Managing the Mail When Your Loved One Dies

Filed Under (Probate) on 08-07-2012

When a spouse dies, death of a spouse,

By Marilyn McWilliams, JD

Dealing with credit card applications, fundraising letters and junk mail in your loved one’s name can be stressful.  You may want open every letter – both to honor your spouse and deal with outstanding bills. But over time, the mail piles up and it seems like an insult your new reality.

Based on years of experience in estate law, here are my top 5 tips for managing the mail:

1.    Inform all friends and family, both in town and distant, of the death. This can be in the form of a simple note – or a telephone call or email. This is a simple courtesy so they don’t risk hurting your feelings. Once so informed, they will no longer be sending holiday cards and other correspondence to your spouse.

2.    Register on the Direct Marketing Association’s “Deceased Do Not Contact” list. This is an online application. Although it can take up to three months to go into effect, all direct marketers who are DMA members are required to abide by this list.

3.    Send a form letter for all official correspondence, letting the officials about the death – and that you will be receiving all official correspondence from this point forward.

4.    After six months, open a post office box and forward the deceased’s mail to it. To get started, open a P.O. Box at your local Post Office™. Six-month fees can reach as low as $14.  Then, once it is open, redirect or forward the deceased’s mail to the P.O. Box. The mail forwarding service lasts at minimum six months, and can be extended to a full year.

5.    Six to twelve months later, close the P.O. Box with no forwarding address. At this point, nothing but junk mail should be arriving at the P.O. Box.  When you shut it, all mail will be returned to sender.

For more information about the practical and emotional issues related to handling a spouse’s affairs, see Life After Death – a Legal and Practical Guide for Surviving Spouses by Marilyn W. McWilliams, J.D.

  • Kelly

    A loved one passed away with only a P.O. box. Sadly, we may not be able to trust the family also connected to this P.O. box. Is there any way to forward mail going to a P.O. box to another address. Thank you.

    • Melissa

      The personal representative can fill out a change of address card (available at the post office) for the decedent to forward his/her mail to the personal representative. This can also be done on-line. The mail is very important since it will be impossible to figure out the decedent’s debts and assets without receiving it. If the questioner has any idea of who would be sending mail to the decedent, they can contact the senders directly and inform them of the death.–Marilyn