Families receive stimulus checks for deceased relatives

Payments add to confusion of economic impact
How to get your stimulus check faster
Posted at 4:03 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 19:35:29-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mark Preston, a recently-retired Kansas City resident, lost his father in June 2018.

He and his brother of co-trustees of their father's estate and got a surprising piece of mail addressed to him.

"Last week we received a stimulus check for my father," Preston told 41 Action News.

Preston is not alone. Economic impact payments are still going to deceased Americans.

"After calling some family friends in a similar situation, we found out they had also received a check for a person who passed away last summer," Preston said.

Even if somebody designated as a personal representative or has power of attorney, they can't take a stimulus check for a dead relative as their own.

Signing a check not intended for you is a federal crime.

There is a new warning on the envelope of mailed checks to combat the problem: "If recipient deceased, check this box and put it back in your mailbox."

"The explanation is they didn’t look for that. They just printed checks or made payments without looking to see if those people had been deceased," said Tim Rhoades, president and enrolled agent at The Tax Center in Riverside.

Rhoades said there are a couple ways for people to handle these checks.

Rhoades said the IRS guidance is "to void the check, send it back. If you get a direct deposit, you’re supposed to write them a check and mail it to them."

Preston said the check for his late father caught him off guard, and he doesn't want others to be surprised either.

"This is something I feel people should know about, because I was totally unaware. If I had cashed that check not knowing it was a criminal offense, I would’ve felt horrible about it," Preston said.