A joint endorsement is a requirement that both parties to whom a check has been paid sign the back of the check. Otherwise, the bank will refuse to process it. This condition is meant to prevent one of the payees from cashing the check without the knowledge of the other payee. When a check is made out to a married couple, this requirement is waived because the funds are going into their joint account. When the check was issued by the US government, however, a joint endorsement is normally required.
The rules for joint endorsements differ depending on the state, bank, and even the type of check presented. Many banks, for example, will not ask both spouses to endorse checks made out to a married couple and put into their joint account; after all, the money is going into an account to which they both have access. Most banks, on the other hand, will require checks issued by the United States government, such as tax return checks, to be jointly endorsed, even if deposited into a joint account.
The manner in which the check is written can indicate whether or not a joint endorsement is required. If the two payee names on the check are separated by the word "and," or any symbol or abbreviation of the word "and," the bank may seek joint endorsement. As a result, a check made out to "Jane Doe and John Doe," "Jane Doe & John Doe," or "Jane Doe + John Doe" would be considered a joint endorsement. If the payee names on the check are separated by a simple comma, such as "Jane Doe, John Doe," any party can endorse the check. It should be noted that not all banks will adhere to these guidelines and may require a joint endorsement in any event.
In some cases, both participants for a joint endorsement must be present at the same moment to sign the check. A recently divorced couple, for example, when one of the spouses has acquired a restraining order against the other, may provide a dilemma for the bank because it is impossible to verify or ask for signatures on a check. In such circumstances, the bank works with both parties independently or requests a reprint of the joint check, written out to each individual separately.
Because many living arrangements involve roommates who share costs and duties but are not married or related, the topic of joint endorsements frequently arises in landlord-tenant relationships. The check may be made payable to both or all of the tenants specified on the lease when a landlord refunds a security deposit to tenants, with any variation of "and" between the names. The letters JT, which stand for "joint tenants," are frequently added after the names.
As the landlord's check can only be placed into one account, it becomes problematic when two unrelated housemates have separate bank accounts. Before it may be placed in one of the tenants' bank accounts, the refund check in this situation still needs to be jointly endorsed by both tenants. The depositor would then probably issue the other tenant a different check.
For checks with two or more beneficiaries, a joint endorsement is necessary.
Legally, the bank may seek joint endorsement if the two payee names on a check are separated by the word "and" or any sign or abbreviation of the word "and."
Any signature from either party shall be sufficient where the word "or" separates the names of the two payees.
Checks for tax refunds typically require mutual endorsements.