How tax return should be signed if I am the preparer but not a *paid* preparer

My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s and has been incapable of managing her own affairs for years. My wife has a general durable power of attorney. I am doing her taxes. My MIL is not competent to sign. How should the return be signed? I use TurboTax and will e-file.

  1. Sign using my MIL’s name as if she had signed it herself
  2. My wife signs under the POA
  3. Other

I put this in FQ because I think this is a black & white question that should have a settled answer. If instead it is a question of legal opinion that can vary depending on whom you ask, I am not averse to having it moved.

Your wife signs for your MIL, you don’t sign anything, you’re not a paid preparer.
From the 1040 Instructions:

If you have someone prepare your return, you are still responsible for the correctness of the return. If your return is signed by a representative for you, you must have a power of attorney attached that specifically authorizes the representative to sign your return. To do this, you can use Form 2848

Also, this, my bolding…

Generally, anyone you pay to prepare your return must sign it and include their Preparer Tax Identification Number
(PTIN) in the space provided. The preparer must give you a copy of the return for your records. Someone who prepares your return but doesn’t charge you shouldn’t sign your return.

The IRS publishes instructions that detail what to put in every line.

For the signature on the 1040, it says “if you are a […] fiduciary for a mentally or physically incompetent individual […] sign your name for the individual and file Form 56”

So, you can’t sign it, because you’re not a fiduciary. Your wife should sign it.

ETA: After looking at Form 56 and Form 2848, 2848 looks like the right one in your case.