When you're an executor of an estate, then one of the things of which you are responsible is the decedent's tax returns. This includes both the individual income tax return and the estate's income tax return. If there is a surviving spouse, then that person may be able to file the individual tax return jointly and that will solve that part of the problem. But if this isn't the case, then you will need to do it yourself as the executor.
Is filing the individual's tax return necessary?
It may not be necessary to file an individual tax return if the decedent's income was below a certain threshold. Check with the IRS as to the actual threshold amounts as this amount can change from year to year. When you file a 1040 form based on the year of death, include all income up to the time of death, and sign it as the executor. If you need to request additional information, or the decedent was entitled to a refund, then you must prove to the IRS that you have legal rights to this information or that you are acting on the behalf of the estate. This means presenting them with copies of paperwork from the court proving that you are the executor. You may also need to file back returns if they were not filed previously. If the person owed money, then you would also have to send payment.
What about estate income taxes?
Estate income taxes are taxes based on the income the estate has earned after their owner's death. This includes things like rental income, dividends, and interest. Generally, any estate which has earned more than $600 in a year or has a beneficiary who is a nonresident alien must file an estate income tax. One way to reduce this type of tax is to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries as soon as possible. This will likely be easier if there was a will or trust, but if there wasn't, then keeping the taxes down will be difficult. Other fees which may be deducted and reduce the estate income taxes may include attorney and court fees as well as administrative fees.
Dealing with the leftover financial issues after someone dies can be overwhelming. Hiring a probate attorney can help you with many of the legal and financial issues of an estate. The probate attorney can give you advice and help you deal with the court and legal issues with beneficiaries. They can also assist with paperwork and information gathering. That way, you can take care of your obligations in the quickest time possible.