How to hold mail or suspend delivery with USPS

4 min read

When a loved one passes away, dealing with their mail is probably not the first thing on your mind. It may seem trivial, but what happens to your loved one’s mail immediately after they pass away is essential for several reasons. 

Unfortunate as it is, potential identity thieves prey on the recently deceased, and one of the ways they can tell when someone has just passed away is if mail and packages are piling up at their residence. The other, more obvious reason why your loved one’s mail must be dealt with sooner rather than later is that you don’t want to miss any important documents that may be needed for settling with the estate. 

At some point after the estate is settled, though, you’ll probably want to stop receiving your loved one’s mail (when you are ready). When it’s no longer necessary, continuing to get mail with your loved one’s name on it can begin to feel like just a painful reminder. Many people find that there naturally comes a time when they feel like it’s right to stop their loved one’s mail. Luckily, it’s easy to suspend mail and deliveries with USPS––here’s what you need to know.

Who is authorized to suspend mail?

During the probate process, only the executor of your loved one’s estate is allowed to open, read, or stop mail on their behalf. If you are not the executor but you are receiving your loved one’s mail, the first thing to do is to check in with the executor and forward all the mail to them if probate is about to begin or in progress. 

If there is no probate or the probate has ended, the executor must submit a copy of the court probate order to your loved one’s local post office. You can either mail or hand-deliver this document, which officially states that the estate is closed, and the executor is thus released from their official duties, so they would not need to receive the mail anymore. 

Making the request

There is no way to customize the type of mail that you receive for your loved one, so wait until you are certain that you want to stop receiving all mail.

Once you’re ready to request to immediately stop all mail, you can either send the relevant documents to USPS via post, or you can go in person to a post office local to your loved one’s residence. To be safe, it’s probably best to go in person. 

You may need to fill out a form to request to stop mail deliveries, but each post office may have slightly different rules.

In any case, you will need to bring a copy of the probate order, and it’s always a good idea to have a valid government-issued I.D. as well as a copy of the death certificate with you.

This way, you will have proof that your loved one’s estate is now closed, and thus you do not need to receive mail on their behalf. 

Reducing advertising/spam mail

The USPS is a well-oiled machine, but things always slip through the cracks. Even with a request to stop the mail, you’ll likely still be receiving advertisements addressed to your loved one. While you’re at it, you may want to consider some more actions that you can take to reduce any accidental spam mail that can still get sent to your loved one’s address. 

The DNCC (Deceased Do Not Contact List) is maintained by the Data & Marketing Association, and within 3 months of registering your loved one’s name there, you’ll stop receiving advertisements. You can fill out the registration online here

Another function you can utilize is USPS’s “Return to Sender” option. When you get a piece of mail addressed to your loved one, simply write “Deceased, Return to Sender” on the envelope and place it in your mailbox or any outbound collection box. 

Dealing with USPS can be confusing, but hopefully, the post office staff can make this as easy as possible for you. Stopping mail addressed to your loved one is not just a practical task—it’s emotional, too, so make sure to check in with yourself throughout the process. 

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.