Filing the final federal income tax return of a deceased individual is mandatory, and the decedent’s personal representative is usually responsible for it. This includes filing the federal income tax returns that the decedent would have filed for the year of their death. The personal representative can be an executor, administrator, or any other person in charge of the decedent’s property.
If your spouse passed away during the year and you did not remarry that year, you are still considered married for federal income tax purposes, and you can file a joint return for the year. This return would reflect your spouse’s income before death and your income for the whole year.
For an unmarried decedent, their final federal income tax return would show their income and expenses before death, and the personal representative would sign the return if there is no court-appointed representative. If there is a court-appointed representative, they must sign the return, along with the surviving spouse, if applicable.
If a joint return shows a refund due, there is nothing else required to receive the refund other than filing the tax return. Surviving spouses with dependents can use the qualifying widow or widower filing status, which allows them to use the income tax brackets and standard deductions for joint filers for two years after their spouse’s death, provided they are still unmarried and have dependent children.
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