"He is dead to me". Legal?

My gf went through a very nasty divorce five-ish years ago. She has not seen her ex since. We met shortly thereafter and have been together since. I sold my house and moved in; all is cool.

The ex still gets some mail delivered here. We have no address to send it to, no phone number, etc.

So, the other day I suggested we try to get contact info to decrease the amount of mail that has to be thrown out. My gf said not to bother. She said, “He is dead to me”.

That gave me an idea. Ever since, I have been sending mail back to sender with a short note. “Sorry to have to inform you, but John has passed away. Please correct your records, as the mail is just causing his widow heartache”.

Seems to be working. His Alma mater has stopped requesting donations. His high school has stopped writing about the reunion. But is what we are doing legal?

I’m not sure about the legality, but couldn’t you have just written “no longer lives at this address”?

That’s what I do…“Return to sender, wrong address” or “Return To Sender, Adressee not at address” or “Return to sender, recipient moved, no forwarding address” but I wouldn’t say that someone died.
I doubt it’s going to make a difference for junk mail, but if you accidentally do it for something financial/legal, you might find yourself in a bit of hot water if you screw something up for him.

I once wrote upon it: “Return to sender, address unknown. No such number. No such zone.” Really.

This would be the obvious thing to do, I guess. But it was a messy divorce. We are both laughing and feeling good about handling it this way.:smiley:

Good luck. My father still receives junk mail, and he died in 1994.

I dunno.

But the Direct Mail Association (DMA) has what they call a Deceased Suppression File that DMA members routinely use when they perform bulk mailings.

Info is here: http://www.the-dma.org/cgi/dispannouncements?article=627++++++

Basically, they build a list, then scrub the list with a series of files that each contains a list of “do not contact” names and addr’s.

DMA members are supposed to report deceased names and addr’s (from returned mail) to the DMA to add to this list. Most solicitations are performed by third party mailers in the name of charities and other institutions, and these third parties are usually members of the DMA.


I have not noticed any decrease in junk mail, but the more legit senders seem to be responding appropriately. Haven’t received a “sorry for your loss” note yet.

And I bet you hummed the tune while ya did it, too. :smiley:

Holy crap. I always thought it was “No such number; no such soul.” Looks like it’s “zone.” How did I miss that in 35+ years?

So does my grandfather and he died in 1986.

How well do you remember ‘postal zones’?

Not at all. Is this a concept that predates “ZIP codes”?

Yes, the larger cities and their suburbs were divided into two digit zones. For example, part of Cleveland Heights Ohio was Cleveland 18, Ohio. When Zip Codes came along those two digits became the last two digits of the original 5 digit Zip.

So how long did this practice continue? I mean, I guess I would have guessed that ZIP codes are a relatively modern convention, and I still vaguely remember phone numbers given as CAlumet5-7342 instead of 225-7342, but I have no recollection of zones. I was born in 1975.

My postal worker husband is wondering whether this might be mail fraud of some kind, though he isn’t sure.

He suggests just writing “UTF” (Unable to Forward) on the mail and tossing it back in the mailbox for the carrier to pick up.

Off the top of my head, I can’t imagine why it would be illegal. It could maybe be fraud if you did it for monetary gain, or be on the hook for civil damages if he misses an monetary opportunity because you led someone to believe that he was dead.

Other than that, I got nuthin.

I think using the mail could be construed as mail fraud, and telling telemarketers someone is dead who is not could be wire fraud. No one would be able to prove who actually wrote on the envelope, you wouldn’t be doing it for personal gain, and you wouldn’t be forging a death certificate, so it isn’t likely there would be any repercussions.

But you have to watch what you write on mail. We had the local case of the woman who was sending her kids to a school not in her district so they could go to her father’s house after school, and when they sent her a notice that they were onto her, she tried to dodge them by writing on the envelope that she was deployed. That was doubly unwise.

Yes: Postal zones were introduced for some large cities (Chicago, for one) in 1943; ZIP codes were introduced on July 1, 1963, complete with their own mascot, Mr. ZIP. By the way, ZIP stands for Zone Improvement Plan, a reference to the former system.

Zip codes have been around since 1963. The word “Zip” stands for “Zone Improvement Plan”, so the “zones” are referenced by the name of their replacement.


As far as the OP is concerned, I don’t know about the legality of that action, but you’re definitely treading on potential civil lawsuit territory. Consider yourself warned by a non-expert anonymous internet source.