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I am receiving payments from a lawsuit in my favor, with three other plaintiffs.

The payments we are receiving are personal checks, made out to all off the plaintiffs with 'and' joining the names.

The defendant will not remove the other names, or use 'or' on the checks while making payments.

In order to retrieve all the signatures, the check would have to be mailed 350+ miles and make two stops.

Is there any possible way I can deposit the check with ONLY my signature?

  • Tried depositing it at the ATM? – CQM Mar 19 '15 at 9:33
  • My bank does not have a physical presence. It's almost entirely online. I could deposit it from my phone, but I'm worried about my bank or the other back rejecting it. – Jonah H. Mar 19 '15 at 15:41
  • do they have an app? Many banks allow you to photograph the check with your phone to deposit it. (but with arbitrary $$$ limits) – CQM Mar 19 '15 at 16:03
  • They do, but I'm worried about repercussions from either bank or the person who wrote the check. – Jonah H. Mar 19 '15 at 16:43
  • You're receiving one check each period which the four of you jointly deserve the proceeds? Or you're each receiving a check separately per period with just what you deserve? In the former case, I think the defendant likely is doing this precisely correctly. – Joe Mar 19 '15 at 17:39
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If some clerk at the bank misses it, you may be able. Technically you shouldn't be allowed to. All three have to sign.

  • I use USAA so I don't have a physical bank to go in to. I can deposit it from my phone, but I'm worried about one bank rejecting it. Additionally, the defendant has threatened legal action (although I'm not sure it would do anything) if we don't all sign the checks. – Jonah H. Mar 19 '15 at 15:44
  • @Crazydog the defendant may have a case though. What's the problem mailing the check to the rest of the parties? – littleadv Mar 19 '15 at 16:30
  • The problem is we are expecting about about 20 more checks, and it will be a nightmare mailing a check 350 miles, with two stops, every month, for nearly the next two years. – Jonah H. Mar 19 '15 at 16:44
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    @Crazydog talk to the lawyer that represented you in the lawsuit to see how the payout provisions can be amended. The losing party has no incentive to make your life any less miserable, so yeah - you're stuck with this unless you can change the terms of the settlement payout. Judge approval may be required as well. – littleadv Mar 20 '15 at 6:03
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You mentioned that this was a high-trust situation where you all were trusting of each other and willing to open a bank account together.

Given that high trust environment, here's an unusual solution that may work for you.

Person B and Person C could each send a very limited power of attorney letter to Person A allowing Person A to sign checks from a certain party and deposit them into the account. Person A could then wire/transfer/mail another check to Person B and Person C for the money.

It would take some effort to set up the limited power of attorney document, but then it would be easy for one person to deposit the checks and send the money around.

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The only alternative to having your very own monthly chain letter ("if you don't pass this letter on, you and three other people will lose money!") that I'm aware of is talking with a bank (you'll need to talk with a personal banker) or similar escrow service that will allow you to open an account jointly. The bank may or may not allow you to skip signing individually, but with shared responsibility for the account it may be possible. Effectively this is a limited partnership with a joint bank account, so only one person needs to have signing/withdrawal authority - but this may have tax implications and other complications, too!

What you really want to do is have an effective escrow service: one party accepts a payment on behalf of multiple people, and then that party distributes the money as appropriate to the signed agreements. If - and it's definitely an IF - a company/service would agree to such a thing, you could just sign an agreement once and forward the check to them. They will cash it using their established legal/banking agreements and in accordance with existing regulations, and then distribute the money as agreed.

There will be a fee for this service, of course, and it is subject to this actually being something an escrow company is willing and able to do for you.

Alternatively, if there is only four or five of you and you are all on good terms, then I would spend just a little time setting up a system so this can be quick and relatively painless. Get yourself postage paid envelopes and print out some address labels for everyone, and send these out to everyone.

Have the check sent to person A. A signs the check, puts it into prepaid and pre-addressed envelope and sticks it in mail box (if you are worried about it getting lost you may want to spring for a tracking/certified mailing) to person B. B repeats and sends to C, C sends to D, and D signs and puts in the bank and distributes the funds as appropriate. 5 minutes of time per month and two weeks of calendar waiting (if you don't spring for express shipping), and then you have your money.

In legal matters it really often is better to get permission rather than seek forgiveness, so I would strongly encourage you to talk with a lawyer and/or a banker before doing anything other than the manual mailing method, as you've been planning.

In short, the legal system is inconvenient, grinding, and often deeply antiquated, so don't expect anything terribly convenient or time-saving from it - it's almost as if most of the people involved get paid by the hour, or something, inside a system that seems to practically worship paper and tradition. Go figure!

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