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Stimulus Checks Issued to Deceased People

A few weeks ago I wrote about Stimulus checks, the part of the CARES Act that gives one time payments of $1200 to every American whose adjusted gross income is $75,000 or less (and a smaller amount for those with income between $75,000 and $99,000).  Since then, some people have received the payments direct deposited into their bank accounts while others have received checks in the mail.

Because of the scope of the program and the speed with which it has been implemented, problems were to be expected.  We have been contacted by family members and legal representatives of clients who have died and received payments.  In some cases checks have been issued to people recently deceased and in other cases  stimulus payments have been sent to people who died well before the COVID-19 crisis – in some cases 2 years before.

I was interviewed for a CBS News story about this issue ( and stated that guidance would need to be provided regarding who is entitled to keep the payments and who must return them. That same day the IRS finally clarified the issue on its website.  Payments made to someone who died before receipt of the payment must be returned (including people alive when the law passed but died before receiving the payment).  In the case of married couples who received $2400 if one has died then only $1200 should be returned.  The IRS also provides specific instructions as to how and where to send the money back, depending on whether you received it via direct deposit or paper check.  For more information go to specifically Questions 10 and 41.