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How Does Death of a Spouse Affect Income Taxes?



Dealing with the loss of a loved one is devastating. We can never prepare for it, and moving on in life is extremely difficult to do. Financially, there are also repercussions, and they don’t just have to do with the loss of the spouse’s income. Later down the road, there are also income tax issues, which are often unforeseen. Let’s take a look at how the death of a spouse will affect the survivor’s income taxes.

In the year of the spouse’s death, the survivor is considered by the IRS to have still been married. Regardless of if the spouse dies on January 1 or December 31, the survivor can file as Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separate on the income tax return. In the subsequent two years after the death of the spouse, the survivor, if still unmarried, can file as a Qualifying Widow(er). A Qualifying Widow(er) gets the same tax rates as a Married Filing Jointly/Married Filing Separately filer, but does not get to claim the deceased spouse as an exemption – reducing the deduction by $3,800 for 2012 taxes (it’s even more if the deceased spouse was over 65, blind, or both). Therefore, if the surviving spouse’s overall income tax rate was 25% and remained in the same bracket as the previous year, that’s a $950 increase in federal taxes when filing as a Qualifying Widow(er).

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Jason Hull is a Fort Worth fee only, hourly financial planner who serves clients in Fort Worth, TX and Dallas, TX as well as serving clients nationwide.

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Hull Financial Planning is a Fort Worth, fee-only hourly financial advisor. The cities we serve in the Dallas-Fort Worth area include: 

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