Ever since the federal stimulus package, officially named the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed, promising relief payments of up to $1,200 per adult to millions of Americans, people have had questions regarding eligibility.  In some cases, stimulus checks were issued to deceased persons, raising questions: What do I do with the check? Should I spend it? Send it back? And if so, how?

That was the dilemma facing an unknown number of Americans who received $1,200 stimulus payments, via paper check or direct deposit, in the names of deceased spouses or other family members. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has provided an answer:  Send the money back.

On May 6, 2020, the IRS added new language to its Frequently Asked Questions page for Economic Impact Payments (i.e. stimulus checks) https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center, stating that people who have died are not eligible for payments.

Pursuant to the IRS website, a stimulus payment made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions provided for return of the payment.  Return the entire payment unless the payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the payment, in which case, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the decedent.

You should return the payment as described below:

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.
  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 paper check and you have cashed it, or if the payment was a direct deposit:

  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 write 2020EIP and the taxpayer identification number (social security number, or individual taxpayer identification number) of the recipient of the check.
  3. Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the Economic Impact Payment.

Each state has a specific address for mailing the returned stimulus payment. For New York State residents, the mailing address is:

Brookhaven Internal Revenue Service
5000 Corporate Ct.
Holtsville, New York 11742

If you have any questions about the above material or wish to speak to an attorney, please contact PB Elder Law at (716) 204-1055. PB Elder Law is located at 455 Cayuga Road, Suite 600, Buffalo, New York 14225.

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