The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers a provision for relatives to claim stimulus payments that were not received by a taxpayer before their passing, provided the deceased was eligible for such payments. Known as Economic Impact Payments (EIP), or more commonly as stimulus checks, these funds were a critical aid for numerous American families during the toughest phases of the pandemic.
Regrettably, some eligible recipients did not receive these benefits before their demise, which first began distribution in 2020. Relatives of these individuals have the opportunity to claim the first three rounds of stimulus checks posthumously. Typically, the person managing the deceased’s estate, like an executor or personal representative, should access the taxpayer’s financial records. This helps ascertain any owed taxes, pending refunds, or unclaimed stimulus checks.
Stimulus check timeline and recovery rebate credit
It’s important to understand the timeline of these stimulus checks. The first two rounds were sanctioned in 2020 (in March and December, respectively) during Donald Trump’s presidency, while the third round was authorized under Joe Biden in 2021. These payments were initially distributed via direct deposit or mailed checks, but taxpayers also had the option to claim them on their subsequent year’s tax return as a Recovery Rebate Credit if they qualified.
The timeframe to claim these stimulus checks is tied to the tax return filing deadline, which is three years from the original due date for a refund claim. This means that for stimulus checks from 2020, the claim deadline is May 17, 2024, and for the third round from 2021, the deadline is April 15, 2025. These deadlines are set based on the year the credits would have been claimed in tax returns.
If a taxpayer eligible for these payments did not claim them, their close relatives, particularly a surviving spouse, can request these funds. To be eligible for the first and second stimulus checks, the person must have deceased in 2020 or later, and for the third, in 2021 or later.
Requirements for claiming the 2020 or 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit are:
- The individual should have been a resident or resident alien of the U.S. in 2020 or 2021.
- They should not have been claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return for those years.
- They must have had a Social Security number valid before the tax return due date.
Procedure for claiming stimulus checks for a deceased individual
To claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, relatives must file the deceased’s tax return for the year they are claiming the stimulus check (2020 or 2021). Spouses, children, or direct kin like parents are eligible to claim these checks for deceased taxpayers, provided they have the deceased’s Social Security number.
To receive this information from the IRS, the following are required:
- The deceased’s full name, surname, and Social Security number.
- A death certificate copy.
- A copy of the court-approved Letters Testamentary or Form 56, which establishes a fiduciary relationship.
- The Letters Testamentary, also called Letters of Administration or Representation, authorize a representative to handle the deceased’s estate matters.
For further verification, Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, should be submitted to review the deceased’s tax filings, payments, and any outstanding refunds.
When filing, the estate representative should sign “on behalf of the deceased.” If it’s a joint return, the surviving spouse should sign and indicate “filing as surviving spouse” where the deceased’s signature would be. To claim any refunds owed to the deceased, including stimulus checks, Form 1310 (Statement of a Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer) must be filed. The IRS indicates that filing Form 1310 is not mandatory for a surviving spouse filing a joint return, but it is advised to avoid processing delays.