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Just to play devil's advocate:
The executor of the estate (the spouse undoubtedly) did receive them, right?
And on decedent's behalf the spouse would have been able to cash a check from July if they had come across it in a drawer, right?
Doesn't it follow that there is constructive receipt?

Not necessarily. It sounds like these disability checks were supposed to end with the death of the husband. If neither the surviving spouse, nor the estate of the deceased, was entitled to them, then they were not negotiable by anyone, and it doesn't sound like they're income to anyone. If a check made out to somebody else magically appears in my mailbox, it is not my income.

If they were destroyed in 2009 (and who's going to prove they weren't unless they get cashed?), what then though?

Well, it was a mistake to destroy them. They should have been returned. Better yet, Aetna should have been notified when the first one showed up.

So - what if the 1099 doesn't get corrected, and the IRS does send a letter saying it didn't match? It'll take an hour or so to send a letter back saying "Aetna didn't provide an accurate 1099R. We asked them to correct it and they refused. Here's what happened..." and won't that likely be the end of it?

Except that the IRS seldom gives a favorable response to the taxpayer's first request to a notice - reading comprehension is a notable problem there - and even more seldom do they just take your word for it. Their implicit position is that 1099s are the gospel truth, unless you can PROVE otherwise. And that can be tricky.

Pet peeves of mine, since IRS correspondence is a lot of what I do in the month of May, after the nonprofit returns are due May 15.

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