My Deceased Family Member Received a COVID-19 Stimulus Check, Now What?

May 6, 2020

There has been significant publicity surrounding the issue of deceased individuals receiving stimulus checks under the CARES Act.  It is far more common than you may think, simply because of the speed in which our government operated to send out the payments.  The stimulus checks were issued to individuals that met certain income requirements and who had filed income tax returns in 2018 and 2019.  Any individual who died after the filing of such return was not automatically removed from the IRS mailing list.  Under normal circumstances, the IRS cross checks its list against the Social Security Administration’s list of deaths to remove any deceased individuals from IRS mailings.  In this instance, the IRS did not have the time to cross check its list when issuing the stimulus checks.

There are some family members who have chosen to cash the stimulus checks that were mailed to deceased family members.  Those individuals are of the opinion that there is nothing in the CARES Act that requires them to return the checks.  However, last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that stimulus checks that were sent to deceased individuals must be returned.

So, how do you return a check your deceased relative or friend received?  So far, it’s not clear how taxpayers should return the money.  Until there is further guidance from the federal government, we are recommending you retain proof you mailed the check back to the IRS or retain the check without cashing it and wait for guidance from the federal government.  Our team at Ruder Ware will update you as soon as further guidance is received.

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