Have you ever found yourself wondering about the reasons for certified letter mailing?
6Especially when there are so many different ways to send important documents.
Well, there are many good reasons to send a certified letter. For one, it offers benefits and protections that other methods of delivery, such as email, simply can’t.
We’re going to take a detailed look at the ins and outs of Certified Mail, who uses it, and what advantages it holds.
What is a certified letter?
A certified letter is any letter sent via Certified Mail.
Certified Mail is a service provided by the United States Postal Service (USPS) that provides the sender with a mailing receipt and verification that their letter has been delivered.
Certified Mail requires a signature upon delivery, which can be requested by the sender in order to check that the letter has been delivered to the right person.
It also provides the sender with a way to track their letter through the postal system.
Many organizations opt to send sensitive or essential documents as certified letters, giving them peace of mind that their letter has been delivered safely, on time, and to the correct recipient.
FedEx and UPS both offer similar options to the Certified Mail service provided by USPS, but some courts and government agencies won’t accept anything other than USPS Certified Mail as proof of delivery.
Certified mail vs. priority mail
Priority Mail is a service offered by USPS that guarantees fast delivery of letters and parcels. It aims to deliver mail within 1-3 business days.
Customers pay a flat rate on mail weighing up to 70 lbs, regardless of where in the US they’re sending it.
For an additional fee, customers using the Priority Mail service will obtain a return receipt, which proves that the mail was received by the recipient.
Certified Mail is an optional add-on to First Class and Priority Mail services, which incurs a further additional charge.
When combined with the Return Receipt service, the recipient’s signature will be displayed on the sender’s physical or electronic delivery record.
The Certified Mail service doesn’t deliver mail any faster than Priority Mail, but it does add extra levels of protection for senders wishing to prove it has been delivered.
Who sends a certified letter?
A wide variety of sensitive, legal, or official documents are often sent as certified letters.
The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) often sends documents via Certified Mail, including audit notices, Notices of Deficiency, and Notices of Intent to Levy.
In fact, many notices issued by the IRS are required by law to be sent via Certified Mail.
Some employers will send documents via Certified Mail.
This will often be the case if sensitive documents need to be sent through the post, such as FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) forms.
Similarly, employees may wish to send important letters, such as a leave of absence request, via Certified Mail. Many employers will also send final paychecks using Certified Mail.
The Social Security Administration offers the option for SSA notices to be sent as certified letters if the recipient is blind or visually impaired.
Because a dispute over whether documents were truly received can hold up court proceedings, lawyers will often send vitally important documents as certified letters.
This can include summons, complaints, final decisions, and various other legal documents.
Local municipalities will often use Certified Mail to send court summons and court judgments, subpoenas, and documents such as eviction notices from landlords.
Common reasons for using or receiving certified letters
Because a certified letter offers proof of delivery, it is commonly used by organizations that may need to prove that correspondence has been received by the intended recipient.
Legal and official documents can be sent via Certified Mail, allowing the sender to prove they were delivered and denying the recipient the chance to claim that the documents were never received.
Certified Mail also provides tracking services for the sender, which can come in handy when sending sensitive or vitally important documents.
Knowing their whereabouts in the postal system helps assure confidentiality and security for both the sender and the recipient.
How to send a certified letter
The first step when sending Certified Mail is to pick up a copy of PS Form 3800.
Also known as a Certified Mail slip, these can be obtained at a Post Office or other mailing center.
The form can also be filled out online, although in order to obtain proof of mailing, the letter will still need to be presented in person at the counter.
When sending a certified letter, a postal worker will issue you with a receipt that details when it was mailed and where it was mailed from.
They’ll also stamp this receipt in order to verify the date the letter was mailed.
You’ll also be issued with a tracking number, which will enable you to keep tabs on the letter as it moves from one location to another.
If the recipient is expecting the letter, this tracking number can also be shared with them, so they know when the delivery will be made and can ensure someone is present to provide a signature.
You can request email notifications so that you’re notified once the letter has been delivered.
If you’ve requested that a signature is provided upon delivery, you can also request a copy of it be included on your proof of delivery.
Examples of certified letters
Many important documents are sent as certified letters.
If you need to be sure that a letter has been received by the intended recipient and prove that fact, that’s when to use Certified Mail.
For this reason, most certified letters will be official and formal in tone.
They will usually be properly formatted, containing the names and addresses of both the sender and the recipient, and may contain various examples of “legalese”.
Letters demanding payment from debtors can be sent as certified letters.
This means that in the event that the debt is not settled and the matter has to go to court, the creditor can prove the instances when payment was requested.
Important financial documents, such as tax invoice forms, can also be sent as certified letters.
This adds an extra layer of security and helps provide a stronger paper trail for bookkeeping and future audits.
Some employers may choose to send work-related documents, such as employment contracts, via Certified Mail.
This can provide legal protection in the event a contract is breached, as it can be proved that it was delivered to the correct individual and wasn’t signed fraudulently by any other parties.
Security options for certified mail when mailing to a PO box
You can send certified mail to a PO box, but the process changes slightly due to the fact that there won’t be anyone there to obtain a signature from.
Instead, a notification card is left at the PO box, alerting the recipient that they have a certified letter waiting for them at the Post Office.
They can then go and collect their letter using the notification card (PS Form 3849) and a form of valid ID.
Their signature will then be captured by the postal worker when the mail is collected.
When sending a certified letter to a PO box, it will need to be collected within 15 days, as USPS won’t store unclaimed Certified Mail for longer than this.
There are further security options available when sending Certified Mail, in order to help you guarantee that the letter reaches the intended recipient:
Certified Mail Adult Signature Required
Only an adult over 21 years of age can collect a certified letter using this service.
However, any adult over 21 is able to perform the collection, so the added security only goes so far.
Certified Mail Restricted Delivery
This service gives the option to limit who can collect a certified letter.
With this service, only the recipient, or an authorized agent, can collect a piece of Certified Mail, preventing anyone from getting hold of the notification card and fraudulently collecting the letter.
Certified Mail Adult Signature Restricted Delivery
Essentially a combination of the two previously mentioned services, only the addressee or an authorized agent over the age of 21 can collect the certified letter when using this service.
An authorized agent can be established using Postal Form 1583. See this USPS form 1583 template for more details.
Protect your letters with certified mail
Sending a letter via Certified Mail helps to ensure that it’s delivered quickly, to the correct person, and with proof of delivery.
If you’re sending sensitive documents, sending them certified helps provide an extra level of protection.
If the documents you’re sending are important for legal reasons, the Certified Mail service will help you to prove that they were delivered to their intended recipient, giving you legal protection, should you ever need it.
All in all, there are many reasons for sending a certified letter, with the modest extra cost providing a lot of extra peace of mind.
When it comes to ultimate peace of mind, though, you may not wish to trust your business-critical documents to the mail at all.
Instead, you could benefit from a holistic document workflow solution like PandaDoc.
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Frequently asked questions about certified letters
Yes, a certified letter can be sent to a PO box. However, the process for delivery is slightly different under these circumstances. A notification card will be left in the recipient’s PO box, which must then be presented at the relevant Post Office branch.
USPS aims to deliver Certified Mail within 1-3 business days. This makes it a faster service than First Class Mail in many instances. The timeframe is the same as Priority Mail, with the added benefit of proof of delivery and obtaining the recipient’s signature.
Do you have to sign for Certified Mail? The answer is yes, Certified Mail requires a signature upon delivery. One of the main reasons for certified letters is to prove that the letter was received by the intended recipient—by way of a signature.