The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permits a personal representative of an estate, a spouse filing a joint return or an administrator in charge of the decedent's property to sign a deceased individual's federal tax return. According to IRS guidelines, the word "Deceased" is written after the decedent's name in the address section of the annual tax return. The date of death is also written across the top of the finalized return.
If a deceased individual does not have a surviving spouse, the court appoints a personal representative to sign the decedent's federal tax return. In some cases, the court appoints a personal representative to sign, and a joint-filing surviving spouse is listed on the decedent's tax return. Since the representative and the spouse are responsible for filing the tax return, both are required to sign. A personal representative attaches a copy of a court certificate to the deceased individual's federal return, proving his appointment.
A surviving spouse filing a joint return signs a deceased spouse's tax return and writes "filing as surviving spouse" next to her name in the signature area on the tax return. According to IRS rules, a surviving spouse signs a joint return for the taxable year in which the death occurred. If the spouse's death occurred before the return was due the preceding year, the surviving spouse also signs the previous year's tax return.
Person in Charge of Decedent's Property
If a personal representative has not been officially appointed and there is no spouse filing a joint return, the person legally in charge of the deceased individual's estate signs the federal return. In most cases, that individual is an extended family member, a state-appointed lawyer or a legal representative. That person then signs the decedent's tax return as a personal representative.
IRS Form 1310
The IRS states that if the decedent is due a refund and a person other than a legally appointed personal representative or a surviving spouse is claiming that refund, that person should complete IRS Form 1310 and file it with the return. According to the IRS, Form 1310 is officially a "Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer." Personal representatives must attach to the decedent's return a copy of the court certificate showing the appointment.