How can I cash a check made out to my late mother?

Mm1 asked...

My mother passed away 6 months ago. I just received a overpayment refund check on her car, from Ford company. The check is only in her name, my mother had no will or any assets she left behind. All I have is her death certificate, which does have my name on it..How do I go about cashing this check?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a 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.

If the refund check is truly the only asset of your mother's that you're dealing with, you might try dealing with the bank informally, using the documents you have at hand, such as her death certificate and paperwork that proves your relationship to your mother and your own identity.

Bring your documentation the bank and ask to speak with a bank officer for help. While this approach is not strictly "by the book" for most financial institutions, for some, it may be all you need"”especially if the bank officer is well-acquainted with you or your mother.

The bank officer may insist that you fill out some additional paperwork"”or may reject your request the check altogether. If that happens, you may need to go through a few more hoops by contacting the probate court and asking about the local simplified estate procedure. While that usually involves some time and effort, such as publishing a death notice in a local newspaper, it will likely enable you to be declared your mother's testator"”and ultimately, also enable you to cash the check.

In most cases, simplified probates can be handled entirely by mail"”and will not require you to hire a lawyer or other expert for help.

Check with the local probate court for details; in most, there will be a clerk or other court officer who can walk you through the required steps.