How to Sign Tax Return if Taxpayer Dies Before Filing Taxes

by D. Laverne O'Neal

    The Internal Revenue Service collects income taxes, even for taxpayers who died during the year. The surviving spouse -- if there is one -- can file and sign the return. An estate executor or a personal representative, who is often a relative of the deceased, can also sign the tax return. So can an attorney, or any other person who's primarily responsible for handling the deceased's financial affairs.

    Step 1

    Print the word "deceased," along with the date of death, across the top of IRS Form 1040. This lets the IRS know the taxpayer has died.

    Step 2

    Type the word "deceased" after the name of the taxpayer on Line 1 of Form 1040. This will further confirm that the taxpayer has died.

    Step 3

    Locate the place where the decedent would sign if he were alive. Sign the return and write the words "filing as surviving spouse." Be sure to sign on your own signature line as well, if your status is married filing jointly.

    Step 1

    Inscribe the word "deceased," along with the date of death, across the top of IRS Form 1040. This lets the IRS know the taxpayer has died.

    Step 2

    Type the word "deceased" after the name of the taxpayer on Line 1 of Form 1040. This will further confirm that the taxpayer has died.

    Step 3

    Sign the return. If you are a count-appointed representative, you do not need to add any words after your signature. If you have not been appointed by a court, but you are the person who is responsible for handling the deceased's financial affairs, add the words "personal representative" after your signature. If there's a surviving spouse and you're filing a joint return, be sure she signs the return, just as she usually would.

    Items you will need

    • completed tax return documents

    Tip

    • If you are a surviving spouse whose status is married filing separately, or if you are a non-spouse eligible to file, be sure to complete Form 1310 if you are claiming a refund on the deceased's return. You submit Form 1310 with the completed tax return.
    • If you are an executor or court-appointed personal representative, submit a copy of your court-issued appointment documents with the return.
    • If the estate does not require probate -- which might, for example, occur with small estates -- the person who's responsible for handling the deceased's financial affairs may sign the return.

    Photo Credits

    • Form 1040 Tax Forms image by Viola Joyner from Fotolia.com

    About the Author

    D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.

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