Q: My mom cashed in her life insurance policy and passed before the check came . We have a joint checking account.
Can I deposit? If no, options?
A: I hesitated to answer this question because it lacks detail, but if I assume that the check was made payable to your mother, the problem is that she has passed, so she cannot deposit it. The general rule is that a check made payable to someone who has died cannot be cashed or deposited – rather, it should be returned to the party that sent it, with an explanation that the intended payee is deceased. In this situation, you may be thinking that because you share a bank account with your mother, you should be able to deposit the check in that joint account anyway. I would exercise an abundance of caution, because it seems quite likely that the insurance company and the bank will become aware of your mother’s date of death at some point in the near future.
If you don’t want to send the check back to the insurance company, you can hold on to it until the Personal Representative of her estate has been appointed by the local Probate Court. The Personal Representative would have the authority to endorse any checks that were made payable to your mother in order to deposit them in an estate account. (Of course, this plan is only good if her estate is large enough to bother initiating proceedings in Probate Court.) Because there are so many unknowns, it seems like it would be wise to engage a local attorney with knowledge of administering estates.
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