A Guide for Legal Heirs on Filing ITR for the Deceased

by  Adv. Praneeth GN  




5 mins


Settling the final tax affairs of the deceased

When a loved one passes away, their financial responsibilities, including tax obligations, are passed on to their legal heirs. This crucial task, often overlooked in the midst of grief, involves filing Income Tax Returns (ITR) for the deceased up until their date of death. It’s not just a legal formality; it’s about settling the deceased’s financial affairs responsibly and ensuring compliance with tax laws.

Understanding this process is essential for legal heirs. It helps avoid legal repercussions associated with non-compliance and honours the financial legacy of the deceased. Moreover, it provides a sense of closure in managing the final affairs of the departed.

This guide aims to simplify this complex process, offering clear, step-by-step instructions for legal heirs. From identifying who is a legal heir to understanding the documentation and filing process, we provide a comprehensive approach to navigating this essential duty with ease and accuracy.

Who is a Legal Heir?

In the realm of legal and financial responsibilities, understanding who qualifies as a legal heir is fundamental. A legal heir is a person who is legally entitled to inherit the assets and liabilities of a deceased individual, including the responsibility to file Income Tax Returns (ITR) for them. This designation is crucial as it determines who will bear the mantle of fulfilling the deceased’s financial obligations.

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Defining a Legal Heir

Legally, a legal heir is someone who is recognized by law as the rightful recipient of the deceased’s estate. This includes not just the assets and wealth but also any debts and tax liabilities. The determination of a legal heir varies based on the deceased’s will, or in its absence, through the succession laws applicable in the country or state.

Scenarios and Examples

  1. With a Will: If the deceased has left a will, the legal heir is the person or persons named in that will. For instance, a deceased father may designate his daughter as the sole heir to his estate in his will.
  2. Without a Will (Intestate): In the absence of a will, legal heirs are determined based on the succession laws. Typically, this includes the deceased’s spouse, children, and parents. For example, if a woman dies without a will, her husband, children, and potentially her parents could be considered her legal heirs.
  3. Multiple Heirs: Often, there are multiple legal heirs, such as all the children of the deceased. In such cases, each heir is responsible for a proportionate share of the tax liabilities.
  4. Special Cases: Sometimes, legal heirs might include entities like trusts or organizations, especially if the deceased has designated such entities in their will for specific assets or responsibilities.

For a broader overview and detailed insights into legal heir certificates in India, explore our in-depth Guide to Legal Heir Certificates in India.

Registration Process as a Legal Heir

For legal heirs, registering on the income tax website is a pivotal step in fulfilling their duty of filing Income Tax Returns (ITR) for the deceased. This process, while straightforward, requires attention to detail to ensure accuracy and compliance.

Step-by-Step Guide to Registering as a Legal Heir

  1. Visit the Income Tax Website: Start by visiting the official income tax e-filing portal.
  2. Log In to Your Account: If you already have an account, log in using your credentials. If not, you’ll need to create one.
  3. Navigate to the ‘Authorized Partners’ Section: Once logged in, find and click on the ‘Authorized Partners’ tab.
  4. Select ‘Register as Representative’: In this section, choose the option to ‘Register as Representative’.
  5. Create a New Request: Click on ‘Create New Request’. Here, you’ll be asked to select the type of request. Choose ‘Legal Heir’.
  6. Fill in the Details: You’ll need to enter details about the deceased, including their PAN (Permanent Account Number).
  7. Upload Necessary Documents: This includes the death certificate of the deceased, your PAN card, and the legal heir certificate or a family member certificate.
  8. Submit the Request: After uploading the documents, submit your request for approval.

Nuances and Additional Steps

  • Document Translation: If the legal heir certificate is in a regional language, it may need to be translated into English or Hindi and notarized.
  • Multiple Legal Heirs: If there are multiple legal heirs, each must register separately. The tax liability can then be divided among them.
  • Verification Process: Post submission, the request is verified by the income tax department. This may take some time, so it’s advisable to plan accordingly.
  • Approval Notification: Once approved, you will receive a notification, after which you can proceed with filing the ITR for the deceased.

Documents Required for Filing ITR as a Legal Heir

When preparing to file Income Tax Returns (ITR) for a deceased individual, legal heirs must gather specific documents to ensure a smooth and compliant process. Here’s a comprehensive list of the necessary documents, along with any special conditions or additional documents that might be required.

Essential Documents for ITR Filing

  1. Death Certificate: An official document confirming the death of the individual.
  2. Legal Heir Certificate: Issued by a competent court or authority, it establishes the legal heir’s claim to the deceased’s estate.
  3. PAN Card of the Deceased: The Permanent Account Number (PAN) card of the deceased individual.
  4. PAN Card of the Legal Heir: The PAN card of the person filing the ITR.
  5. Copy of the Last Filed ITR (if available): The last Income Tax Return filed by the deceased, if accessible.

Special Conditions and Additional Documents

  • In Case of Multiple Heirs: If there are multiple legal heirs, each heir must provide their individual PAN cards along with a joint declaration stating their agreement on who will file the ITR.
  • Translation and Notarization: If the Legal Heir Certificate is in a regional language, it should be translated into English or Hindi and duly notarized.
  • Affidavit: In some cases, an affidavit may be required to further establish the legal heir’s claim.
  • Bank Account Details: Details of the bank account where any tax refund due to the deceased may be credited.
  • Form 16/16A/16B (if applicable): These forms are necessary if the deceased had income from salary, TDS, or property transactions.

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Filing the ITR for the Deceased

Once registered as a legal heir and with all necessary documents in hand, the next crucial step is to file the Income Tax Return (ITR) for the deceased. This process involves several key steps, from calculating the deceased’s income to the actual filing and verification of the return.

Calculating the Income of the Deceased

  1. Gather Financial Records: Collect all relevant financial documents of the deceased, such as bank statements, investment records, and previous ITRs.
  2. Identify Income Sources: Determine all income sources up to the date of death, including salary, interest, dividends, rental income, etc.
  3. Calculate Taxable Income: Add up the income from all sources to arrive at the gross taxable income. Deduct any applicable exemptions and deductions to find the net taxable income.

Filing the ITR

  1. Access the E-Filing Portal: Log in to the income tax e-filing portal using the legal heir’s credentials.
  2. Choose the Correct ITR Form: Select the appropriate ITR form based on the deceased’s income sources and other relevant factors.
  3. Fill in the Details: Enter the deceased’s income details, deductions, and credits. Ensure all information is accurate and matches the financial documents.
  4. Mention Legal Heir Status: In the ITR form, indicate that you are filing as a legal heir.
  5. Submit the Return: After reviewing all entries, submit the ITR.

E-Verification of the ITR

  1. Receive Acknowledgment: Post submission, you’ll receive an ITR-V acknowledgement.
  2. E-Verify the Return: The return can be e-verified using options like Aadhaar OTP, net banking, or through the e-filing portal.
  3. Alternative Verification: If e-verification is not possible, sign the ITR-V and send it to the Income Tax Department’s Central Processing Centre within the stipulated time.

Filing the ITR for a deceased person as a legal heir is a detailed process that requires careful attention to ensure accuracy and compliance. By methodically following these steps, legal heirs can fulfill their responsibilities effectively, ensuring that the deceased’s tax obligations are settled appropriately.

Tax Liability and Calculations for the Deceased’s Income

Determining the tax liability for a deceased person’s income is a critical aspect of filing their Income Tax Return (ITR). This section outlines how to calculate this liability, provides illustrative examples, and discusses potential penalties and considerations.

Determining Tax Liability

  1. Calculate Taxable Income: As mentioned earlier, sum up all income earned by the deceased until the date of death. This includes salary, rental income, interest, dividends, etc.
  2. Apply Deductions and Exemptions: Deduct eligible expenses and exemptions. This could include standard deductions, investment-related deductions under sections like 80C, medical expenses, etc.
  3. Compute Tax Due: Use the prevailing tax rates to calculate the tax due on the net taxable income.

Examples for Better Understanding

  • Scenario 1: Mr. A, who passed away on June 30, had a salary income of ₹5 lakhs and interest income of ₹50,000 up to the date of his death. After standard deductions and other exemptions, his taxable income is ₹4.5 lakhs. The tax liability would be calculated on this amount as per the applicable tax slabs.
  • Scenario 2: Ms. B, a senior citizen, earned ₹2 lakhs from interest and had rental income of ₹1 lakh before her demise in August. Her taxable income, after considering relevant deductions, is ₹2.5 lakhs. Being a senior citizen, her tax liability would be calculated considering the higher exemption limit for seniors.

Penalties, Fines, and Considerations

  • Late Filing: If the ITR is filed after the due date, there may be a penalty for late filing under Section 234F.
  • Interest on Late Payment: Interest under Section 234A/B/C may apply for late payment of tax dues.
  • Limited Liability: The legal heir’s liability is limited to the extent of the assets inherited from the deceased. They are not personally liable beyond the value of the inherited estate.
  • Advance Tax Consideration: If the deceased had paid advance tax, it should be accounted for in the final tax calculation.

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Common Challenges and Solutions in Filing ITR for the Deceased

Filing Income Tax Returns (ITR) for a deceased person can present unique challenges for legal heirs. Understanding these potential issues and knowing how to address them is crucial for a smooth process. Here, we identify common challenges and provide practical solutions.

Challenge 1: Incomplete Financial Information

  • Solution: Gather as much financial information as possible, such as bank statements and previous tax returns. If certain details are missing, consult with financial advisors or the deceased’s employer for assistance.

Challenge 2: Determining the Correct ITR Form

  • Solution: Review the different types of ITR forms available and choose based on the deceased’s income sources. If in doubt, seek guidance from a tax professional.

Challenge 3: Delays in Legal Heir Certification

  • Solution: Apply for the legal heir certificate as soon as possible. If delays occur, keep a record of your application as proof of your efforts.

Challenge 4: Calculating Tax Liability Accurately

  • Solution: Use online tax calculators for an initial estimate. For complex cases, especially involving multiple income sources or deductions, consider consulting with a tax expert.

Challenge 5: Technical Issues with E-Filing

  • Solution: Ensure a stable internet connection and familiarize yourself with the e-filing portal beforehand. For persistent technical problems, contact the portal’s helpdesk or consider filing through a tax professional.

Challenge 6: Managing Multiple Legal Heirs

  • Solution: Communicate and collaborate with other heirs to decide who will file the ITR. A joint declaration may be necessary if multiple heirs are involved.

Challenge 7: Risk of Penalties for Mistakes

  • Solution: Double-check all entries before submission. If you discover an error post-filing, use the ‘Rectification Request’ feature on the e-filing portal or file a revised return if within the allowable time frame.

By anticipating these challenges and preparing accordingly, legal heirs can navigate the process of filing ITR for the deceased with greater ease and accuracy.


Filing ITR for a deceased individual is a key responsibility for legal heirs. It involves understanding heirship, registering as a legal heir, preparing necessary documents, accurately filing the ITR, and calculating tax liabilities. Despite its complexity, it’s a crucial step in settling the deceased’s financial affairs with respect and legal compliance.

Frequently Asked Questions on Legal Heirs Filing ITR for the Deceased

Q1. What is a Legal Heir’s Role in Filing ITR for the Deceased?
Ans1. A legal heir is responsible for fulfilling the deceased’s tax obligations by accurately filing their Income Tax Returns (ITR) up to the date of death. This includes calculating taxable income, submitting the return, and ensuring compliance with tax laws.

Q2. How Do You Determine Who is a Legal Heir for ITR Filing?
Ans2. A legal heir is either designated in the deceased’s will or determined based on succession laws, typically including the spouse, children, and parents. In the absence of a will, legal heirs are identified per these laws.

Q3. What is the Process for Registering as a Legal Heir on the Income Tax Website?
Ans3. Registering involves visiting the income tax e-filing portal, logging in, navigating to ‘Authorized Partners’, selecting ‘Register as Representative’, and submitting necessary documents like the death certificate and legal heir certificate.

Q4. What Documents are Required for Filing ITR as a Legal Heir?
Ans4. Essential documents include the death certificate, legal heir certificate, PAN cards of both the deceased and the heir, and the last filed ITR of the deceased, if available.

Q5. How is the Income of the Deceased Calculated for ITR Filing?
Ans5. Calculate the deceased’s income by gathering their financial records, identifying all income sources up to the date of death, and then computing the taxable income after deductions.

Q6. What are the Key Steps in Filing the ITR for a Deceased Person?
Ans6. The key steps include choosing the correct ITR form, filling in income details, indicating legal heir status in the form, submitting the return, and then e-verifying it.

Q7. How Do You Calculate Tax Liability for the Deceased’s Income?
Ans7. Tax liability is calculated by summing up all income earned by the deceased until their death, applying deductions and exemptions, and then computing the tax due using prevailing tax rates.

Q8. What are Common Challenges in Filing ITR for the Deceased and Their Solutions?
Ans8. Common challenges include incomplete financial information, determining the correct ITR form, and technical issues with e-filing. Solutions involve gathering as much financial data as possible, consulting tax professionals for form selection, and ensuring a stable internet connection for e-filing.

Q9. What Happens if the ITR is Filed Late for a Deceased Person?
Late filing can result in penalties under Section 234F and interest charges under Sections 234A/B/C. It’s important to file the ITR timely to avoid these penalties.

Q10. Are Legal Heirs Personally Liable for the Deceased’s Tax Debts?
Legal heirs are liable only to the extent of the assets inherited from the deceased. They are not personally liable beyond the value of the inherited estate.

As you navigate the responsibilities of being a legal heir, obtaining a Legal Heir Certificate is a crucial step. Don't let the complexities of legal procedures add to your challenges. Our expert team is here to assist you in acquiring your Legal Heir Certificate swiftly and without hassle.

Adv. Praneeth GN

Adv. Praneeth GN


4.8 | 85+ User Reviews

Praneeth GN is a legal consultant who prioritises ethical and professional conduct. He graduated with (B.A. and LL.B) from the K.L.E. Society Law College. With more than 8 years of experience in handling legal cases independently. He has the potential to understand and explain complicated legal words in simple terms to clients.

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