Who gets a dead employee’s records?

When an employee dies, who should get his W-2 forms? I got a call from someone who said she was his mother. Should I send her a copy? How do I know it is his mother?

Ann Kiernan replies:

The safest course of action is to ask for written proof that the person asking for the forms (or anything else belonging to the deceased employee) is authorized to represent the estate of the deceased. If the employee left a will, the executor/executrix should have a letter from the local probate court appointing him/her. If the employee did not have a will, then the court can appoint an administrator to handle the estate.

By the way, if there were any wages or other pay (e.g. vacation) owed at the time of death, those funds should be paid to the estate and a 1099-MISC issued. Please be sure to check with your company’s accountant for further guidance.

Posted 02-10-2016

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.