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By: Scott Grossman on August 5th, 2016

Taxes after Death: You Still Need to Pay Your Taxes in California

Taxes after Death? The death of a person does not waive the obligation to file federal and state taxes under California probate law. This will be the personal representative’s responsibility.

If the decedent was married, the surviving spouse may indeed file one last joint return. In this case, he or she should sign the return papers along with the personal representative, who will attach a copy of the court certificate proving the appointment.

The word “Deceased” and the date of death must be added next to the name of the decedent, and the date of death should be written clearly across the top of the final return.

A surviving spouse can make a joint tax return for the taxable year in which the death occurred.

If the decedent was involved in different business and investment activities, things may become more complicated. Business, employment, sales, and use tax returns may have to be filed. As a shareholder in a private corporation or a partner in a partnership, other tax filings may be required. The estate representative should hire an accountant to collect and identify the relevant information and prepare the tax returns that he or she will sign.

If there is no surviving spouse or court-appointed personal representative (which would be the case if the estate does not have to go through probate), it is important to consult an accountant or the IRS before the estate is distributed.

Many other taxes may come into play and will require a separate discussion:

  • Federal estate taxes on the inheritance of large estates
  • Fiduciary income tax returns on the income generated by the estate


If you are ready to start your case, then please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form. A comprehensive overview of California Probate is available here. Should you have additional questions about trust litigation, you will find plenty of useful information in our Learning Center.