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Filing the final income tax returns of a decedent

One of your responsibilities as the executor of someone’s estate is to file their income taxes for the year they passed away. If they passed away before they filed their taxes for the prior year, those would be your responsibility as well.

If you’re the executor and surviving spouse, you can file a joint return and note “Filing as surviving spouse” on the signature line. However, if you aren’t the surviving spouse, you’ll need to file IRS Form 56 to document your right to file the deceased’s income tax returns.

It may be necessary to seek an extension

Although the tax deadline is the same as it is for everyone else, you may be able to get an extension if you can show that you need some time to gather the necessary documents and other information. Don’t wait until the last minute to do this.

If you know where the deceased kept their previous tax returns and/or who their tax preparer was, you’re one step ahead of many executors. However, you’ll still need to gather 1099s, W-2s and other forms. Don’t forget their medical bills and other receipts you’ll need for tax-deductible expenses.

Before collecting information, you’ll need copies of the death certificate and documentation showing that you are authorized to obtain the decedent’s information.

These are just a few of the basic things you need to know if you are filing a person’s final income tax returns with the IRS and California’s Franchise Tax Board (FTB). It’s wise to seek tax and legal guidance to help ensure that you can efficiently and correctly take care of this important responsibility.