February 27, 2024

Filing a Final Tax Return for a Deceased Taxpayer

Filing taxes for a deceased person, whether it’s a parent, spouse or other loved one, may seem like an overwhelming task amidst your grief, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right information on hand, filing taxes for the deceased can be done with minimal stress and effort. Preparation and the right answers to questions like who gets the tax refund, who is responsible for paying taxes and how to file a tax extension can help simplify the process.

Key Takeaways:

  • To file a deceased person’s tax return, you will need to file Form 1040. If you’re filing as a senior citizen, you have the option to file Form 1040-SR instead
  • The decedent’s surviving spouse or personal representative, who can be an executor, administrator or anyone else who oversees the decedent’s property, is generally the responsible party for filing tax returns
  • If additional time is needed to file the return, you may file for an automatic extension using IRS Form 4868

What Documents are Needed to File for a Deceased Person?

Begin the process by obtaining the necessary tax forms. Typically, this includes Form 1040 for the final tax return of the deceased individual and Form 1310 if claiming a refund for an unmarried taxpayer as someone other than their court-appointed personal representative. If the deceased was a senior citizen, you may file Form 1040-SR, although this is not required.

Next, gather all relevant financial documents, such as W-2s, 1099s and any other sources of income or deductions. It’s important to notify the Social Security Administration of the individual’s passing and ensure that they issue a final Social Security statement.

Calculating the individual’s income and deductions and completing the tax return are the next steps. Only the activity that occurred before the date of death for the decedent will be reported on the final tax return. If your spouse passed away during the year and you did not remarry, you are considered to be married for the entire year for federal income tax purposes. The tax return would reflect your spouse’s income before death and your income as the surviving spouse for the entire year.

Be sure to indicate that it’s a final return and include the deceased individual’s date of death along with indicating “deceased” at the top of Form 1040. Sign the return on behalf of the deceased individual as the surviving spouse, court-appointed personal representative or executor. If a refund is expected, include Form 1310 to claim it if needed.

Finally, electronically file or mail the tax return to the appropriate IRS service center, and ensure that it is e-filed or postmarked by the filing deadline. Trusts and estates associated with the deceased may require additional filings. Seeking guidance from a tax professional or estate attorney is highly recommended to navigate the specific requirements and complexities associated with filing taxes for a deceased individual.


If the deceased had an Estate Plan, the person responsible would typically be listed within it as the executor. The surviving spouse can also pay the taxes, particularly if they planned to file jointly for the year. In the absence of an Estate Plan, a legal representative or a surviving spouse, the responsibility would typically fall to a loved one or the next of kin who would need to note on the return for the IRS that they were acting as a personal representative on behalf of the deceased and coordinate payment of any tax due.


If filing a joint return as a surviving spouse, there is nothing additional that needs to be done and you are due to receive the refund yourself. If filing on behalf of an unmarried taxpayer, you may need to complete and attach Form 1310. This does not apply to surviving spouses or court-appointed personal representatives.

If filing as a court-appointed personal representative, you are required to attach a copy of the court certificate confirming your appointment. For all other filers who are requesting the refund of the decedent, Form 1310 must be completed and attached. It’s important to consult with an attorney or accountant to understand your specific situation and make sure you get all legally available funds.


If a deceased person is unable to file their taxes by the original due date of the return, April 15th, then a tax extension may be requested for the deceased. Keep in mind this is an extension to file, not an extension of time to pay taxes. To do so, they will need to complete Form 4868 and submit it to the IRS along with any necessary supporting documents and payments. Once approved, this will extend the time limit for filing the taxes return until October 15th of that same year.


For most taxpayers, keeping their tax records for seven years is sufficient to cover the different statutes of limitations imposed by the IRS. If a return was filed with fraudulent information or a final return was never filed, there is no limit to the number of years the IRS can look back on.

Anders Family Wealth and Estate Planning advisors work with families on sensitive financial matters to simplify the tax process while minimizing your potential tax burden. Learn more about our services and the associated costs by requesting a meeting with an Anders advisor below. 

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