Life can be turned upside down in a minute. A sudden car accident could result in someone becoming a widow(er). That type of event changes everything, including your tax filing status. It is especially difficult for parents of minor children. Here’s a brief overview of what any recently-widowed parent should know.
You may retain the married filing jointly status for the year in which your spouse died, even if you filed separately. This is important, because it lets you keep a much higher standard deduction, which is $24,800 in 2020.
After that, you may be able to file as qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child status for up to two years. This would allow you to retain the same standard deduction as married filing jointly.
Here are some general requirements for filing as a qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child:
- You must have qualified for married filing jointly status in the year of your spouse’s death;
- You have a dependent child, stepchild, or adopted child (not foster child) living with you, or temporarily at school, and you pay over 50% of the costs of your home;
- You have not remarried. Remarriage in the same year as a death would require the widow(er) to file as either married filing jointly with their new spouse or married filing separately. With either, a married filing separately tax return would need to be filed for the deceased spouse.