If the co-owner of my house passes, can I endorse our escrow check?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 25, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I co-owned a house with a man I was not living with for several years nor ever married too and he passed away. He has a will, I am not in it. His estate goes to his sister. However, the house is mine as the house was deeded with rights of survivorship. We had insurance which paid off the small mortgage. Since the mortgage is now paid, the bank won't directly pay the taxes which had been built into the mortgage. I received the escrow account funds from the mortgage company in the form of a check with both our names on it. Will the bank cash that check with just my endorsement? Is it something I need to share with his sister? I would really like to use it for what it was intended for, the taxes. Thanks.

Expert Answers

Steve Weisman hosts the nationally syndicated radio show A Touch of Grey, heard on more than 50 stations, including WABC in New York City and KRLA in Los Angeles. He is a practicing lawyer specializing in estate planning and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He's a public speaker and commentator who has appeared on many radio and television shows throughout the country, and he's the legal editor of Talkers magazine, the preeminent trade publication of talk radio. His latest book is The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

If, as you indicate, title to the home was owned by you and the deceased as joint tenants, upon his passing, the full title to the home did pass to you. However, the escrow account held by the bank that had previously held your mortgage does not pass to you. It was an account in both names without a right of survivorship. Therefore half of the check belongs to his estate. Therefore you should contact the executor of his estate to arrange to cash the check and divide it accordingly.