How to Select the Tax Year for an Estate

IRS tax return instructions can be confusing.
IRS tax return instructions can be confusing. (Image: tax time image by Gale Distler from

The timing of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estate tax filing requirements is fixed by the date of death of the decedent. Other taxes and their filing requirements are fixed by the date of death and/or by law.

Required Estate, Trust and Other Tax Returns

Confirm the decedent’s date of death. Get a copy of the death certificate. Proceed in a timely manner as deadlines can be strictly enforced.

Get a copy of the instructions for filing Form 706, an estate tax return.

Enter in your browser to read the IRS instructions.

Determine, if you are the executor of the estate, an estimate of the estate’s value at the date of death. Read the instructions carefully, to ensure you have included the valuation of prior gifts and other property, where required.

Determine if the value of the decedent’s estate exceeds the exemption amount, which will necessitate the filing of an estate tax return.

File a required estate tax return on or before nine months after the date of death, unless you previously filed for an extension of time to file. See the instructions for the terms and conditions for extensions.

Determine if any other tax returns must be filed, whether or not an estate tax return is required.

File the first trust tax return—if a trust tax return is required—on or before nine months after the date of death. Subsequent trust tax returns are based upon the calendar year.

Consult the instructions for Form 709, dealing with trust taxes. Enter in your browser to see the IRS' trust tax return instructions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Other tax returns may also be necessary, depending on the particular circumstances of the decedent and any surviving spouse. Ensure that you have met all the filing requirements. Read the IRS tax form instructions with extreme care. Potentially heavy civil and criminal penalties could be assessed, should the IRS attribute fault to the executor.

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