Filing Taxes When a Loved One Dies

That old joke about the two certainties of life – death and taxes – takes on a new meaning when a loved one dies and it’s tax filing time. Losing a loved one is stressful enough. Figuring out that loved one’s tax filing increases the stress for their surviving spouse or representative who is responsible for the final tax return.

Here are four things to know about filing a loved one’s final return:

  1. Filing Status and Due Date
  • The IRS considers someone married for the entire year in which their spouse died, as long as they do not remarry during that year.
  • A surviving spouse may use filing status of married filing jointly or married filing separately in the year of death. Surviving spouses with dependent children may be able to file as a Qualifying Widow(er) for two years after their spouse’s death.
  • The final return is due by the regular April tax date unless the surviving spouse or representative requests an extension to file.
  1. Filing the Final Return
  • On the final tax return, the surviving spouse or representative will note that the person has died to notify the IRS of the death.
  • The surviving spouse or representative should follow efile directions provided by the tax software. 
  • The filer should write the word deceased, the deceased person’s name, and the date of death across the top a paper return. The surviving spouse or representative must sign the return for the deceased taxpayer. The surviving spouse must also sign a joint return.
  • If there’s no appointed representative and no surviving spouse, the person in charge of the deceased person’s property must file and sign the return as “personal representative.”
  1. Documents to Include
  • Court-appointed representatives should attach a copy of the court document showing their appointment. A copy of the death certificate or other proof of death is not needed.
  • Representatives who aren’t court-appointed and are not the surviving spouse must include IRS Form 1310, Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Person to claim any refund.
  1. Paying Taxes Due
  • If tax is due, the filer should submit payment with the return or visit the payments page of for other payment options. 
  • Amounts due that cannot be paid immediately may qualify for a payment plan or installment agreement.

It’s stressful to learn about taxes while you are grieving. Being aware of these four tax-related topics after your loved one dies will help reduce your stress at an exceedingly challenging time. The IRS has more stress-reducing details at