Need some estate advice

So, my dad passed away about 20 years ago and I was the executor of his estate. He had an insurance policy for my sister that she kept making payments on. Recently, for reasons, they ended the policy and gave her a check for the value, about $3000. Being that my dad started the policy, the check is made out to The Estate of John Smith. The bank told my sister that the executor (me) would need to cash the check. It’s been a couple decades and I’ve moved several times, so I have no idea where any paperwork is, and the estate is closed anyway. I can’t even remember the name of the law firm we used (although with some work, I could probably find out).

I guess I’m looking for some free legal advice (you are not my lawyer, yadda, yadda). Has anyone dealt with a similar situation? What would be a logical first step? I thought probably getting a copy of the death certificate. Obviously we’d like to do this as cheap as possible. The estate was in Michigan.

Any advice or info would be greatly appreciated.


Mods. I was hoping there is a factual answer to this. Please move as you see fit.

Legal advice is best suited to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

Did your dad have a will, or were you the default executor because you were the oldest descendant? I think the executor of the estate needs to be filed with the county. You may be able to contact them to get a copy of that paperwork which named you the executor.

Can you make deposits with your phone or otherwise not giving up physical possession? If so I’d try that endorsing the check as “Name, Executor of the John Smith Estate.” If it goes through and you’ve heard nothing for a month, you’re probably fine. If it is refused somehow, then you can look into more complicated procedures. You could even try it at an ATM, but then if it’s refused you’d have to get the physical check back.

In my experience checks deposited other than by handing them to a teller are often never looked at by a person unless the check writer objects.

If you can find it, the court order closing the probate proceeding may have had a provision for property discovered or accruing thereafter. If so, a bank might be amenable to acting in accordance with that provision if you show them the order.

A few states may have statutes permitting banks to process small amounts of after-discovered estate property, aimed at precisely this situation, but I think that’s still kind of rare, and $3000 may be above the limit anyway.

There’s a deeper issue here, though, which is why the bank may be hesitant: Under the terms of the will, is your sister entitled to the money? The policy isn’t paying out; it sounds like it’s being cancelled, and there’s no way of knowing based on what you’ve told us how that money should be distributed. The fact that your sister has added value to the policy makes it even more complicated.

Disclaimer: As you noted, I am not your lawyer, and this is just anonymous chat.

He had a will. I am going to contact the county and see what I can gather. Still not sure if that will appease the bank. Thanks!

I told her to try this but haven’t heard back. I’m hoping this trick will work and save a lot of trouble. I mean, it’s not technically the correct way, but no one will be out anything in the end. I told her earlier to just keep trying different tellers at different branches till one cashes it :slight_smile: Thanks!

Yeah, I thought about this and was hesitant to tell her that the money “technically” belongs to everyone. Not that anyone would deny her of it, but it does open up a can of worms.

Thanks everyone. This at least gives me some direction. Hopefully we’ll make something work here.

If anyone should cash the check, it should be you. Your sister doesn’t have any right to cash the check. You are the executor, so you are the one who can legally cash the check. Since this whole situation is already a bit iffy without having all the paperwork, you should try to do things the right way to avoid anyone saying your sister is acting fraudulently. If anyone complains about you cashing the check, it’s just a matter of you getting the paperwork which says you’re allowed to do that. There is no paperwork which says your sister can cash the check.

This is my understanding as well. Most things you do as an executor are hard or easy depending almost exclusively on how much other beneficiaries want to bicker. Just do everything as above board as possible, make sure anyone with a potential claim knows what’s going on and what the plan is, and then act.

One more piece of info. She sent me a scan of the check and it’s actually made out as:

The Estate of John Smith
c/o Jane Smith (my sister)

So, now we have a check made out to my dad’s estate in care of my sister, who’s not the executor. If I get the paperwork in order, I think she’ll now have to get the check reissued in my name. I would have thought the “In Care Of” part would have let her cash it, but the bank says otherwise.

I appreciate all the advice. I’ll update if more info comes forward.

The best way to find out what will appease the bank is to ask them. Don’t spend time doing all sorts of stuff in hopes that it might appease them. Walk into your bank, show your check (or a copy) to a retail banker (not a teller) and ask what they need to cash or deposit the check and then go get it.

I don’t think the “c/o your sister” has any significance. That’s just part of the mailing address.