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09.04.19

What happens to uncashed checks at death?

CNN recently reported that Aretha Franklin died with nearly $1 million dollars of uncashed checks. While the majority of people do not have this magnitude of uncashed checks at death, there will likely be a few uncashed checks at hand.

Uncashed checks issued prior to death in a decedent’s name alone which are still negotiable (typically 180 days) can be negotiated by the executor of the decedent’s estate.

Uncashed checks issued prior to death in a decedent’s name alone that are no longer negotiable will need to be handled one of two ways. The executor of the decedent’s estate should contact the payor to request the issuance of a new replacement check and then negotiate the new check. If the payor has already deposited the uncashed check with the state’s Abandoned Property division (typically after three years), then the executor will need to follow the state’s procedure for collection of the abandoned funds.

Uncashed checks issued in joint names, such as John and Jane Smith, can be negotiated by the survivor. If the decedent is the survivor of the payees named, then the decedent’s executor can negotiate the check.

Refund checks issued after death in the decedent’s name alone for unearned premiums and service refunds can be negotiated by the executor of the decedent’s account.

Whether a check issued prior to the decedent’s death, a refund check issued after the decedent’s death or check issued for the proceeds of abandoned property, the executor should keep in mind that these funds are includible in the decedent’s probate estate as well as the decedent’s gross estate for estate tax purposes.