How to Fill Out a W-4 for a Widow

How to Fill Out a W-4 for a Widow
Your w-4 withholdings will change after a spouse's death.

Step 1

Leave your w-4 unchanged (claiming married) during the tax year of your spouse's death. The IRS allows you to file a joint return with your deceased spouse.

Step 2

Keep your w-4 unchanged during the two tax years following your spouse's death (claiming married) as long as you have at least one dependent. This filing status is the "qualified widow" status that provides two years of standard "married filing jointly" status to a surviving spouse. You must indicate this filing status on your tax form "1040A" or "1040" by placing a check in the box on line "5."

Step 3

Change your w-4 after the initial tax year elapses if you do not meet the criteria as a qualifying widow (you do not have a dependent). Change your status from married to single on the w-4. Figure your personal allowances by placing a "1" on line "A" and a "0" on line "C" of the "Personal Allowance Worksheet." Place a "1" on line "B" if you have only one job or if your combined wages from more than one job total less than $1,500. Place a "0" on lines "D" through "G." Add the lines and place the total on line "H." Transfer this number to line "5" of the w-4.

Step 4

Change your w-4 after the two years of "qualifying widow" elapses when you have dependents and you will file with "head of household" status. Change your status from married to single on the w-4. Figure your personal allowances by placing a "1" on line "A." Place a "1" on line "B" if you have only one job or if your combined wages from more than one job total less than $1,500. Place a "0" on line "C." Enter your number of dependents on line "D" and enter a "1" on line "E." Enter a "1" if you incur at least $1,900 of expenses for dependent care. Figure your "child tax credit" based on your total income and the number of dependents you have and enter the appropriate number on line "G." Add the numbers from each line and place the total line "H." Transfer this number to line "5" of the w-4.