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Checks Payable to Deceased New Yorkers

{Read in 3 Minutes}   As a Trusts and Estates attorney, I often advise Executors on their duties in administering an Estate. One of the primary duties of an Executor is to collect assets that are payable to the Estate, so they can ultimately be distributed to the deceased’s beneficiaries (or creditors if the deceased left behind any debts). Some assets are very straightforward. An Executor can go to the bank and present Letters Testamentary to close bank or brokerage accounts. The Executors can clean out an apartment, or the Executor can claim intellectual property tied to the Estate. However, what about checks that have come in since the date of death, payable to the deceased rather than to the Estate of the deceased?

Why might the deceased still be receiving checks? Well, there might be a variety of reasons. First, the deceased may have “checks in the mail” around the time that they die. For example, someone may file their income tax return in mid-April only to die before a paper refund check, payable to the deceased, comes in mid-June. Or perhaps there is a final paycheck owed to the deceased or a distribution from an investment that the deceased made that produces paper checks (as opposed to direct deposits in the Estate’s accounts). What should the Executor do with these checks?

Well, it’s actually easier than you might imagine. Once the Surrogate’s Court appoints the Executor, one of their first orders of business is to open a bank account payable in the name of the Estate. Once the Estate account is opened, the Executor or Administrator can deposit not only checks payable to the Estate, but the vast majority of banks will also allow the Executor to deposit checks payable to the deceased individually. This can be as simple as visiting the branch or remotely depositing the checks.

What does an Executor or an Administrator do if the bank will not let them deposit the check payable to the deceased into the accounts? Well, it is easy. All the Executor or Administrator needs to do is contact the person or entity that issued the check and ask them to redraw the check in the name of the decedent’s Estate. There may be some turnaround time (usually a few weeks) but if a bank will not allow the deposit of a check payable to the deceased directly, this may be the Executor’s or Administrator’s only option.

For more information on this topic, please contact me.