Filing a Final Tax Return for a Decedent

When someone dies, their surviving spouse or representative must file a final tax return for the deceased person. Usually, the representative is named in the person’s will or appointed by a court. Sometimes when there isn’t a surviving spouse or appointed representative, a personal representative will file the final return.

The IRS doesn’t need any notification of the death other than noting the death on the final tax return, but there are three things taxpayers should know about filing the final return:

  1. The surviving spouse generally is eligible to use the married filing jointly or married filing separately filing status when filing the return.
  2. The final return is due by the regular April tax date unless the surviving spouse or representative files an extension.

Surviving spouses with dependent children may be able to file as a Qualifying Widow(er) for two years after their spouse’s death. This filing status allows them to use joint filer tax rate schedules (which can be beneficial, depending on income level) and, if they don’t itemize deductions, claim the highest standard deduction amount.


Don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions about filing a final tax return for someone who has passed away.