Many executors and beneficiaries become confused about their complete list of duties after a testator dies. They often do not understand the taxes they must pay and the tax returns they have to file. Filing documents to various people and organizations is a major part of distributing a deceased person’s estate in Washington.
The individuals responsible and their roles
The executor or estate administrator is responsible for filing the decedent’s final income tax return. If these individuals are not available, the surviving spouse is responsible for the task. If the decedent has no spouse, the next closest family member or legal representative is responsible for filing the final tax return and the remaining steps of estate planning.
The person who files the final tax return has to collect and calculate the decedent’s income up until the date of death. The person’s death does not waive anyone’s responsibility of paying taxes.
An alternative method is for the surviving spouse to file a joint tax return as a formerly married couple. The living spouse has to file in the year of the deceased spouse’s death. This person may qualify to file as a widow or widower up to two years later if the IRS’s eligibility requirements are met.
Choosing the right leader
The executor, estate administrator and surviving spouse are the three most important individuals to consider for distributing an estate. The person who is named in the decedent’s will and appointed to execute an estate is the first choice. In many situations, the surviving spouse is expected to handle the estate. Before the person dies, the family members must decide who is responsible and determine the level of responsibility.