Banking and commercial practices consider a check stale when it was written long ago and the person to whom it was written never cashed it.
Will a Bank Honor a Stale Check I Wrote?
Unless you write on the check that it will not be valid after a certain number of days, banks may honor the check. Generally, banks are not required to honor checks that were written more than six months prior. In some states, a bank will consult with the person who wrote the check if it is presented with a check older than six months. Certified checks, which are guaranteed by a financial institution, cannot go stale and will be honored at any time.
What Can I Do if My Bank Honored a Stale Check without My Permission?
Your bank is not responsible for any damage to you if they honor a stale check in good faith. If your bank did not act in good faith, an attorney may determine what remedies are available to you.
How Do I Know if My Bank Acted in "Good Faith?"
While there is no definitive definition of "good faith," there is some consensus as to what it means. Essentially, a bank acted in good faith if they did not notice the date of the check. However, if a bank employee notices the date of the check before cashing it, and does not consult you, courts will often determine the bank acted in bad faith.
Is There Anything I Can Do to Prevent a Stale Check from Being Honored?
Most likely a bank employee will not notice the date the check was written. Besides writing a "valid until" notice on the check, you can contact your bank and request a stop payment if the check has not been cashed yet.
What Can I Do if a Bank Will Not Cash a Stale Check?
While a bank may no longer accept a check dated more than six months ago, the person who wrote the check is still liable to you for the debt or obligation that they wrote the check for.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
An attorney specializing in banking laws or regulations may advise you of your remedies if you believe a bank honored a stale check in bad faith. If you are unable to cash a stale check, a business lawyer can help you recover the debt or obligation from the person who owes you the money.