Q: Can an executor deposit a check made out to a beneficiary into an estate account ?
My husband is executor of my mothers will, however a check made out to me (as I was the beneficiary of an account) arrived. He wants to deposit it into an estate account along with checks from another account that is part of the estate so that he can distribute evenly between me and my sisters, because he says my mom wanted everything split between the three of us, I don’t think my check belongs there. Am I wrong? Will he be able to deposit my check?
A: I wouldn't say you are wrong. If you are the beneficiary on the account, that money is yours. That being said, if your mother's wishes were for "everything" to be divided equally, you have moral, and possibly a legal, duty to include the money from that account as party of the assets to be divided equally. But, including in the estate account may not be the best idea if there are outstanding claims which exceed the assets in the estate. You could hold the check in your own account and then divide it between you and your sisters. If you want to deposit the check in to the estate account, you will probably have to endorse it "pay to the order of the estate of ______" , then sign it, and your husband could then deposit the check in the estate account.
A: If the check is made out to you individually as the designated beneficiary of the account, it is considered a non-probate asset and therefore does not need to be deposited into the estate bank account, but can pass to you individually. I don't see how it could deposit the check unless you actually endorsed it over to the estate. This response is based purely on the way you posed the fact pattern and could be different upon a more detailed review, so I do want to make that clear. It is often a family issue that money left to one child and not others creates some conflict. Unless there is some evidence that points to the fact that this money should be split equally among all children, I would personally tend to disagree with my colleague's prior response that there is a legal obligation to do so, but that certainly is up for debate! Your mom could have affirmatively named all of her intended beneficiaries as such with this financial institution to prevent this issue. Since she chose only to name you, and therefore the asset does not pass through her probate estate, unless you feel a personal obligation to split it with your siblings (ie. gift them each a share), I would argue you're not legally liable to do so. This may be different if you were a joint owner on the account with mom and are benefiting simply from that convenience of adding one child and not others to the account. I hope this is helpful food-for-thought.
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