Can I File a Joint Return if My Husband Passed Away Last Year?

by D. Laverne O'Neal, Demand Media

    If you and your husband enjoyed married filing jointly tax status while he lived, you may be able to file a joint return after he dies. Of course, when a spouse passes away, the tidal wave of emotion can blot out consciousness of everyday matters. In time, those matters -- especially financial matters -- need to be dealt with. One of them is filing a tax return to report your spouse's final earnings and investment income.

    Step 1

    Gather your and your husband's tax-related data. This may include pay stubs, W-2 and/or 1099 forms, and information on retirement accounts, investment accounts and mortgage interest. It can also include data regarding education costs, medical expenses, bank statements and any other information that may relate to a tax deduction.

    Step 2

    Choose "married filing jointly" as your filing status. If you have remarried, you cannot choose this status.

    Step 3

    Complete the appropriate version of IRS Form 1040, along with any accompanying schedules. Relative to your husband's employment, report only income that was received before your spouse died. Include your joint investment income -- as well as your own employment income -- for the entire tax year. If you need the help of an accountant or a tax professional, don't hesitate to engage someone. Dealing with taxes while you are grieving is difficult.

    Step 4

    Write the word "deceased" at the top of the return. Write also the date of death. Use bold letters so that IRS personnel will notice the information. After your spouse's name, write or type "deceased."

    Step 5

    Sign the return. Write the words "Filing as surviving spouse" beneath your signature or elsewhere in the signature area.

    Tip

    • If you remarried before the end of the tax year, you have to choose "married filing separately" status for your deceased spouse. You may decide to file jointly with your new spouse.

    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.