Answers to Common Questions and Situations

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How to Deposit a Check Made Out to an Estate When There Is No Estate?

When you’ve received an inheritance check, you may need clarification about how to cash or deposit the estate check when there is no estate. If you don’t have a clear solution, this process can be complicated and result in frustration and dissatisfaction.

Because this is a step-by-step process, we advise you to follow specific tips on depositing or cashing this type of check when there is no formal inheritance.

What Is an Estate Check?

A check made out to the deceased or their estate is typically estate property and should be deposited into the estate account, not your own personal bank account. An estate account is a temporary bank account that holds an estate’s money.

Suppose there is a check that is written from the estateIn this case, it would only have to be drawn by an executor or administrator appointed to deal with the estate’s affairs or distribute it to the concerned heirs or beneficiaries.

How to Sign an Estate Check as Executor of a Deceased’s Assets?

Has the estate been opened in probate court, and a personal representative/executor appointed over the property?

If yes, then the following steps should be taken:

  • the executor should open an estate bank account, and any funds related to the deceased’s assets should be deposited into the estate account.
  • if there are any checks for the estate or in the name of the deceased, they should be turned over to the estate’s personal representative to be deposited into the estate accounts.
  • when there are co-executors or co-administrators, each check must be signed by both.

If not, then

    • no one should use any of the deceased’s funds or write checks out of the decedent’s bank accounts unless they are a joint holder on the account or a designated beneficiary of the account.
    • if there is a will, the named executor should begin the probate process to be appointed executor of the estate.
    • when there is no will, the person chosen as administrator by the family should open the succession to become appointed over the deceased assets.
    • no one can sign checks as an estate executor or administrator until the probate court has formally designated them.

How to Cash an Estate Check?

An estate check should be deposited into an estate account established by the designated executor or administrator for the decedent’s belongings.

If the check that has been made out to the estate voids after a certain period, there can always be a request from the appointed personal representative later for the check to be reissued.

It’s essential to ensure that all estate checks are safeguarded until the executor or administrator is appointed, and then they should deposit those funds into the estate account.

How to cash a check where there is no estate or a small estate only

When there are assets belonging to the deceased and do not have a designated beneficiary listed on them, there is a potential estate.

If a check has been written in the deceased’s name or the estate, probate may be necessary to cash it and distribute it to heirs and beneficiaries.

If there is a will, it usually follows the probate process, and it’s the surest method to ensure everything is in order and protect your loved one’s assets

When there is no will, one potential option is a petition to declare no administration necessary. But it is rarely used, and usually, it’s suitable for very small properties when all the parties involved agree to a written distribution plan.

We have found that, in practice, this petition is not very useful. It seems to save time, but often, it leads to more complications than a standard probate process.

Also, declaring no administration necessary can’t be used when: 

  • there are creditors to the estate
  • the deceased had a will
  • there are disagreements between the heirs to the inheritance

Still, no administration necessary can be a potential option when the property has few assets, no creditors, and all family members agree.

Filing this petition is only possible under limited circumstances and strict requirements.

Cashing a check after the estate is closed

The only way to open a new estate account is to reopen the Estate if it has been closed.

How to Deposit an Estate Check When There Is No Estate?

How to Deposit a Check Made Out to an Estate When There Is No Estate

The estate check itself may be considered a part of the estate.

If probate has not been opened, and there is a will, then the named executor will begin the probate process to become appointed as designated executor by the court.

Once designated, the executor should open an estate account, and any funds for the estate should be deposited into this account.

If there are any checks for the succession or in the name of the deceased, they should be turned over to the personal representative/executor of the property to be deposited into the estate account.

If there is no will, 

  • under strict requirements, no administration necessary might be an option
  • if no administration necessary is not a possible option, someone will need to request to become appointed administrator of the inheritance. Once designated, the administrator should open an estate bank account, and any estate funds should be deposited into this account.

What Documents Do You Need to Deposit an Estate Check When There Is No Estate?

The estate check is deposited into the estate bank account that the executor or administrator holds. 

The bank may request to see the executor or administrator’s letters to open the estate’s bank account. In this case:

  • if there is a will, the documents are called Letters of Testamentary and show the executor’s powers to accomplish the wishes expressed in the will.
  • when there is no will, Letters of Administration indicate the probate court officially appoints an administrator to represent the estate.

Can You Deposit a Check Made Out to a Deceased Person?

The financial institution may need to be notified that a person has passed away, and they may reissue a check in the estate’s name. 

The check will not be cashed but deposited into the estate account, which differs from a regular bank account.

How Does an Administrator of the Estate Endorse a Check Made Out to the Deceased?

If there is a will, the executor endorses the check as “John Smith, as the Executor of the Estate of John Doe.”

When there is no will, he will endorse the check as “John Smith, as the Administrator of the Estate of John Doe.”

Can an Executor Sign Checks for the Deceased?

The executor or administrator does not sign checks for the deceased. They sign checks on behalf of the estate.

An executor can only do this after the probate court has appointed them and they have set up an estate checking account.

How to Cash an Estate Check With No Will?

If an estate has not been opened with the probate court:

  • The person the family has chosen to handle the estate affairs will need to petition the court to become appointed estate administrator.
  • Once designated, the administrator would open an estate account and deposit the estate check into this account and not into a personal bank account.
  • All estate funds in the estate account must be accounted for.

How do You Deposit Estate Checks Without Probate?

This is not possible in Georgia.

Recommendations for Finding an Attorney to Help You Cash an Estate Check When There Is No Estate

We recommend you reach out to our office to discuss your specific situation with a probate lawyer.

Can You Deposit a Check Made Out to an Estate?

Yes, but the check should be turned over to the estate administrator or executor, who will deposit it into the estate checking account.

Can You Cash a Check for a Relative?

First, you must understand that the check belongs to the deceased’s estate, not to you. Consequently, you need legal authority to deposit the check, which usually means being named the executor or administrator of the estate.

Can You Deposit a Check Made Out to You and Your Husband?

Depending on the situation. We must review the situation before we can give a definitive answer. 

Can You Deposit a Check Made Out to You and Your Deceased Spouse?

To deposit a check made out to a deceased spouse, you must open an estate (as discussed above) or get an order for a year’s support that makes the check the property of the surviving spouse.

Your Next Step

If you’d like to talk with a specialist about handling the estate checks, please call our office at (770) 637-3272 or schedule a consultation. We’re happy to help.


Disclaimer: The information above is provided for general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Our probate attorneys provide legal advice to our clients after talking about the specific circumstances of the client’s situation. Our law firm cannot give you legal advice unless we understand your situation by talking with you. Please contact our law office to receive specific information about your situation.

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About the author

Erik J. Broel
Founder & ceo

Erik founded the firm in 2009. He sees it as his personal mission to demystify the process of handling an estate or trust, and to help people by making the complex estate process simple and accessible. He believes there is always a better way to do things, and loves finding new and innovative ways to deliver better, more effective service that solves the client’s key problem or issue, and improves the client’s life.

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