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A Guide to Forwarding Mail After Death - What You Need to Know

After the death of a loved one, you may want to forward their mail to yourself or another family member. Here's a guide to forwarding mail after death.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

Losing a loved one is an indescribably difficult experience. To add to this, there are some administrative responsibilities that surround someone’s death. Traveling to your loved one’s home to pick up their mail could be an especially triggering experience while your wounds are still fresh. Luckily, there’s a way to forward a deceased person’s loved one through the United States Postal Service (USPS). Doing so will save you from having to make multiple, regular trips to their home. Follow this change of address checklist to start forwarding mail after death.

How to Forward a Deceased Loved One’s Mail

Managing a deceased loved one’s mail is no easy task. It can take an emotional toll as you receive reminders of their passing with each piece of mail, which can be especially hard when you’re in the deepest phases of the grieving process. 

Further, it can add an administrative burden. Some pieces of mail can serve as reminders for another related task that needs to be taken care of to help wrap up the deceased person’s estate. You can help simplify the process by forwarding the mail directly to your home (unless you shared an address, of course.) 

You can set up mail forwarding for yourself by logging onto the USPS website. However, you cannot request to forward mail for a deceased person online. Luckily, the process is not difficult. Simply follow the four change of address checklist below:

  1. Gather necessary documents

  2. File a request at your local post office

  3. Stop advertising subscriptions

  4. Forward mail to Executor as needed

1. Gather necessary documents

You can make this process as easy as possible by getting organized before you do anything. To submit a change of address request for a deceased person, you’ll need proof that you’re authorized to do so.

Typically, you must be the deceased person’s appointed Executor or Administrator to file the request. This person plays the key role in managing and closing a deceased person’s estate, so it is paramount that they have access to that person’s mail. You should have been provided with legal documents that verify your appointment as the Executor or Administrator. This is the evidence used by the post office to verify that you are authorized to make changes on the deceased person’s account.

2. File a Request at Your Local Post Office

Unfortunately, you can’t submit your request to forward mail online if it is on behalf of a deceased loved one. Instead, you’ll have to travel to your nearest post office and file the request in person.

Be sure to bring the paperwork that proves that you are an Executor of Administrator of the estate, along with your government-issued photo identification. At the post office, let the officer know that you need to submit a request to change the address of and forward mail for a deceased person. They will provide you with a Forwarding Change of Address order to fill out. Once complete, submit this form along with a copy of your documents. This will allow the post office to start forwarding mail to your address, instead of the one that belonged to the deceased. 

3. Stop Advertising Subscriptions 

After the second step, you’ve technically completed the process of changing the address of your deceased loved one and forwarding their mail to your address. However, there are a couple of additional steps that can help you manage the mail even further.

The first is putting a stop to unwanted marketing and advertisements as much as possible. The most effective method of doing so is by registering with DMAChoice. The Data & Marketing Association publishes and disseminates a “Do Not Contact” list to marketers. By filling out your deceased loved one’s information on the web form, they will be included in this list. Marketers who subscribe to this list will remove your deceased loved one from their prospecting and marketing lists. 

Be sure to check out our guide on how to stop mail for a deceased family member for additional tips. 

4. Forward Mail to Executor As Needed

If you already shared an address with the deceased, then you can choose to continue receiving their mail. Determine what is needed by the estate Executor and forward it to them.

To do so, cross out your address on the envelope. Then, write the words “Forward To:” and the Executor’s preferred address in neat block lettering. Once you’ve done so, you can simply place the piece of mail in your outgoing mailbox for USPS to pick up and forward. No additional postage is necessary.

Any other mail can be disposed of or returned to the sender. To return mail to the original sender, simply write “Deceased, Return to Sender” on the envelope and place it in the outgoing mailbox. Again, no additional postage is necessary.

Common Questions About Forwarding Mail After Death

Now that you know how to request a change of address and forward mail following a death, you may have some remaining questions. The following is a set of FAQs that aim to provide helpful answers to common questions about forwarding mail after death.

Can you get a deceased person's mail forwarded?

Yes, you can forward mail on behalf of a deceased person. You are authorized to manage a deceased person’s mail if you are the appointed Executor or Administrator of the estate. Visit your local post office to file the request, and be sure to bring a valid proof of your appointment. 

If you shared an address with a deceased person but are not the estate Executor or Administrator, you cannot file a request to forward all mail. However, you can forward mail one piece at a time. Simply cross out your address and write down “Forward” and the new address on the envelope. Your mail carrier will pick up outgoing mail placed in your mailbox. 

What happens to mail when a person dies?

When a person passes away, their mail will continue to be delivered to the provided address. The United States Postal Service will not stop delivering mail unless the estate Executor or Administrator has filed a request to stop mail. They must do so after the estate has been formally closed and have received a copy of the court order as proof.

Family members can also make efforts to stop mail at the source. For instance, they can enter the deceased family members’ information on national Do Not Contact lists. They can also return mail to senders by marking “Deceased, Return to Sender” on the envelope. The volume of mail will decrease and will eventually stop when all senders are made aware of the death.

What happens to mail after forwarding expires?

The USPS mail forwarding service expires after one year, even for the deceased. Instead, the Executor of the estate should file a formal and permanent Change of Address request, a process for which we provided a checklist earlier in this guide. 

Once the forwarding service expires, mail is returned to the sender with the new address (when available.) The address will be marked “Returned to Sender, Authorized Forwarding Time Expired.” 

Review Our Complete Checklist of What to Do When Someone Dies

Grieving the loss of a loved one is heartbreaking, and dealing with a mountain of their mail can be frustrating and painful. Luckily, there are some ways to mitigate this problem. If you are not the Executor of the estate but shared an address with the deceased, you can simply forward all mail to the Executor. You can also register the deceased person in national Do Not Contact lists to help put an end to unwanted marketing and advertisements. If you are the Executor of the estate, then you have the authorization to file a request to change the address of the deceased person so that all mail is forwarded to you. Once the estate is formally closed, you can then stop the mail completely. Be sure to obtain and provide valid proof. These steps were explained in detail in our change of address checklist above, so be sure to review the steps to complete the process.

Changing an address following the death of a loved one is just one of many arrangements that must take place. This can be overwhelming, especially in the context of the grieving process. To help ease the burden, we created a simple checklist for you to follow when someone passes away. This will help you go through the steps methodically and without confusion so that you can get back to grieving with friends and family. 

At Trust & Will, we’re here to help you keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific Estate Plan online in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning options. Get started today!

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