Travelers Refuses To Believe Dad Is Dead, Sends Him Check For Mom’s Totaled Car

Charoo’s father is dead. Unfortunately, his name is still on the title of the car that he once owned, now driven by Charoo’s mom. She was in a car accident and the vehicle was totaled. Fine, just cut the lady a check so she can get a new car. Except the title was still in the name of both members of the couple, and the check has both of their names on it. Travelers refuses to issue a check to only Charoo’s mom, even with a death certificate and other documentation. Meanwhile, the bank refused to accept a check made out to a dead man.

My 75 year old mother unfortunately wrecked her car and broke her sternum. Her car was declared totaled and Traveler’s asked me to send in her signed title. The title was in my deceased father’s name and hers jointly. The agent asked me to send death certificate,power of attorney and signed title.

I sent all this and the will noting all proceeds go to my mother. Long story short, they send a check in my mothers and fathers name. No bank will cash it since he is not [here] to sign it nor is there an account in his name anymore. Multiple phone calls to Traveler’s gets her nowhere.

I called the senior agent [redacted] who says the legal department says they have to provide check as the title is written and there is nothing they can do. I ask why did I have to send in all of this documentation only to have an non cashable check. She told me to seek legal advise and nothing they can do. I asked to speak with their legal counsel to see how I can get a cashable check for her and she said no way.

My widowed mother with a broken sternum is now in tears concerned she will not be able to get a new car since since she can’t cash the check. I had to hire an attorney to rectify the situation. The customer service had to be the most uncaring and unhelpful of any company I have ever dealt with. I would never do business with them again.

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  1. humphrmi says:

    If the check is made out to him, his estate can accept the check. Basically it means that the executor (if it’s not his wife) can sign the check on his behalf.

    • evilpete says:

      That’s how I understand it also.

    • The Porkchop Express says:

      i thought that too. I would have tried that before (no offense to any attorneys on the site) some jerk got a cut of any money coming to her for the property damages.

    • cowboyesfan says:

      Being in the same situation, banks will not do this.

      They require opening an “estate account”.

    • chatterboxwriting says:

      I can’t even cash/deposit the checks from my wedding b/c they are made out to “Mr. and Mrs. Chatterboxwriting.” The only way the bank will take them is if I go through the name change process (new driver’s license and SS card) AND add my husband to my account (or he adds me to his account), which means they will run him through ChexSystems just like someone opening a brand new account. I can’t believe they would let her sign his name if he’s dead.

    • DFManno says:

      Not if the estate has been settled and closed. If that’s the case, the executor no longer has authority to sign for the deceased. Any bank would require VALID letters of administration to cash the check.

  2. DarkPsion says:

    Whomever was Executor of his will can sign for him on legal documents.

    • longfeltwant says:

      I didn’t know that, but it makes sense. Does that signing power extend forever?

      • cheri0627 says:

        IANAL but depending on the state, they may have to probate the will to make this work….

      • BBBB says:

        “Does that signing power extend forever?”

        Nope… that ends when the estate closes – to sign on behalf of the deceased, the estate would have to be reopened. If the executor is the wife or someone in the family, this would not be that difficult, but if the executor is a lawyer or a bank, they will take fees and a portion of the proceeds (amounts allowed depend on the state.)

        Another factor that can come into play is that the “letter of administration” that gives the executor power of attorney is only valid in the state it was issued (plus federal). Banks or government agencies will not accept the executor’s signature unless an in-state letter is obtained.

        - we ran into this with a DMV refusing to accept the transfer of title for a vehicle signed by an executor from another state.

        [the “letter of administration” has different names in some states.]

    • DarkPsion says:

      My dad had an insurance rebate check show up two years after he died, The bank cashed it once I showed them my executor certificate.

  3. Coffee says:

    Wow…if both of their names are on the check, it would behoove the bank to just suck it up and cash the check. Couldn’t they do so if they’re shown the death certificate? Also, something tells me that a widower wouldn’t have the same problem getting a similar check cashed…

    • ajaxd says:

      Just how would the bank know who is supposed to get the inheritance? It’s an assumption to think that the wife gets everything. Whatever the case, it is just not legal for the bank to cash it without 2 signatures.

      • Lyn Torden says:

        Documentation!

        • BBBB says:

          From Bankersonline (and this agrees with what my local bank manager told me however, some banks are extra conservative in their interpretation of the rules after they get burned by having checks rejected. I’ve had a bank make me re-endorse a check because I didn’t include my full middle name as written on the check):

          If the check is payable unambiguously to two or more
          persons with the conjunction “AND,” all payees should
          endorse. If the conjunction “OR” is used, any of the
          payees may endorse. If there is no conjunction, but
          a virgule (/) is used, it’s the same as “OR.” Some would
          argue that when the payees are “stacked” as in

          John Burnett
          Andy Zavoina
          123 BOL Board
          Ethernet, anywhere

          one should assume “AND” and require both
          signatures. Others (with whom I agree) say
          that stacked names fall into the “ambiguous”
          category unless there is an “AND,” so either
          could endorse. Throw all that out when it comes
          to tax refund checks. If two names are listed, get
          both payees to endorse.

  4. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Depends. How long ago did Dad die? Before or after the last plate renewal?

  5. KitanaOR says:

    I had a similar situation years ago when I was rear-ended and then suddenly had to leave town for a family emergency. The shop fixed the car and the insurance wrote out a check to me AND the shop. I was 600 miles away.

    Why do they write checks out to me and the shop when the check isn’t going in my account? The answer was, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” “Why?” “Because that’s the way we do it.” D=

    So for my husband (but then, boyfriend) to get the car, the agent had to void the current check, write out another to the bf and the shop. But the bf needed the car before the check arrived, so when he went to pick up the car, he had to sign over a power of attorney, so that when the shop got the actual check, the bf didn’t have to go back and sign it. Meanwhile, the agent called the shop and told them the “check’s in the mail.”

    • CrazyEyed says:

      Similar to how home insurance works. If the amount is larger than whatever threshold they define, they have to get the individual or company that performs the fixes to the home to confirm that certain repairs are made. Once confirmed, the insurance company releases additional funds. They do this to ensure you are using the money for the damaged posession.

      • KitanaOR says:

        That’s understandable. But why put my name on the check, then?

        • Sudonum says:

          So you have to sign the check as an acknowledgement that work was completed satisfactorily. Otherwise the body shop could cash the check without actually fixing the car.

  6. who? says:

    We had all sorts of problems like this when Mom died, including the check to the funeral home bouncing because the bank froze Dad’s account. Mom had already been taken off the account, but whatever. 6 years later, I had to dig out her death certificate to get her name off of a safe deposit box at a (different) bank where she’d been removed from all accounts years before. I hope Charoo and her mom finds a quick solution to this.

    That said, how long has it been since Charoo’s dad died? The car title is an easy thing to overlook, but if the car title is in the name of “Charoo’s Mom AND Charoo’s Dad”, then it’s hard to fault the insurance company. Legally, the car is still owned by two people, so they have to write the check to two people.

    • evilpete says:

      I had a problem of the bank refusing to freeze the account, till it was bled dry by the bank’s auto pay for her credit card. A which point they tried to get me ( the executor of the estate ) for overdrawn fees.

      • otherfred says:

        When my Mom died, the bank somehow didn’t close it properly, and somebody was able to purchase and activate a cellphone by direct bank transfer from her account. Meanwhile, we’d written the final check to empty the account, with the result that it was overdrawn, which meant a fee, and below the minimum, which meant another fee, and so on.

        Fortunately the bank was easy about correcting it, since everything that went wrong was their fault.

  7. chiieddy says:

    Why not get the title changed to just the mother’s name? MA has an affidavit of surviving spouse, for example – http://www.mass.gov/rmv/forms/title.htm

    • benbell says:

      This is the correct response.

      Unless they live in a community property estate and the husbands estate was insolvent(which assuming she still has the car, neither is true) then the day the husband died, the car was legally hers. Will or no will, doesn’t matter, the car passes outside of probate and will because it was jointly titled. Any jointly titled asset will pass to the spouse outside of probate.

      The mother can simply get a new title for the car, send it to travelers and have them send the check.

      Done, case closed.

  8. homehome says:

    broke her sternum? ouch. I can’t imagine how painful that is right now.

  9. sagodjur says:

    This wouldn’t have been a problem if the dad just hadn’t died. I blame the dad!

  10. Rivercat says:

    Large institutions can be amazingly disorganized when dealing with a deceased person. My dad passed away in 2008 and Wells Fargo still sent tax forms to his old address until the end of 2011. Nothing else, just the 1099s.

  11. oldgraygeek says:

    I have a small business, and I deposit a lot of checks through my bank’s ATM because they charge me a fee if I go to the twller window too often.

    All one needs to do in such a situation is the following:
    1. Write
    FOR DEPOSIT ONLY
    12345-67890 (account number)
    on the back of the check.
    2. Put it in an ATM envelope and deposit it.

    I don’t care who it’s made out to — her dead husband, Sookie Stackhouse, or Mel Gibson’s beaver — it will clear. Unless accepting the check was fraud, nobody will ever care about it.

    • seth_lerman says:

      Came here to say the same. I even had a self-inked stamp for doing this. Never had an issue.

      To this day checks that come in made out to me my wife merely write’s the same “For deposit only” with account number and has zero issues depositing them.

    • majic2516 says:

      First time I’ve ever heard the phrase “Mel Gibson’s beaver”.

      • oldgraygeek says:

        That movie was on in the background as I was typing. I think that’s going to be my new Internet name.

    • AllanG54 says:

      Sorry, they’ll return it. Banks are getting very pissy and even though I could always deposit third party checks in my business account I can’t do it anymore. If the check’s not made out to me or made out to me and someone else it’s not getting in my account.

      • Conformist138 says:

        the “me and someone else” part would save her- the check is for her AND her husband, so her name is on the check, just so is his as well. I bet the bank wouldn’t return it in that case.

      • calchip says:

        I don’t know who you bank with, but at BofA, for deposits made at the ATM, I strongly suspect a human never even sees the check at all. As long as there’s a valid account number and the OCR can read the decimal check amount, I am confident you could deposit a check made payable to Attila the Hun and put “Don’t pay a goddamn red cent and no/oo” in the written amount line, endorse it Donald Duck… and as long as the routing and account number are correct and there are funds in the account… the check would clear with no problem. I’ve not *quite* done that, but close, and never had a problem.

    • baristabrawl says:

      You can consider that stolen. Mel Gibson’s Beaver? Hi-larious.

    • Greggen says:

      VERY DANGEROUS.

      Several years ago, right after my ex and I separated, I had a check written out to both of us. I had recently opened my own bank account at wells fargo.

      I had her sign it, I signed it, and deposited it into an ATM. It took 4 days for WF to reverse the deposit, TEN days for them to mail back the check (and WF did not give a crap if the SIGNED AND ENDORSED CHECK would have been lost in the mail)

      They claimed that they did not have ex’s signature on file so they could not accept the check.

      Your advise was very bad.

  12. sirwired says:

    Why can’t the bank accept the check? If she’s the executor of the estate, she can accept the check on the estate’s behalf, and her own behalf, and she’s done.

    I don’t blame the insurance company at all. The insurance company has nothing to do with estate arrangements, and it’s not going to do things like judge the validity of a will. How does the insurance company know that “his” ownership interest in the car wasn’t supposed to go to somebody else besides the wife? They don’t.

    • kobresia says:

      Yep, I was going to say pretty much the same thing. It doesn’t matter what someone claims the situation is, the insurance company’s only option is to write the check to the policy holder(s), exactly as they are on the policy. It’s a pretty big hassle if someone goes through a name change or dies, but there are legal provisions for that. Speaking with the insurance agent to revise the policy in a timely manner would’ve avoided a crisis, but now it is what it is.

    • CubeRat says:

      The bank might be able to do this is both the parents name are on the same account, but I don’t really know. I suspect they do not for another reason: they do not know if the father’s name on the account is in fact the same person who is on the car title.

      Like many families, we have two instances where a father and son have the EXACT same name. My brother and his son were both named John Q Smith, many businesses, including the hospital my nephew was admitted to, have confused the two people. The mail order pharmacy keeps sending my brother’s heart medication to my nephew (they lived in different states and my nephew is now deceased.)
      My uncle (by marriage) and his son have the same name. When the father passed away, many of the son’s accounts were marked as “deceased”. My cousin is a doctor, and the HR dept of hospital where he works was notified that he was now dead. Even years after his father passed, he still encounters problems.

  13. msmith6044 says:

    I receivd several checks in my late wife’s name after she passed away, and my bank just had me sign my own name with the notation “power of attorney” No problem.

  14. Lyn Torden says:

    Don’t use multiple phone calls … use multiple lawsuits. Well, start with ONE lawsuit.

    • who? says:

      Not sure what you mean. Lawsuit against who? The Mom, who didn’t get the car title changed? Or the insurance company, who was following the law? As others have mentioned, there are legal ways to get the bank to cash the check as written. The insurance company didn’t do anything wrong.

  15. mysterydate98 says:

    Sorry, but I blame the OP. If steps were taken, as they sound like they have, to either remove the fathers name from the bank account or close one account and open a new one with just the mother’s name, they they should have covered ALL bases and removed the father’s name from the car title as well. I wonder what the reasoning was behind doing one and not the other?

  16. do-it-myself says:

    I didn’t realize car titles COULD be jointly owned…

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      Yes, that’s odd.

    • who? says:

      Joint car titles are really common, especially with married couples. The title can be “Bob AND Mary” or “Bob OR Mary”. The difference is that if it’s owned by Bob AND Mary, then Bob and Mary both have a full interest in the car, and Bob can’t sell the car without Mary’s signature. This is the situation OP’s mom is in, and the cause of the problem with the check. If the title were Bob OR Mary, then either Bob or Mary could sell the car out from under the other owner, and the insurance company could write the check just to OP’s mom.

      My wife and have joint title to our cars, but use OR on the title. It requires more trust than using AND, especially since we weren’t married yet when we bought the cars, but we figured it would be simpler if one of us died or was incapacitated, and the other one needed to deal with the car.

    • chiieddy says:

      Not so odd. I have a joint title on a car with my husband.

  17. bhr says:

    These seems like less of an insurance issue and more of a bank issue.

  18. bwcbwc says:

    Here’s a question: why didn’t the executor of the estate get the title on the car changed after death? Not sure I’d trust the same executor to sign the check right, even assuming the banks take it.

  19. frodolives35 says:

    This should be titled. Insurance company discovers knew way to screw the customer and hold onto money longer. Big surprise.

  20. consumerfan says:

    They aren’t actually being uncaring or unhelpful, despite appearance. They cannot resolve the issue, since it’s a legal one. They cannot offer legal advice either.

    They advised the OP to see legal advice which is exactly the thing to do. Any decent lawyer will know what to do.

    Lawyer up!

  21. Robert Nagel says:

    Give the bank the executor papers, the death certificate and don’t volunteer that the estate is closed. They don’t ask that question.
    Alternately, forge his name on the check and deposit it in your mom’s account. If he comes back from the dead to sue you, so be it.

  22. Levk says:

    So… Instead of reissuing the check, they going to have to reissue it and the legal fees, BRILLIANT!! Such a great money saving idea!!! I can feel the economy picking up as we speak!