What Is a Qualified Widow Or Widower?

A qualified widow or widower is a tax filing status that allows a surviving spouse to use the married filing jointly tax rates on an individual return for up to two years following the death of the spouse. This allows the surviving spouse to receive the highest standard deduction for their taxes, providing they do not itemize their taxes.

Understanding Qualified Widow Or Widower

The qualified widow or widower status is provided as a measure of financial relief for those who have lost their spouse and may be struggling with medical or funeral bills. After two years, surviving spouses who have not remarried must file as either single or head of household. A tax filing status as a qualified widow or widower allows the surviving spouse to file taxes as if they were still married, despite the fact that their partner is deceased. Because this is an unusual filing status, it does carry some specific rules and regulations about who can use it. For example, in order to achieve tax filing status as a qualified widow or widower, the surviving spouse must also have a dependent child, either a child or stepchild, but not a foster child, that they claim on their taxes. This is so crucial to the tax filing status that there is often an addendum to the title of Qualified Widow or Widower that stipulates they must have a dependent child. The law also dictates that the dependent child must have lived in the home with you, aside from temporary absences, like vacations or visiting relatives. There are exceptions, however, for things like birth, deaths, and even kidnapping.

Example of the Qualified Widow or Widower

Typically, in order to use the Qualified Widow or Widower tax status, a spouse must remain unmarried for at least two years following the year of the spouse’s death. If the spouse passed during tax year, this time frame is technically three years. For example, if the spouse passed in 2018, you could file taxes as a Qualified Widow or Widower providing you do did not marry a new spouse before January 1, 2020. You can file taxes for the year your spouse died, as well as two years following their death. The qualifications for Qualified Widow or Widower status also maintains that the surviving spouse must have paid for more than half of the total cost of home upkeep for the year of your spouse’s passing. Expenses for home keep including everything from food to rent or mortgage, insurance, property taxes, and home maintenance fees.