Posted by Simon Hase, CPA

How Do I File as a Qualifying Widower?

How Do I File as a Qualifying Widower?

Losing a spouse can be a traumatic experience for the surviving spouse. There are many considerations to take care of, including paying final debts, moving property and other issues. One of the final tasks will be the filing of the deceased spouse’s tax return. But at the same time, you may also qualify for a special filing status for the following two years after your spouse passes away. Working with your tax professional or accountant, such as Kaufmann Advisors in San Francisco, CA, you can determine if you will qualify for that special filing status.


What is my filing status?


First of all, it is important to understand what your new filing status will be for the final tax return. If your spouse dies during a tax year, the IRS considers that you have been married for the entire year. Therefore, you can file your return as you would in other years, by claiming the status of married filing jointly. However, you want to keep in mind that this will be the last year that you can claim this filing status unless you choose to marry again.


If you remarried in the same year that your spouse passed away, you will need to serve as a representative for your deceased spouse and file a return under the status, married filing separately.

At the top of the 1040 tax return form, you will need to write that your spouse is now deceased and spouse’s name and date of death. If you have a personal representative for your spouse, that individual will need to sign the return on behalf of your spouse. If you are filing jointly with your deceased spouse, then you will also need to sign the return. However, if you do not have a personal representative for your deceased spouse, then you will need to sign the return and then in the signature area for your spouse, write that you are filing as surviving spouse.


Requirements for Filing as a Widower


One of the benefits that you can take advantage of after your spouse passes is to file your return as a qualifying widower with a dependent child. This is the case if you meet the following requirements:

  • You need to have a dependent child, which is a biological child or step child, but cannot be a foster child.
  • You filed a joint return with your deceased spouse for the tax year that your spouse passed away.
  • You did not remarry during the two-year period.

  • The child must have lived in your home for the entire year, not including temporary absences. There are exceptions for birth, death or kidnapping.
  • You had to have paid more than half the costs that were incurred in keeping up the home where you and your dependent child reside. These costs would include food, rent, mortgage interest, home insurance, real estate taxes, utilities, repairs and maintenance.

If you meet all of these qualifications, then you will be able to use the qualifying widower with dependent child status. This filing status allows you to retain the benefits of married filing jointly for up to two years after the year of your spouse’s death. This means that you get to enjoy the tax rates of this filing status and also can claim the highest standard deduction amount, but only if you do not choose to itemize your deductions.


However, if you are older and all of your children have left the home, then you will only be able to file married filing jointly on the return that you file when your spouse passes away. After that, you will be able to file with a single status only. Once you remarry, if you choose to do so, then you will be able to reclaim the married filing jointly status and the benefits that come with that in terms of reducing your tax liability.

If you are choosing this filing status after your spouse passes away and you meet the qualifications, you will need to file a standard 1040 tax return, as you cannot claim the qualifying widower status on the 1040 EZ. Therefore, you will want to consider working with a tax professional to file your final tax return and to file your qualifying widower status on the following returns.


Click on the link below to connect with a tax professional or accountant at the offices of Kaufmann Advisors in San Francisco, CA, who can assist you in filing your spouse’s last tax return, and provide information on your eligibility for the qualifying widower filing status.

Simon Hase, CPA
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