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How to File a Tax Return for the Deceased

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 6/4/2010

If someone you know has passed away within the past year, you could be responsible for filing their final tax return. Read on to find out more about how to file a tax return for the deceased.

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    Filing a Tax Return for the Deceased: When it is Required

    If a person who would otherwise be required to file a tax return dies before the end of the tax year, a return still needs to be filed for them. If a person dies and is not required to file a return based on his or her circumstances for the year the death occurs, then no return is required to be filed. If a person dies and has not filed previous years tax returns and was required to do so, those returns will need to be filed regardless of whether or not one needs to be filed for the year of death.

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    Who Files Tax Returns for the Deceased?

    If you are a personal representative or surviving spouse of someone who died and is required to file a tax return, you are the person who is expected to file the return on their behalf.

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    How to File a Tax Return for the Deceased

    Fill out the tax return as you would if the person were living, but write the word "deceased" in after their name. Provide information on income that was provided to them until the date of their death. The personal representative must sign the return. If the return is being filed jointly with a surviving spouse, he or she must also sign. If there is a surviving spouse but no personal representative, the survivor needs to sign the return and in the signature area for the deceased, write: "filing as surviving spouse." If there is not a personal representative or surviving spouse, the person who is in charge of the deceased's property must file the return for them.

    If the deceased is owed a refund, a surviving spouse or court appointed representative may claim the refund without any further documentation. Personal reprensentatives should include documentation to support their appointment to claim the refund. The Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer form, otherwise known as Form 1310 will need to be filed by those who are not surviving spouses or appointed representatives.

    In some cases, the representative may also have to file a tax return for estates and trusts. We'll address this in a future Personal Finance Channel publication. For more information, visit the IRS website.