One of the first things you should do as a newly appointed executor of a deceased person’s probate estate or successor trustee of a deceased trustmaker’s trust is ask the post office to forward the deceased person’s mail to your address. Unfortunately, along with important pieces of mail – statements, bills, and refunds – many not-so-important pieces – catalogs, solicitations, and plain old junk mail – will end up in your mailbox. On the other hand, you may have purchased a home from a deceased person’s estate or trust and have received some of their mail at your new address.
What can you do to stop the post office from delivering mail addressed to a deceased person? Follow these four steps:
1. If you are the executor 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 U.S. 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.
2. To stop mail received as the result of commercial marketing lists (in other words, junk mail), log on to the Deceased Do Not Contact Registration page (https://www.ims-dm.com/cgi/ddnc.php) of the DMAchoice.org website and enter the deceased person’s information. According to the website, “DMAchoice™ is an online tool developed by the Direct Marketing Association to help you manage your mail. This site is part of a larger program designed to respond to consumers’ concerns over the amount of mail they receive, and it is the evolution of the DMA’s Mail Preference Service created in 1971.” After registering the deceased person on the website, the organization claims that the amount of mail received as the result of commercial marketing lists should decrease within three months.
3. 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. Note that most publishers will issue a refund for any unused subscription.
4. 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 if you’re not a legal representative of the deceased person, don’t open their mail!