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

5 answers | Last updated: Sep 30, 2016
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 Answers

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.

Community Answers

Frederick p. answered...

Sign your mother's name on the back of the check and then sign your name below that and deposit the check in your account. The bank doesn't care, the people that wrote the check don't care and the state doesn't care. Don't let some lawyer type build you an empire, where one does not need to exist.

Lady in rkinsaw answered...

The answer from Frederick P. might or might not work. Some banks will not accept 3rd party checks. If you happen to know the teller, he or she might let it go through, but if you do not, you might try depositing it through the ATM machine and pray that it goes through.

Barbara kate repa answered...

I agree, Frederick, that the the answer explaining bank procedures may sound like unnecessary hoops --and not what we want to hear. But it's based on the experiences of several people who have tried what you suggest--either cashing at a teller or through an ATM deposit--and who had the checks rejected. The experience can and has resulted in some banks pressing fraud charges.

Swin answered...

I am currently experiencing this issue first-hand. Barbara's answer was spot on. Perhaps in smaller communities, less formal protocols are used, but in larger ones, depositing and cashing checks made payable to the deceased can be thorny.

My bank explained that unless the 3rd party endorses the check (and presents ID) in the presence of the Teller, they will not cash or deposit the check into someone else's account (unless, of course, the account is shared with the parties involved).

If you are POD on the deceased’s account, you can receive the funds in the account, but depositing or cashing funds can still be issues. The amount of the check is also considered. Different bank branches have a certain amount of leeway with lesser amounts and the manager can authorize those transactions, but you must go in.

Even as Successor Trustee, I have had issues depositing/cashing checks made payable to my deceased mother.I can only suggest that if you have a choice; pick a branch, with which you have the best relationship; present your documents & sign the necessary forms so you can use that same branch for any residual checks that may pop up as time goes by.