When you are ready to cash checks payable to the estate of a deceased person, there is a certain process you will need to follow. You have to be the executor of the estate to cash the checks. To become an executor, you apply through the probate court and obtain the necessary paperwork. You will also need an employer tax Identification number, issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), so that you can open a current account in the name of the estate.
Obtain a Letter of Administration. To become an executor of the estate, you will need to file a proceeding in probate court, in the same county where the deceased passed away. This process allows you to file a petition for a Letter of Administration. You will be required to attend a hearing set by the probate court to establish the validity of the deceased’s will. The deceased next of kin will also be notified. Once you receive your Letter of Administration, you are officially assigned as the administrator or executor of the estate.
Get your Employer Identification Number (EIN). Call the IRS: a representative will ask you some questions and then assign an EIN immediately. You can also apply for an EIN online at the IRS website (see references).
Open a bank account in the name of the estate. An example of how the account name should read would be: “The estate of James Johnson, (deceased)." Take the appropriate documentation including a photo ID. (Acceptable forms of identification include driver’s license, state identification, passport and military identification.) You will also need to bring the letter of administration and your EIN.
Endorse the check. Sign the check on the back and include the word "executor" after your signature. The phrase, "For the estate of James Johnson," using our example, should also follow the word executor, according to Banking Questions website. The check can now be deposited into the estate account.
You can fax a completed form SS-4 to the IRS and receive an employer identification number in approximately one week. Or call the IRS at (800) 829-4933.