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 of 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.
What can you do? You can stop mail—even a whole avalanche of mail—that's addressed to a deceased person by taking one or more of a few easy steps.
If the Estate Has Been Closed
Send a copy of the order closing the estate to the deceased person's local post office if probate has been completed and the estate is officially closed. Request that all mail service be stopped immediately.
Unfortunately, you must have been the appointed executor of the estate to take this step. You'll probably know who the executor was if the mail is addressed to a family member, so you can ask her to notify the post office.
Otherwise, you might be able to identify the executor of the estate through probate court records because wills are a matter of public record. Contact your local court to learn the procedure there for accessing the will. Probate is typically conducted in county courts.
A request to simply redirect the mail to another address, such as that of the executor, will only be valid for one year. You can do this yourself, but mail will probably begin coming in again after this time has elapsed unless someone officially requests that it be stopped altogether.
If the Estate Is Still Open
Contact the "Deceased Do Not Contact" website offered by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) if the estate is still open. Enter your loved one's information. There's no charge for this service.
Mail received as a result of commercial marketing lists—in other words, junk mail—should decrease in about three months after you've done this, according to the website. The DMA provides updated files to its members every month. Members are required to delete these names and addresses from their files at that time.
You can also contact organizations and senders directly to inform them of the individual's death, but that can be a time-consuming process. Or use the good old-fashioned method of simply returning the mail to its sender. Write, "Return to sender/deceased" on the envelope, and drop it back in the mailbox.
It's best to hand over any possibly "serious" mail to the executor of the estate during this time, while the estate is still open.
The Decedent's Financial Obligations
You shouldn't have to worry about receiving ongoing bills for credit cards or other statements regarding the deceased's financial obligations. Their debts should all be settled through the probate process. The executor of the estate should have contacted the decedent's creditors to alert them to submit final bills for payment.
Surviving relatives and beneficiaries are not personally responsible for satisfying these debts themselves...with one exception. You're just as liable for payment as you would have been if the decedent hadn't died if you cosigned with them on a particular debt or account. That balance is now yours to deal with, just as it would have been if they had defaulted on the loan while they were alive.
Otherwise, just say that you'll consult with your lawyer about the situation if anyone insists that you're responsible for the deceased's debts. This should stop all contact because what they're implying is illegal.
You certainly have no liability if you're involved in the estate for some other reason, such as because you purchased the decedent's real estate.
You can rest assured that in either case, you can simply send the unwanted mail on its way, back to the sender. But if the estate is still in probate, you might want to hand the mail over to the executor, or at least supply the sender with the executor's contact information.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I stop receiving mail for someone I don't know, so I'm not sure if they're deceased?
You can simply write, "Return to sender" without the "deceased" notation and drop it in the mailbox, or take it to your post office and explain the situation to personnel there. Resist the temptation to rip it up and throw it out, because it's illegal under federal law to open or to destroy U.S. mail intended for another person.
What should I do if I accidentally opened the mail?
Mail can't be returned to sender or forwarded if it's been opened. You'll have to seal it in a new envelope with the sender's address or other address to which it should be forwarded. Add postage, and return or forward it.