When a spouse dies, the widow can receive the decedent's Social Security benefits, also called survivor benefits. The amount a widow will receive depends on the deceased spouse's earning record with the Social Security Administration. Whether the widow qualifies as a dependent on your taxes depends on who supports the widow, your relationship and the widow's income for the year.
To claim someone as a dependent on your taxes, the person must be a relative or live in your home the entire year as a member of your household. A relative does not have to live with you to qualify as a dependent. To qualify as a relative, the person must be related by blood, marriage or adoption. Divorce or death does not disqualify an individual as a relative. For example, if you and your wife support your mother-in-law, who does not live with you and your wife dies, you can continue to claim your mother-in-law as a dependent.
Gross Income Test
To claim someone as a dependent, the person's income must be less than the personal exemption rate for the year, which is $3,900 as of 2013. Income includes wages, property, self-employment earnings and any unearned income, such as interest and dividends. Tax-exempt income does not count toward the income limit. The IRS taxes one-half of Social Security benefits if the person's income exceeds $25,000. If the person receives income only from survivor benefits and Social Security, any benefits that exceed $25,000 count toward the $3,900 limit. If the person receives a combination of benefits and other income, refer to IRS Publication 915 to determine whether the person qualifies as a dependent.
For the person to qualify as a dependent on your taxes, you must provide at least half the person's support. Even though the person you wish to claim as a dependent receives survivor benefits, as long as you pay for more than half her support, you can still claim her as a dependent. For example, if your aunt receives $3,000 in survivor benefits, you must provide at least $3,001 for her support to qualify. Only one person can claim the widow as a dependent each year.
As long as the person meets the gross income, support, and member-of-household or relationship test, you can claim the dependency. Enter the person's name, Social Security number and relationship in the "Dependents" section on Form 1040A or Form 1040. Include this person in your number of exemptions when calculating your exemption deduction amount. As of 2013, you will receive a $3,900 reduction in taxable income for each dependent and exemption you claim on your income taxes.
Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.