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Charitable Contribution by Decedent

May a surviving spouse claim a deduction for a charitable contribution on a final joint return filed for the year his spouse died if she had made a qualified public charity [501(c)(3)] a beneficiary to an investment account she owned?  Or, since the donation did not become effective until after her death, was it too late to include in the final joint return?

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5 Replies
SusanY1
Expert Alumni

Charitable Contribution by Decedent

You can include the charitable donation made by the deceased spouse on the joint return for the year.  

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Charitable Contribution by Decedent

Thank you very much, Susan.  Is there a particular regulation that covers this.  I tried looking but could not find anything.  It would be greatly appreciated if you give me the Code section, reg. or ruling of some sort.  Thank you for your help.

SusanY1
Expert Alumni

Charitable Contribution by Decedent

When you file as a joint return, you're actually one taxpayer.  So what one of you does is considered to be equally the others.  So the donation is considered as much hers as yours. I don't have a particular code reference for this specific item, but it stems from the joint return being all matters combined.  It's similar to how any income paid to your spouse after the death is also included on your joint return.  

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Charitable Contribution by Decedent

Again, thank you so much for your response, which I understand.  I am not sure if this makes a difference but the twist here is that my deceased spouse designated a beneficiary (the charitable organization) to her investment account that takes effect upon her death.  Even as a spouse, the beneficiary designation is something that I cannot change and seems as if it may be a bit different from joint income or deductions.  So, I wonder if I have the authority to include an after death donation in our final joint return or is this somehow an estate issue.  There is no estate tax liability - well below the liability threshold.  Sorry to follow up again.

SusanY1
Expert Alumni

Charitable Contribution by Decedent

If the donation wasn't triggered until her death, it is possible that it would be considered a donation from her estate.  That may have some legal nuances to it that require knowing more than we can discuss in a public forum.  

I'm inclined to believe that it would still be considered to be from her and, therefore, deductible by you, if it went straight from the personal account  and didn't go through a conduit estate account.  Particularly since there seems to be no estate tax issue at hand here.  

The donation would still be showing as from her, personally, coming from her SSN rather than from an estate tax identification number.  

However, as I said, there could be some nuances surrounding the intent that is laid out in the actual beneficiary designation that change that.   If you this is a large donation that you are still not feeling comfortable with (or even a small one, if it just leaves you feeling uncomfortable), I think I'd reach out to a knowledgeable tax professional or attorney in your area for a bit more reassurance.   It may benefit you to have someone take a look at the actual document that directed the donation.  



 

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