CARES Act

Stimulus Checks Sent to Dead Relatives

NBC 7 Responds explains what to do if a deceased loved one got a stimulus check

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Millions of people have already received their stimulus checks, including many dead taxpayers. That has left some San Diegans wondering what they should do with the money.

"We got a letter saying it had been direct deposited," said Jill Smith who lives in Point Loma. "The letter we received clearly said Marilyn Walker, deceased."

Smith couldn't believe the IRS would have sent a check to her dead mother when millions of people are still waiting on their money.

"I decided to return it because it's not my money and its the right thing to do," Smith said. "So many of my friends have tried to get their stimulus checks and still don't have it."

Smith isn't alone. She says she has five other friends who all got checks for their dead parents.

The Treasury Department told our sister station NBC Bay Area families should return the money. The department's email said that is because dead and incarcerated taxpayers do not qualify for the stimulus check.

"A Payment made to someone who died before receipt of the Payment should be returned to the IRS," read the email.

The letter saying Jill Smith's mother would be receiving a stimulus check even though she has died.

But returning the money has been very difficult. Smith was told to have the bank reverse the deposit, but she had trouble finding anyone at the bank who knew how to do it. That $1,200 is still in the account, more than a week after the bank supervisor said they try to fix it.

"I'm going to keep trying, but there is a limit for due diligence," Smith told NBC 7 Responds. "If my mother were here she would've said 'keep the money, they can get it after I'm dead.'"

The Treasury Department said there is another way to return the money. 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 check was deposited directly into an account:

  1. Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location.
  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 EIP.

In California, you should mail the check to:
Fresno Refund Inquiry Unit
5045 E Butler Avenue
Mail Stop B2007
Fresno, CA 93888

Smith is worried about sending a personal check because she had already asked the bank to reverse the transfer.

"I feel like if I wrote a check to [the IRS], somehow that is going to be even a bigger kerfuffle," said Smith. "They say take the high road because you'll see less people, but I can't find any people to help me."

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