If you’re the executor of the estate of someone who passed away last year, one of your responsibilities will be filing their final income tax returns. Note that this is not the same as an estate’s tax returns.
The deceased’s tax return is due on Tax Day, just like everyone else’s. However, you may be able to get an extension. It’s wise to apply for that promptly as Executors who aren’t surviving spouses may need time to find the necessary financial records.
Note that surviving spouses can file one last joint return for the year their spouse passed away and simply put “Filing as surviving spouse” where the spouse’s signature would go. Any other executor needs to include Form 56 with the federal income taxes to indicate their right to file income tax returns for the deceased.
Obtaining necessary documents
As the executor, you need copies of the death certificate. You may need these to access banking and other financial documents. You also need a copy of the previous year’s return. If the decedent left you passwords to their information or at least the name of their accountant or tax preparer, that makes things easier.
If you can’t locate the last return, you can request a copy from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with Form 4506-T. If necessary, the IRS can then also provide you with W-2s or 1099 forms for the deceased if you can’t locate them.
If the deceased needed a lot of medical care in their last year, you’ll want to determine all of their medical expenses so you can deduct them if they exceed the threshold of 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI).
Seek a “prompt assessment”
Another form you should know about is Form 4810 — “Request for Prompt Assessment.” This way, if the deceased owed more in taxes than you paid, possibly because they had income you weren’t aware of, you can find out before the estate is settled and the inheritance is distributed.
This just skims the surface of what you need to know as you file a decedent’s final income tax return. (If someone passed away in 2022, you’ll need to do one more.) It’s best to seek help from their tax preparer or one that you know and trust as well as to seek legal guidance for all matters pertaining to probating the estate.