If you discover a personal check made out to you more than six months ago, it might be too late to receive the funds. Under federal law, banks are under no obligation to pay a check to a customer with an account if that check is older than six months. Although that holds true for personal checks, banks must honor older certified checks.

Stale Checks

Personal checks dated more than six months previously are considered "stale." You can try depositing it into your account, but if the bank declines to accept it you could be liable for rejection fees. More likely, the bank will extend the amount of time in which funds normally would be available. There's a much higher risk that a check issued six months prior can't be collected. Your best bet might be contacting the individual who wrote the original check and ask him to write you a new one. If you find an old certified check, go ahead and deposit it. They never expire, as the bank certified that the funds were available and removed them from the account when issuing the check.