When someone writes you a check with your name misspelled, it is not automatically void. The Uniform Commercial Code contains provisions that allow you to cash or deposit a check with misspellings, a wrong name and other identification errors. However, individual banks have their own policies and may refuse to accept a check without proof of identity.
If your name has been misspelled on your check, you are not alone. This common error can be remedied relatively easy by providing your bank with verifiable identification when you attempt to cash it.
Uniform Commercial Code Provisions
UCC Article 3 stipulates that a check is payable to the intended recipient of the check, even if the check features the wrong name. This extends beyond simple misspellings, such as Ashleigh instead of Ashley, to checks featuring a nickname instead of the legal name of the recipient. If, for example, Aunt Agatha sends a check to Johnny Smith and the bank account name is John Smith, the check belongs to him and can be cashed.
Cashing the Check
When you prepare to cash a check with a simple error, such as a missing letter on your name, sign the back of the check with the misspelled name and your proper name. If the check features an egregious identification problem, like the use of a nickname, endorse the back of the check with both the nickname and your legal name. The use of both signatures lets you establish your identity as the payee named on the check while also providing your legal name.
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Each bank, and even individual branch offices of a larger bank, follow different check-cashing and identification policies. A local branch office where the tellers know you may not question a check featuring a nickname, but a different branch might ask for proof of identification and not accept a check with an alternate payee name.
If your bank refuses to cash or deposit the check, request a copy of your Deposit Account Agreement to verify that the policy exists. Your bank may also let you deposit the check with a temporary hold on the deposit amount until it clears.
Checks Written to a Business Name
While a provision in the UCC states that checks made out to the name of an organization not established as a legal entity can be cashed or deposited by a representative, many banks only allow you to deposit checks written to a business in a business account. Until you formally register your business or business name with the state and open a business checking account, insist that clients pay you with checks payable to your legal name to avoid hassles.
If you still receive a check listing your business name, such as Jane Smith Photography Services, as the payee instead of Jane Smith, ask your bank if you can deposit the funds in your account with a double-endorsement featuring both the business name and your name. If your business is unincorporated, the bank may allow the deposit, particularly if you have a good reputation as a depositor or agree to let the bank place the funds on hold until the check clears.
Ashley Mott has 12 years of small business management experience and a BSBA in accounting from Columbia. She is a full-time government and public safety reporter for Gannett.