‘Lost’ check will clear bank eventually

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Dear Dr. Don,
We wrote a check two months ago that has never cleared our account. We went to the payee, but they said it had been credited in their account.

How long should we wait for it to clear? Is there a time limit? We have talked to our bank, but no one can give us answers on what to do.

Terri Tracking

Dear Terri,
Don’t spend that money in your account. Sooner or later, the banks involved will get their acts together and the outstanding check will clear through your account.

It’s not found money, and spending it on something else will eventually leave you short in the account.

The check will never become a “stale dated” check — meaning a check presented for payment six months or more after the date on the check — because the check has already been presented for payment.

Placing a “stop payment” on the check also isn’t going to work, for the same reason: the check has already been presented for payment.

Now, it’s just a matter of the banks’ account reconciliation processes catching up with the debiting of the wrong account. You would expect two months of time to be sufficient, but the clock is still ticking.

Since the payee received good funds, an account was charged for that check. While laws vary by state, the time limit for the bank to correct this error is measured in years, not months.

A paper trail showing that you identified the error with your bank is a good idea. Write the branch manager and describe the situation and what actions you have taken to date. Keep a copy for your records.

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