Deceased person (Decedent) Filing status


You must file a tax return for an individual who died during the tax year if:

  • A return is normally required
  • The decedent did not file prior year return(s)

The administrator, executor, or beneficiary must:

Sign the return. Print or type “Deceased” and the date of death next to the taxpayer's name at the top of the return.

Return due date

The decedent’s final return is due by the date it would have been due if they had not passed away.

Visit due dates for more information.

Reporting income/deductions

The income and deductions reported on the final return will depend on the decedent’s method of accounting. The two most common methods are cash method and accrual method.

Cash method

If a decedent used this method then:

  • Income is reported in the tax year it’s actually received
  • Deductions are claimed in the tax year paid

Report all income received before death. Only expenses paid before death can be deducted.

Accrual method

If a decedent used this method then:

  • Income is reported in the tax year recognized, whether or not paid.
  • Deductions generally are claimed in the tax year incurred, whether or not paid

Report the income accrued or earned before death.

Deduct the expenses that the decedent was liable for before death, regardless of whether the expenses were paid.

Surviving spouse/RDP

You may file a joint return if:

  • You’re a surviving spouse/RDP
  • The decedent did not file a return
  • You did not remarry during the same tax year that your spouse/RDP died
  • The estate did not appoint an administrator or executor or there was not one appointed by the due date of your return

Print or type “Surviving spouse/RDP” next to your name when you sign the return.

Claiming a refund

If you file a return and claim a refund for a deceased taxpayer, you must be:

  • A surviving spouse/RDP
  • A surviving relative
  • The sole beneficiary
  • Legal representative of the estate


Attach to the tax return:

Legal representatives

Attach to the tax return certified copies of the:


The legal process that takes place after someone passes away. Probate is opened in the superior court of the county where the decedent resided or owned property.

During probate:

  • The assets are distributed
  • Claims of creditor are addressed
  • Taking care of the financial responsibilities of the person who died

Probate is required when the total estate assets exceed $150,000.

If you’re in probate, we need the Letters of Administration. Provide them to us no later than 90 days after the date the letters are first issued by probate court.

Probate code 9202

Franchise Tax Board
PO Box 2952, MS 454
Sacramento CA 95812-9974

To expedite processing for filing claims, you can fax the Letter of Administration.

FTB Decedent Team

Decedent’s estate

Estates include all property of a decedent, including:

  • Real property
  • Tangible personal property
  • Intangible property

For estates, the date of death determines the:

  • End of the decedent’s taxable year
  • Beginning of the estate’s taxable year

Report the entire income of the estate if the decedent was a resident when they died. If they were a nonresident, only report income derived from sources within California.

Form 541

Use California Fiduciary Income Tax Return (Form 541) when filing.

Visit Fiduciary Income Tax Booklet (541) for more information.

Visit Estates & Trusts for more information.

Contact us about decedents

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