If your spouse passed away during the tax year, you are still eligible to file using the Married status. However the following two years after, you may file using the qualifying widow(er) status. In doing so, you are offered the same tax rates as if you filed jointly. You must meet additional rules in order to use the qualifying widow(er) status:

  • You have not remarried for the two years after your spouse passed away. For example if your spouse became deceased during the 2015 tax period, this means you must remain unmarried until the end of 2017 to take full advantage of the status’ tax rates.
  • You have a qualifying dependent when you file. Dependents can be children, stepchildren, or adopted child in which you have supported and paid household expenses during the entire length of the tax year. Exceptions are made for school, hospital stays, and vacations. Foster children do not qualify as a dependent.
  • When your spouse deceased, you were eligible to file jointly during that tax year. It only matters if you were eligible, not if you actually did.

If you meet all of these rules, and you didn’t use a Schedule A to itemize your deductions, you are eligible to use the standard deduction available to all married couples filing jointly.