Stimulus checks: What happens to payments sent to deceased Americans?

ByMichael Finney KABC logo
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Treasury Dept. wants stimulus money back from dead recipients
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Millions of deceased Americans received an economic impact payment, leaving their surviving relatives wondering what to do with them. Now, the Treasury Department wants the money back.

As millions of Americans continue to wait for their stimulus check, some are receiving extra checks for deceased relatives and loved ones.

While extra money seems like a bonus, many families are wondering: Do I need to pay it back?

It's unclear.

President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have said that these payments should be returned to the government. However, the IRS has yet to issue formal guidance, saying it's aware of the problem and working to resolve it.

"You're not supposed to keep that payment," Mnuchin said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "We're checking the databases, but there could be a scenario where we missed something, and yes, the heirs should be returning that money."

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Under the CARES Act, Americans receive checks based solely on their tax returns for 2018 or 2019. So if a person died after filing a return in those years, chances are they're getting a check.

Experts say because of a lag in reporting data on who is deceased, the error is almost inevitable and has occurred with past stimulus payments as well.

AARP recommends that those who receive a deceased person's relief funds should hold onto the money until the IRS resolves this issue. They say experts recommend that people do not cash, deposit or spend money from a check received in error.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.