Oceanside, CA asked in Estate Planning, Banking, Elder Law and Probate for California

Q: Is it possible for a widower to cash a check made out to him and his deceased wife?

My elderly father is receiving a check, titled to him and my deceased mother/his wife. It is titled using AND, not OR, meaning both signatures are required.

They are the grantors of their living revocable trust, and were the only two trustees. Father became successor trustee. I am sole beneficiary. No one else is involved with the trust. When my mother died, father inherited everything from her (community property). No probate, not even a CA small estate probate was required.

The check is not made out to them as trustees. It is only in their names using "AND", nothing else.

My father still has a Wells Fargo joint account titled in both their names (they don't know she's passed). He has no trust account.

How can he cash this check or deposit it into his personal account (or the joint account)? As successor trustee, can he endorse the check for her? What would he write exactly? Some have suggested writing "for deposit only" - should he do this as well?

Thank you.

1 Lawyer Answer
Maurice Mandel II
Maurice Mandel II
  • Newport Beach, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: What is not clear from your post is who is the maker on the check? You provide so much extraneous information that is sounds like the check is coming from the trust that your father is the trustee on. But that makes no sense. IMO you should go to the maker of the check and request that the check be made payable to your father solely. Potential problems are: you are supposed to notify banks and other institutions of the death of one of a joint account holder- this will freeze the account; I can only speculate what affect this will have on the check. You should take the entire matter to a probate/estate planning attorney in your local area for a complete review and advice. Cannot really tell you what to do without complete information.

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