Why can't my sister deposit a check made out to the estate of my father?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My dad recently passed away. My sister was his guardian, and received a check from the State of Kentucky made out to The Estate of (my dad). When she attempted to deposit the check, she was told that there is no such estate. Can she set up the estate? If so, how would she go about it?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

For better and worse, the law requires people to go through some hoops and red tape when handling property made out to a deceased person’s estate.

The reasoning is to prevent unscrupulous survivors from running off with goods to which they might not be legally entitled.

It sounds as if your father died without a will and that there was no other probate court proceeding after his death. To deposit the check from the state now—and possibly to wind up other matters, such as transferring title of some of your father’s remaining property—you or your sister must contact the local probate court. You can find it by searching “Kentucky” and “probate” and “court” plus the name of the county in which your father died.

The good news may be that if your father didn’t own lots of valuable property at his death, you should be able to use a simplified procedure. You can use the simplified small estate process in Kentucky if the value of property subject to probate is $15,000 or less.

The entire matter involves filling out only a few forms, and you will likely be able to complete the matter without the time and expense of hiring an attorney.

Community Answers

Granny2grandsons answered...

My only other suggestion would be to contact the person on the check from the state of Kentucky. It may help to "cut through some of the red tape".

Go online to Kentucky.gov or Kentucky.org - it may provide information needed to get to the department you need (most likely Probate Court). It may be as simple as the state providing an official letter regarding the estate of your Dad.

The reason why they said "there is no estate" is because the estate was closed once the checks were disbursed.

Hope it helps!