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Using Checking Account of the Deceased: Fraud?

If someone signs checks out on a dead person's checking account, is that fraud? To whom should I report it?

If the checks are written with the knowledge that the depositor is deceased, fraud could be involved. A lot could depend on the purpose of the checks and who benefits from their being written. For example, an attorney-in-fact's authority to write checks on an account ends with the death of the account's sole owner, but what if the only checks this individual writes after the owner's death are to pay final expenses: medical bills for a last illness and funeral costs? That could correctly come from the estate of the deceased. What if the attorney-in-fact is the only surviving family member of the deceased, who will ultimately received whatever is left of the estate? Those checks are probably not fraudulent. If an attorney-in-fact continues writing checks on an account ignorant of the fact that the account owner has died, most state laws give legal effect to the payments.

If you believe that someone with fraudulent intent used funds in a decedent's account, one party to tell would be the executor or administrator of the estate. Depending on the facts, you might consider informing the bank, and of course there is always the option to notify the police.

Published on 8/25/09