Can an Executor Endorse the Deceased's Check?

By Regan Rondinelli-Haberek

Upon an individual’s death, it is common for those organizing the decedent’s personal effects to find uncashed checks made payable to the decedent. Also, refund checks from utility companies, insurance companies or nursing homes may arrive in the decedent’s name or name of the estate. These checks are part of the estate and are subject to the will, just as a financial account or a parcel of real property is.

Last Will and Testament

When someone dies, he usually leaves directions for how his estate should be distributed in a last will and testament, commonly referred to as a will. While this is the main purpose of a will, it also names a personal representative, or executor -- the person charged with managing the estate. The first order of business is to locate the original will, which may be in a safe in the decedent's home or at an attorney's office.

Probate Process

Once the original will has been located, it will likely need to be submitted to a court of proper jurisdiction for probate. Simply put, probate is the process by which a will is authenticated and an executor is authorized to manage the estate. The will has no legal effect until it has been accepted by the court for probate, and the executor has no power to manage the estate until such authority is granted by the probate court. If the executor attempts to present the will to a financial institution as proof of his position as executor prior to completing the probate process, he will not get very far. Once the court is satisfied the will is valid and all necessary legal formalities have been satisfied, an order or Decree Granting Probate will be issued and the executor can commence estate administration.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Executor's Role

Once the executor has authority to manage the estate, he can begin gathering assets. This includes financial accounts, real property and any checks made payable to the decedent or estate. The executor has the authority to endorse checks made payable to the decedent or the estate, but he has no authority to manage life insurance proceeds payable to a named beneficiary or financial accounts with a joint owner or payable on death designations because these assets are not part of the probate estate.

Letters Testamentary

The executor proves to financial institutions that he has the authority to endorse checks made payable to the decedent by providing the bank with a document called Letters Testamentary. When the probate court accepts the will for probate, the executor will be presented with this document, which displays the court’s official seal, proving his authority to manage the estate. This document contains the decedent’s name, date of death, date on which the estate was opened and the executor’s name. Letters Testamentary may also include any limitations to the executor’s authority. Upon hearing that an individual is an executor and doing business on behalf of an estate, a financial institution will almost always ask to see the original document and may also ask for a copy to keep on file.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Locate a Will of a Deceased Person
 

References

Related articles

How to Find Out If Someone Left a Will for Probate

A will is a written document that specifies how a person wishes his estate to be divided. After the testator dies, the will is commonly subject to court proceedings known as probate. Relatives and other potential heirs may find it necessary to locate a will, especially when challenging or questioning the estate proceedings; others often find wills useful when researching family trees. Wills and estate proceedings are typically filed in the probate court of the county or counties in which the deceased had a connection, such as residence or property holdings.

What Is an Executor Deed?

An executor’s deed is used to transfer real property from the estate of a deceased person to an heir pursuant to the terms of a will. It is similar to an administrative deed, which is used when a person dies without a will. The executor of an estate is the person appointed in the will to marshal the deceased's assets, determine what debts and liabilities need to be paid out of estate funds and ultimately distribute the assets to designated heirs or beneficiaries.

What Do I Do if My Father Had a Will & Has Died?

As soon as your father died, his property became his probate estate. If he left a will, his property will probably be distributed according to its terms by the probate court. You must complete certain steps to get the probate process started. Although all states apply the same basic principles, the specifics of the probate laws of individual states often differ.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Can an Executor of a Will Close a Bank Account?

The executor of a will is responsible for managing the financial affairs of the estate. To do this job properly, the ...

How to Probate a Will in BC, Canada

In Canada, all wills are subject to probate, a court process that validates the will and gives the legal authority for ...

Can the Executor of a Will Spend the Money Any Way He Wants?

When someone dies and leaves a will, the will instructs how the deceased's property should be distributed. Likely, it ...

How to Resign as Executor of a Will in Texas

The estate of any deceased Texas resident is subject to the Texas probate process. Probate involves the Texas Probate ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED