Can the IRS Come Back for Taxes After the Estate Is Closed?

by Beverly Bird
    Your executor is responsible for your estate's taxes -- sometimes, even after it closes.

    Your executor is responsible for your estate's taxes -- sometimes, even after it closes.

    Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

    Most people do not owe estate taxes when they die, so they should not be a critical part of your estate planning unless you believe the total value of your estate will exceed the federal estate-tax exclusion amount -- $5.25 million, as of 2013. If the value of your assets is more than this, the burden of filing and paying estate taxes falls to the executor of your will during the probate process. If she doesn't do her job properly, the IRS can look to her for payment after your estate is closed.

    Closing the Estate

    Your executor cannot – or should not – settle your estate until she has filed all required tax returns. These include your personal returns, as well as an estate tax return if it is required. She has nine months from your date of death to do so. After she determines how much your estate owes in taxes, she's obligated to pay this debt first, before other creditors receive money and before making distributions to your beneficiaries. The IRS will issue a closing letter about six months after reviewing the return, allowing her to make distributions and settle your estate.

    Executors' Liability

    If your executor fails to file a return or neglects to pay any taxes due, she can be held personally liable. She won't necessarily have to pay all your taxes, but only an amount equal to what she gave other creditors instead, or what she distributed to beneficiaries before paying the IRS. This can occur even after your estate is settled.

    About the Author

    Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images