Can a check made out "to the estate of..." my Mother, be deposited in my checking account?

Asked over 2 years ago - Saint Petersburg, FL

My Mom had hospitalization insurance and she passed away before the claim of her recent hospital stay had been processed. I had Durable POA as she was physically unable to handle her finances, write checks, pay bills, etc.
She lived with me for the past year and has no assetts, owned no property, no vehicle.My family paid her final expenses and when hospice came to our home she was aware that she would pass away soon. She said to us that it was her wish that our family accept that money, since we had financally supported her for over a year. I contacted the insurance company and they said the claim was accepted and I received a check payable "to the estate of.." I'm not sure what to do with the check. She didn't have a will, so any information would be greatly appreciated. We live in FL

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Jeffrey Scott Goethe

    Contributor Level 13

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    Answered . I'm sorry for your loss. In addition to the prior comments, I'd add a few things for you to consider.

    The power of attorney was no long effective the moment your mother passed away.

    Your mother's spoken intentions are not legally binding. Without a will, the Florida statutes determine who is entitled to her assets, including the insurance refund. As part of the formlal probate process, you could possibly make a claim for the medical expenses you paid if there was an understanding that you would be repaid.

    Although you might be able to utilize a shorter probate process titled "Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration," this process should only be used in limited circumstances. Some assets can't be handled with this process. Also, it will only handle the specific assets you list. If you find something a month after you get the order, you'll have to go back to court (and pay more filing fees) to handle the new assets. This shorter process also does not deal with creditor claims, such as medical bills that can't be paid. I've seen many cases where the family insisted that there were no other assets and no creditors, but later discovered additional assets or creditors.

    There are many good attorneys in your area, so it would be worth at least meeting with an attorney for an initial consultation to go through the risks and benefits of the shorter procedures before you attempt to do it on your own. The personnel at the courthouse can't give you advice about what's best for your situation. The forms that are available don't include the education and experience of a local, experienced probate attorney. In some cases, it could end up costing more in the end to try what's less expensive up front.

    My comments are not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship, are not confidential, and are not... more
  2. Joseph Franklin Pippen Jr.

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . Both of the attorneys have given sound advice.
    General rule-you can never use a power of attorney to benefit yourself-only for the benefit of person granting the power for their benefit.

    The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of... more
  3. Michael S. Haber

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

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    Best Answer
    chosen by asker

    Answered . A check made payable to an estate should be deposited in an account maintained by the estate. That means that you will have to commence an administraton proceeding. Depending on the size of the check, a small estate proceeding may be available to you. You may wish to consult with a local attorney.

    Good luck to you.

    Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are... more
  4. Steven J. Fromm

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . Mr Haber offers sound advice. The only other alternative would be to call the insurance company explaining to them that there is no probate estate and that you paid these expenses individually and that any refund should be paid to you and not the estate. They may allow you to send back the check and have a new one issued to you individually, especially if it is a small amount. Otherwise you must probate her estate and get an EIN for the estate account.

    Hope this helps.

    Please remember to designate a best answer to your question.

    Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336 or his email address is sjfpc@comcast.net , his website for more tax, estate and business articles is www.sjfpc.com. and his blog is

    LEGAL DISCLAIMER Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia... more

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