Cashing Government Checks and Estate Checks

Cashing a government check is simple. The process is the same as cashing a company or private party check. However, if you need to cash an estate check, it's a bit more involved. You can't cash an estate check until you've officially established the estate and set up an estate account.

Can a U.S. Treasury Income Tax Refund Check Be Endorsed by the Payee & Cashed by Someone Else?

There are no rules to prevent a payee from endorsing a U.S. Department of Treasury check and depositing it in someone else's account. However, the account owner can't just cash a check that belongs to another person. All checks, especially government checks, are subject to scrutiny. If a Treasury check is deposited by someone who is not a payee, the bank can hold the check for up to two business days.

Can You Amend Taxes After Cashing the Check?

You can amend your return even if you've already cashed the refund check. The IRS might correct simple errors in math and might even accept returns missing certain forms or schedules. In these cases, it isn't necessary to amend your return. However, you should amend your return if there are errors in your filing status, income, dependents, or credits. If you're amending the return to claim an additional refund, the IRS suggests cashing the original check while you wait. Even if you are going to owe extra taxes, you can go ahead and cash the check. Just make sure you set money aside to repay the debt. If you don't pay right away, you'll accumulate interest and penalties.

Can You Cash a Check Made Out to an Estate if the Estate Is Not Probated?

To cash a check payable to the estate, probate is generally necessary. Probate is the legal process that is usually court-supervised and facilitates changing the ownership of assets from the deceased to his beneficiaries and heirs. If there is a will, the person named as executor is given the authority to control the assets; if there isn't a will, the court appoints an estate administrator to assume this responsibility. At the beginning of the probate process, the executor sets up an estate bank account to deposit and distribute estate assets. If you receive a check made out to the estate -- and the estate is not being probated -- you might have to initiate the probate process. Some states offer a simplified probate procedure for small estates, or allow you to submit a small estate affidavit to the probate court to obtain the authority to handle the affairs of the estate. As probate is a state matter, it is advisable to consult a probate attorney who is familiar with your state's probate laws.

Can You Cash a Check Made out to a Personal Representative of an Estate?

The terms, "executor'" and “personal representative" are often used interchangeably. They both refer to the person named in a will to manage the distribution of the estate. If you are appointed as personal representative of an estate, you can cash a check that is payable to you or payable to the estate. You'll need to endorse the check with your signature and provide documentation to certify your role.

How Much Time Does It Take for a Check to Be Cashed?

If you bring the check to the issuing bank, you can typically have it cashed immediately. However, if you want to cash the check at a different bank, they might place a hold on the check until it clears. If you are cashing the check at a bank with which you have an account, the bank might give you the cash, but place a hold on your account for the amount of the check, just in case the check doesn't clear. The length of time it takes a check to clear depends on the amount and the issuing bank. U.S. Treasury and local or state government checks payable to you are available on the first business day following the deposit. For checks greater than $5,000, the excess funds are usually held for an extra business day.


About the Author

Jeannine Mancini, a Florida native, has been writing business and personal finance articles since 2003. Her articles have been published in the Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida.