IRS Guidance on Stimulus Checks for the Deceased

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Since the passage of the CARES Act, we’ve received a lot of questions about the Economic Impact Payments (EIP), also known as “stimulus checks”. Among the most sensitive issues that has been brought to our attention are payments sent to a deceased person.

When legislation like this gets passed through Congress quickly, there are often unforeseen circumstances or situations that that are not specifically addressed in the law. In these cases, we have no choice but to wait for official guidance on how to handle them. A few weeks after the stimulus checks were disbursed, we received an update and hope to address some of the most common questions we’ve been asked.

Answers To Commonly Asked Questions

I have a check payable to a deceased person – do I have to return the funds?

As we mentioned above, we have had several members reach out to us and ask what to do about checks being sent to recently deceased family members. In the official update that was issues on May 6th, the IRS states that these checks should be returned. Question 10 in the EIP FAQs doc says that if the check recipient died before the payment was received, they are not eligible and the payment should be returned to the IRS.

What if the recipient in question passed after the CARES Act became law, but before the stimulus checks were sent?

First and foremost, we’re very sorry for your loss. According to the IRS update, the most important date is when the payment was received – either the date of electronic funds deposit or receipt of check by mail – if the payment recipient died before that date, the funds should be returned.

My spouse passed away, but the stimulus check is payable to both of us? What do I do?

This situation is also addressed in Question 10 of the FAQ. If the payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the payment, the surviving spouse should return the portion of the payment made to the deceased spouse. For example, if you received a check for $2,400 and your spouse has passed away, the IRS guidance is to return $1,200 of that payment.

Why is the government sending checks to dead people?

When a person dies, there are a number of factors that can create a delay between death and updating official records, particularly when it comes to the breadth of government agencies and services that need to be notified. As a result, deceased people receiving money is not uncommon. The most frequent occurrence is monthly social security payments, which are returned through a process called reclamation.

How do I return a payment?

The May 6th update also included instructions on how to return a payment in Question 41. Here is the guidance provided:

If the payment was a paper check:

  1. Write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
  2. Mail the voided Treasury check immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
  3. Don’t staple, bend, or paper clip the check.
  4. Include a note stating the reason for returning the check.

If the payment was a direct deposit or a paper check that has already been cashed or deposited:

  1. Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
  2. Write on the check/money order made payable to “U.S. Treasury” and then write “2020EIP” and the taxpayer identification number (social security number, or individual taxpayer identification number) of the recipient of the check.
  3. Include a note with a brief explanation of the reason for returning the EIP.

There are several different processing locations for returned payments. For Virginia residents, the address is:

Atlanta Refund Inquiry Unit
4800 Buford Hwy
Mail Stop 112
Chamblee, GA 30341

Your processing location may be different if you are not a Virginia resident, so be sure to check the FAQ for more information.



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