Tax Related

Can I Claim My Mother on My Tax Return After My Father Passed Away?

Written by Steve Rhode


Dear Steve,

My father passed away in March 2019. That same month Mom had to be placed in assisted living. I have been paying the assisted living costs for Mom. I want to claim her either as a dependent or as a qualifying person to file my return as head of household.

Can I file my parents as married filing separately and claim my mother on my return?



Dear Joe,

So sorry to hear about the loss of your father. It can be a very difficult time in your life. Adding on your mother’s situation makes it exceedingly traumatic.

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I’m not a tax expert and don’t have a clue about your question so I turned to my friend Jim Buttonow who is a tax expert.

Here is what Jim said.

“Joe can claim Head of Household if he meets these three criteria for his Mom:

  • Joe is unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year.
  • Joe can claim his Mom as a dependent.
  • Joe paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for his Mom for the tax year. Joe’s dependent Mom doesn’t have to live with him.

To claim his Mom as a dependent, Joe must meet the following tests:

  • Joe (and his spouse if filing jointly) are not a dependent of another taxpayer.
  • Joe’s Mom, if married, doesn’t file a joint return, unless his Mom and Dad file a joint return only to claim a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid.
  • Joe’s Mom is a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
  • Joe paid more than half of his Mom’s support for the calendar year.
  • Joe’s Mom’s gross income for the calendar year was less than $4200. (does not include social security)

It sounds like Joe can claim his Mom as a dependent, and can also use Head of Household filing status.

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I would have to know more about Joe’s Mom and Dad’s income to give a more specific answer- but their parents can file a joint return (if they are filing only to get a refund).”

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Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.


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