By Attorney Ted Brown
With Tax Day fast approaching, many clients have been asking how to file taxes for a family member who passed away in 2011 and who should sign the return. As are most things with the IRS, the answer can be somewhat complex.
If the decedent's spouse is still alive, then the spouse can file a joint return including the decedent's income earned prior to the date of death and the spouse's income for all of 2011. The word “Deceased” should be written next to the decedent's name on the return along with the date of death. In the box where the decedent would sign, the surviving spouse should write the words “Filing as surviving spouse.”
If it is necessary for the decedent to file as “married filing separately”, the surviving spouse can still sign the return but they must also complete Form 1310.
If there is no surviving spouse, the IRS specifies several options for signing the return. If an Executor or Administrator has been appointed for the estate by a Probate Court, that person should sign the return and enclose a copy of the appointment paperwork issued by the Court. However, this does not mean that an executor must be appointed in order to file a tax return or claim a refund.
If the estate does not otherwise require probate administration and an Executor or Administrator will not be appointed, the personal representative or person responsible for handling the affairs of the estate can sign the return. However, Form 1310 must also be completed and filed with the return.
If an Executor or personal representative is signing the return, the IRS requires that Form 1310 also be completed and filed.
It is important to contact a qualified CPA or Account for assistance with preparing tax returns. More information on this topic as well as tax forms can be found on the IRS website www.irs.gov.