I recently posted a small bounty on a question. So far, the bounty hasn't attracted much attention, and my current bet is it still won't before the bounty expires.
There was an existing answer on the question before I posted the bounty, and it's fine, but it's not up to snuff (in my eyes), which is why I posted the bounty.
The only other answer posted, which is reasonable, in that it took the bounty stipulations of being authoritative to heart (if a little flat and lacking in color and character), was posted by a user who has since deleted his account¹.
If, at the expiration of the bounty, this is the only answer meeting the stipulations, what is best practice? I can of course award the bounty to it (at least I believe I can), the bounty having served its primary purpose of drawing attention to the question. But I feel that fails another, lesser, though not unimportant purpose: rewarding the user who rose to the task.
I'm pretty sure deleted accounts can't "hold" rep. And even if they can, it's still useless, as that rep won't do anyone any good.
What's best practice here²?
¹ Or anyway the account is one of those "user#####" accounts with no links to a profile, so it was deleted, but I don't actually know the user did it himself or something else happened.
² Of course, the question un-asks itself if someone else posts a better answer, which is canonical and authoritative, but also rich, colorful, educational, and perhaps even entertaining. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
I [almost] always hold out on awarding bounties til the last minute anyway, in order to maximize returns.