If my mother just passed away and I’ve received her tax refund check, can I write “for deposit only” on the back and deposit it into our joint checking account?

Her Will names me as the sole beneficiary. I had to purchase thousands of dollars of medical supplies for her during the last few months of her life and she told me that she would pay me back with her tax refund. I received her refund check in the mail, made out to her in care of me. I would like to write “for deposit only” on the back of it and then deposit it, thereby paying me back. Is this legal? I don’t want to “endorse” a check for a deceased person; I don’t want to go to jail. What do I do with the check?

Asked on April 14, 2015 under Estate Planning, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  I think that you have good instincts here and wrote to ask before you did anything with that check.  The check is really not "valid" since it should be written to the Estate of your Mother and you may indeed need to file a small estate proceeding to open an estate bank account to deposit it.  Creditors may be an issue and it may be a good idea for you to speak with a lawyer in your area on a flat fee consultation basis to discuss the particulars of the estate.  You can also be a creditor if everything works out.  Good luck.

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