What Tax Returns Must Be Filed By A Florida Probate Estate?
In 1789, Benjamin Franklin told a colleague that the newly adopted United States Constitution “has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Indeed, death and taxes are inextricably linked together in our legal system, so much so that even after a person dies their estate may still need to file multiple tax returns.
Separate Federal Income Tax Returns for Decedent, Estate
When a Florida probate estate is opened, the court will appoint a personal representative (or administrator) for the estate. The personal representative is responsible for acting on behalf of the decedent (the deceased individual) and administering their property. This responsibility includes paying any outstanding taxes on behalf of the probate estate.
This starts with any personal income tax returns on behalf of the decedent. The personal representative needs to file a regular Form 1040 reporting the income earned by the decedent in the year of their death. Depending on the situation, the estate may also need to file the Form 1040s for prior years when no return was filed.
For example, say Janice died unexpectedly in March 2022. Her estate would need to file a Form 1040 reporting the income she earned in 2022. But if she had not yet filed her 2021 tax return, the estate would need to file that return as well and pay any tax owed.
In some cases, a probate estate will also earn income that must be reported on a separate return. This could include items like interest on bank accounts or rental income from properties that were owned by the decedent. Basically, if the estate earned more than $600 in income after the decedent died, it must be reported on a separate tax return for the estate, which is known as a Form 1041.
Filing a Form 1041 requires the personal representative to obtain a tax identification number–what is normally called an “employment identification number” or EIN–from the Internal Revenue Service. The EIN must be used for estate filings instead of the decedent’s Social Security number.
It is important to understand that Form 1041 is not the same thing as the estate tax. The federal estate tax only applies to very large estates and is reported on yet another form known as Form 706. The estate tax is based on the total amount of assets in the taxable estate and not any income earned by the estate.
Fortunately, if you are working with a Florida probate estate, there are no state-level income or estate taxes to worry about. Of course, the personal representative may need to deal with other local tax issues, such as paying property taxes on the decedent’s home or other real estate holdings.
Speak with a Florida Probate Attorney Today
Taxes are just one of many issues that a personal representative will need to deal with in administering a Florida estate. An experienced St. Petersburg probate and trust administration lawyer can provide invaluable guidance in this area. Contact Legacy Protection Lawyers, LLP, today if you need to speak with an attorney today.