Conditions for filing as a widow(er) | Illustration, Women at funeral: © Lorelyn Medina/

Dear Tax Talk,
If your spouse dies during the current tax year, what tax-filing status do you use? Can this also be used in future tax years?
— Edward

Dear Edward,
First of all, allow me to express my condolences on the passing of your spouse.

The tax-filing status after the death of a spouse is fairly straightforward. If your spouse dies during the year, the IRS considers you married for the entire year and you can use the filing status “married filing jointly” when your tax return is prepared. This is the last year you can use this filing status unless, of course, you remarry. If you did remarry before year’s end, then you or a personal representative handling the estate would file on behalf of your deceased spouse, using the filing status “married filing separately.”

On the top of Form 1040 for your spouse, write “Deceased” and your spouse’s name and date of death. If there is a personal representative that has been appointed for your deceased spouse, then that person will have to sign the return, and if the return is a joint return, you will also sign it. If there is no personal representative, then you should sign the return and in the signature area write “Filing as surviving spouse.”

For the two years following the death of your spouse, if you have a dependent child and meet all of the requirements listed below, you can use the filing status “qualifying widow(er) with dependent child.”

Thank you for your question and all the best to you in 2015.

Ask the adviser

To ask a question on Tax Talk, go to the “Ask the Experts” page and select “Taxes” as the topic. Read more Tax Talk columns.

To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. Taxpayers should seek professional advice based on their particular circumstances.

Bankrate’s content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate’s Terms of Use.