorized to work on behalf of the deceased's estate
- A copy of your government-issued ID
- A copy of the death certificate (while this isn't necessary, it's a good idea to have just in case)
Once you're there, let them know you're trying to forward the mail for someone who has passed away.
The USPS will give you a Forwarding Change of Address form to fill out which lets you set up a new address for mail to be forwarded to. If you lived with the decedent and you’re the executor, you can just open the mail as it comes in instead of filing a form with the post office.
What to look for when sorting through a deceased person's mail
There are a few important pieces of mail you'll need to keep an eye out for when handling the deceased's estate. Mail you'll generally want to keep includes:
- Bills for utilities and other services (internet, water, gas, electric, solar, etc.)
- Outstanding bills for services that haven't been paid for
- Mail from insurance companies (this will help you identify policies)
- Mail from attorneys or lawyers
- Checks or paystubs from employers
- Recurring subscriptions (magazines, newspapers, internet subscriptions, etc.)
- Account statements (bank accounts, investment accounts, etc.)
- Mail from friends and loved ones (especially if you want to let them know of the passing)
Consider getting a few folders and labels to help keep the mail as organized as possible. Keeping bills and other important pieces of mail can help you locate and close or reconcile any open accounts.
How to stop mail for deceased person
Even after the USPS knows of the deceased and has a forwarding address set up for their mail, it's still likely that you'll receive junk mail and other pieces of mail at the forwarding address. In order to stop mail from organizations, there are a few steps you can take:
- Fill out the Deceased Do Not Contact Registration form. This registry is used to prevent organizations from sending out advertising and marketing mail to deceased individuals. Once you fill out this form, the amount of mail should decrease within 3 months.
- Contact the organizations sending the mail directly. Filling out the DDNC does not guarantee all mail will stop being sent to the deceased individual. You can contact the organization sending the mail to let them know that the individual they're sending mail to has passed away. You may need documentation to prove the passing, such as a copy of the death certificate, a copy of legal documentation showing you have authority to act on behalf of the deceased's estate, and a copy of your photo ID.
Once you're done with the probate process or if you're the executor of the estate and the estate has been settled and closed, you can bring a copy of the probate order closing the estate (which dismisses you as the executor) to the local post office and ask that they cease all mail service to the address immediately. If you're having mail forwarded to your personal address, be sure you clarify that you want mail in the decedent's name to cease being sent to your address (and not your own personal mail).
Sorting through mail and identifying accounts is just one of many important tasks you’ll be responsible for after someone passes away. Use Ever Loved’s Post-Death Checklist to make this process easier and to help you stay organized and on track with everything you need to handle.