What do you do with a check to a deceased person, after the estate is closed?

It’s not uncommon to get a check made out to a deceased relative after the estate is closed. Must you reopen the estate to deposit the one check? The time and expense of that process will likely preclude doing so, unless it’s a really big check.

A Tennessee statute can help.

Tennessee Code 45-2-711 gives banks the ability to pay out small checks to the administrator of an estate, even if the estate was not officially opened, or it has been closes. It reads, in part:

[W]here the qualified executor or administrator of a decedent has been discharged and a check or checks made payable to the decedent is presented to the bank for payment or collection, the bank may, in its discretion, … pay out the proceeds of one (1) or more checks made payable to the deceased, whether written or electronic, all sums that do not exceed two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) in the aggregate: To the executor named in any will known to the bank whether probated or not; (B) To any personal representative appointed by a court whether active or discharged.

Thus, a bank has the right to simply cash the check. However, banks are not required to do this. The law simply gives them the option.

As a practical matter, a lot of banks are not willing to do this and the law won’t make them do it. This is one of those instances where a relationship with a bank is valuable. It’s also an instance where a diplomatic lawyer may be able to explain and sweet talk the banker, and save you time and money.

Bad bankers never die, they just lose interest.

Bad bankers never die, they just lose interest.