Stimulus Check Relief for Spouses of Deceased People is Coming

The IRS will be sending new stimulus checks to widows and widowers who didn't get their original payment.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Right after the CARES Act was enacted, the IRS immediately began a mad scramble to get stimulus checks out to anxious Americans as quickly as possible. But, as you know, haste makes waste. By rushing to set up a system to process the $1,200 payments, some mistakes were made. One of those errors resulted in over 1 million stimulus checks being sent to dead people.

At first, the IRS didn't seem to be all that concerned over this oddity. However, after a while, the tax agency determined that deceased people shouldn't receive a stimulus check payment and asked the surviving spouse to return the payment. If a joint check was received, the living spouse only had to return that portion of the payment allocated to the deceased spouse.

Then the IRS went a step further. It started cancelling uncashed checks sent to deceased people. Unfortunately, that meant some joint stimulus checks sent to both the living spouse and the deceased one were cancelled, too.

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New Checks Will Be Issued

The IRS says it's fixing this problem. The tax agency announced that it will reissue payments to surviving spouses of deceased people who were unable to deposit the initial stimulus checks paid to both the deceased and surviving spouse.

For checks that were cancelled or returned, the surviving spouse will automatically receive their share of the payment. The IRS has not said when the reissued payments will arrive, though.

What About Second-Round Stimulus Checks?

While negotiations have broken down, there's still a chance that we'll get a second round of stimulus checks this year. Right now, there are two main stimulus check plans currently under consideration – the HEROES Act proposal (backed by Democrats) and the HEALS Act plan (backed by Republicans). The HEROES Act is silent when it comes to payments to dead people. However, the HEALS Act specifically excludes people who died before January 1, 2020, from the list of eligible recipients.

The HEALS Act would also retroactively declare people who died before 2020 to be ineligible for CARES Act stimulus payments. If that were to happen, then the IRS would still have to reissue checks for a living spouse's share of first-round stimulus money.

Rocky Mengle
Senior Tax Editor, Kiplinger.com

Rocky is a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, he worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky has a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.