How to File a Final Tax Return for a Person Who Has Died

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After a loved one passes away, the person in charge of settling the deceased’s estate is responsible for filing a final individual income tax return and the estate tax return when due.

According to the IRS, you will need to file Form 56, Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship, to notify the agency of a fiduciary relationship. The fiduciary (trustee, executor, administrator, receiver or guardian) acts as the personal representative of the deceased taxpayer.

The IRS says that if you’re filing electronically, follow the instructions provided by the software for signature and notation requirements. If you’re filing a paper return, write “Deceased,” the decedent’s name and the date of death across the top of the final individual tax return. For joint returns, write the name and address of the deceased and the surviving spouse in the name and address fields. Otherwise, write the deceased taxpayer’s name in the name field and the personal representative’s name and address in the address field.

If a refund is due, you may be required to file Form 1310, Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer, with the return. However, this may be unnecessary if you’re a surviving spouse filing a joint return, or a court-appointed or court-certified personal representative filing an original return for the deceased. Court-appointed or court-certified personal representatives must attach the court document showing the appointment to the tax return.

The appointed personal representative must sign the tax return, but if it’s a joint return, the surviving spouse must also sign the return. If you’re the surviving spouse and there’s no appointed personal representative, then write in the signature area “Filing as surviving spouse.” A surviving spouse can file joint tax returns during the tax year in which the death occurred — or for the tax year before the year of death if the death happened before filing the return, the IRS says.

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If there’s no appointed personal representative and no surviving spouse, then the person in charge of the estate must file and sign the tax return as “personal representative.”

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