the gRumpcAst

Not for the mearly gloomy or the slightly crabby, the gRumpcAst is for the professional grumps. We feature rants, raves, dreams and some amazing music to provide a yang to the yin.

Dead Letter Box

When you die, your body systems stop but the mail continues. The first time I opened my friends mailbox, it was jammed and I seriously considered sending the post office a “died – left no forwarding address” notice. As nice as that would be, you really can’t do that because there are bills that have to be paid, accounts that have to be closed and tax matters to attend to.

Catalogs and fund raising appeals were the bulk of the mail. At first, I just put them into the recycling bin but then a new hero emerged. A friend said that he’d like to take a run at getting the junk stopped. He started calling the catalog merchants and fund raisers to tell them that my friend had died and would they please save a tree and stop sending their stuff. It took several months but eventually the torrent of junk turned into a trickle.

Bills were another issue. In U.S. folk history, there’s a persistent story of a bible salesman who shows up at the widow/widower’s house a day or two after the death with an expensive bible saying that the deceased had ordered it several months before as a gift and that the salesman was there to deliver it. Of course, the story goes, the grieving widow/widower would pay for the bible even if money was short.

We had our own version of the bible salesman. Most of the bills were what you’d expect; utilities, insurance, credit cards, etc. One was from a small private hospital in a city far from where my friend lived. They were convinced that she had been a patient there several months before and owed a considerable sum of money. We checked pretty throughly and didn’t find any indication that my friend had been out of town during that time. We wrote the hospital asking for more information. They didn’t respond except to continue to send the statements.

We finally decided that it was either an error or that the hospital had a habit of sending bills to the dead for imaginary services.

When a person dies, the estate has several duties including doing an accounting of the assets and liabilities of the deceased. My friend, a single person with no children, was financially better off than some people. She had a lot of accounts in a lot of different institutions. While her notebook gave details on most of her accounts, there were surprises. One day, one of those “privacy policy disclosure letters came from an out-of-state bank that I had never seen a reference or a statement. We wrote the bank and found an account that we had no idea existed.

The most difficult letters were those from friends. They typically started out, “Dear _____, We’ve been trying to call you but your phone is out-of-service, and we’re worried. Please let us know you’re OK.” . At Christmas time, there were cards from friends who hadn’t been notified.

My friend died in the summer (2007). It’s now March and mail, although less of it, is still coming in. Just last week, a late year end tax statement arrived. The estate is almost closed and I haven’t decided what to do about the mail. Telling the post office to stop delivering it somehow makes my friend’s passing seem final.

1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. Buck March 4th, 2008 1:06 am

    Just take the mailbox down, then they won’t know what to do and just return everything. All joking aside that is a sad story. The Christmas cards from people that didn’t know, etc would be rough. 🙁

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