What to know if you’re filing a decedent’s final tax returns

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Carl S. Goode |

If you’re the executor of a loved one’s estate, one of your responsibilities is filing income tax returns for the year in which they passed away. The federal return is due on Tax Day. You can typically receive an extension from the IRS, but you must request it. Note that the Louisiana Department of Revenue automatically grants everyone a six-month extension for filing from the deadline – but not for payment if there is income tax due.

If the deceased was your spouse and you filed joint returns in the past, the only thing you’ll need to do differently is indicate on the return that your spouse has passed away. If you’re the executor of another loved one’s estate and there’s no surviving spouse, the process is more complicated. That’s why seeking an extension is the first thing you should do, because sorting things out is going to take time.

Gathering the necessary documents

Locating all of the necessary documents can take some time. The first thing to do is find out whether they previously filed using an online tax preparation program or perhaps had a professional tax preparer. Either of these will help you determine what income and tax credits they had in the past.

If you can’t find some of the necessary documents, like 1099s and W-2s, you’ll likely need to provide a copy of the death certificate to get them. You’ll also need to file a separate IRS form with the returns showing that you have the authority to file them.

Accuracy and thoroughness are crucial

It’s crucial to file the forms accurately. You don’t want any unnecessary complications caused by not claiming all taxable income and benefits. If the deceased is entitled to a refund, that will go towards the estate, just as any money they owe will come from the estate.

We’ve just scratched the surface here of filing a decedent’s final tax returns. If they let these slide the last year or so, you’ll need to file multiple returns. If they died this year, you’ll also be responsible for their 2024 returns. Whether they had a tax preparer in the past or not, it’s wise to have one now in addition to sound legal guidance. Both can help you navigate this process successfully.

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