Stimulus Check Bad News: Some Americans Have to Give Money Back

Stimulus Check Bad News: Some Americans Have to Give Money Back

Question: What if a check comes in the names of both the deceased spouse and a living one? 


The stimulus checks from the American Rescue Plan are continuing to go out, handing out checks for $1,400 to most eligible Americans. 

But what happens if your spouse passed away, and you received their stimulus check? 


It’s a bit of a morbid question, but with nearly everyone in the country getting the checks, it’s something that’s undoubtedly happened a nontrivial amount of times, especially during a pandemic. 

MLive recently looked at that question

“Individuals who were deceased before January 1, 2021, if they received a payment, that money will have to be returned to the IRS,” IRS spokesperson Luis D. Garcia told the site. However, that’s not the case if the spouse died after the new year. 

“If you filed a joint return for last year, a 2020 return, you’re eligible for the $1,400. It’s when the return was filed, not what year it was filed. If the spouse died after the filing, you can keep it,” Garcia told the site.

What if a check comes in the names of both the deceased spouse and a living one? 

“A spouse who received a check in both names can keep the money, but must return it to the IRS and include a letter requesting a new stimulus payment be reissued in the surviving spouse’s name only,” the report said. “Make sure to include your social security numbers in the letter to the IRS.”

The AARP also looked at the question of stimulus checks for those who are deceased. It found that when the CARES Act stimulus was sent out in the spring of 2020, the IRS sent checks to 1.1 million dead people, with the checks totaling $1.4 billion. The IRS told those people to return the money. 

“A payment made to someone who died before they received the payment should be returned to the IRS. Return the entire payment unless it was made to joint filers and one spouse is still living. In that case, return half the payment, but not more than $1,200,” the IRS said on its website, while also encouraging those reading it to tell their friends. 

“If someone can't deposit a check because it was issued to both spouses and one spouse has died, the individual should return the check. Once the IRS receives and processes the returned payment, an Economic Impact Payment will be reissued to the surviving spouse.”

There is a similar dynamic with elections, as on occasion someone will file their absentee ballot and then pass away between the filing of the ballot and election day. Some states allow the person’s vote to count in that scenario, while others do not. 

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters