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State of California Franchise Tax Board

Additional Information for Decedents

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A final return must be filed for a decedent if a final return would normally be required.

If an executor or administrator has been appointed, he or she must sign the return that is filed for the decedent. If a joint return is filed, the surviving spouse must also sign.

If no executor or administrator has been appointed and a joint return is filed, the surviving spouse should sign the return and write in the signature area that he/she is a surviving spouse.

You should print the word "Deceased" and the date of death next to the decedent's name at the top of the return.

The decedent's executor or other person responsible for administrating the decedent's estate is responsible for filing any income tax returns and making sure that any tax that is due is paid.

This includes filing the final tax return for the decedent (for the year of death) and any prior year returns which were not filed.

The executor may file either a joint return with the surviving spouse or a separate return.

A surviving spouse alone may file a joint return if:

  • No return was filed by the decedent, and
  • No executor or administrator was appointed, or
  • No executor or administrator was appointed by the due date of the surviving spouse's return.

The final return covers the period from the beginning of the tax year to the date of death. The income and deductions reported on the final return depend on the decedent's method of accounting.

Cash Method - If the decedent was a cash basis taxpayer, which most individuals are, report all income actually or constructively received before death. Only the expenses paid before death can be deducted.

Accrual Method - If the decedent was an accrual basis taxpayer, report the income that the decedent accrued or earned before death. Deduct the expenses that the decedent was liable for before death, regardless of whether the expenses were paid.

The person claiming a refund on behalf of a deceased taxpayer must show that he/she is:

  • The administrator or executor of the deceased taxpayer's estate by attaching certified copies of the letters of administration or letters of testamentary to the return, or
  • Entitled to the refund as the deceased taxpayer's surviving spouse or sole beneficiary under the California Probate Code. Attach to the return a copy of Federal Form 1310, Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer, or a copy of the death certificate.

Yes, the short period return is filed using the previous tax year law and forms since current year law changes and forms are not yet available.

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