If you are the executor or administrator of the estate, you will have the authority necessary to go to the bank that issued the check and get copies of the documents your mom signed at the time she opened the account and any beneficiary designation that your mom thereafter executed. That should either confirm that you are correct that the beneficiary on the account was indeed a "random stranger" or that your mom intentionally designated that person as a beneficiary. If that person's name does not appear on the bank documents, then you should provide copies of the documents to the agency that handles unclaimed property in your state.
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 limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.
Mr Haber as always provides sound advice and strategies to solve a problem. The point here is that this could very well be a fraudulent situation. In any event, you need real proof as to such fraud, so Mr. Haber has laid out the plan to get at the true facts. Get on this right away and consider having an estates attorney assist you.
Hope this helps.
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I am not sure that the bank if where you need to go on this. My guess is that the bank is completely off the hook, once they distribute the property to the state. In my opinion, you need to work with the Michigan Treasury Department to determine what has taken place here, and whether there is any recourse. Whether you need to become Personal Representative in order to pursue this or not is unclear. Since this would not have been an estate asset in the first place, I would think that you can deal with the estate without needing to go to probate. But it is my guess that you may need an attorney to help you navigate this, as well. If the State does not provide you with a solution, then you are going to need help.
Best of luck to you!
I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.