If my mother just passed away 2 days ago and I have power of attorney, can I deposit checks into her checking account now?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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If my mother just passed away 2 days ago and I have power of attorney, can I deposit checks into her checking account now?

Her social security amount was deposited today. Do I have to return that money? Also when can I access her bank accounts. I am the estate’s executor.

Asked on September 1, 2017 under Estate Planning, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) A power of attorney lapses when the person granting it dies; a POA is only good during the grantor's or principal's life.
2) An executor will have the power to access the bank accounts, but mostly to move the money into an estate bank account, which can then be used to pay estate expenses, receive money in due to the estate (if any), and ultimately (once the estate is settled) make distributions to beneficiaries. (An estate account is necesary because a dead person cannot have a bank account.)
3) However, the power to do this (or other executor functions) is not automatic: you need court authorization. A probate attorney can help you with this, or you could, if you don't want to hire an attorney, contact the probate court clerk's office to seek information about the process.
4) Social security stops when the person passes away. Inform the social security adminsitration immediately of your mother's passing; they can let you know whether any payments need to be returned.

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