How to Complete an SS4 for a Testamentary Trust

by Jeff Franco

If you’re the trustee of a testamentary trust – meaning you are responsible for a trust that a decedent created through a will – you may need to complete IRS Form SS-4 to obtain an employer identification number, or EIN. Since you must file annual income tax returns to report trust earnings, the EIN identifies the trust in the same way that a Social Security number identifies an individual.

General Trust Information

As is the case with most types of IRS forms, the top of Form SS-4 requires some general information about the trust. The first piece of information is the name of the trust within the trust document; however, you should leave the “trade name of business” line blank since this doesn’t usually apply to testamentary trusts. Form SS-4 also requires your name, as trustee, or the name of the entity you work for, as well as the address where all trust-related correspondence should be sent. Lastly, you need to repeat the name you reported as trustee on the “responsible party” line along with your Social Security number or the EIN of your employer.

Type of Entity

Immediately following the general information section of Form SS-4, there is a question asking whether the application is for a limited liability company. Mark the “no” box and skip the remaining LLC-related questions until you reach the “Type of entity” line. You must check the box for trusts and report the trust grantor’s SSN. The grantor is another name for the decedent who creates and funds the trust through a will.

Reason for Applying

In the middle of Form SS-4, the IRS requires you to provide the reason for the EIN application. Check the box for “Created a trust” and on the line immediately to the right, indicate the specific type of trust it is. Keep in mind that any type of trust that takes effect at the creator’s death is a testamentary trust, but here you need to report a more specific category that relates to the purpose of the trust, such as whether it’s a life insurance trust, spendthrift trust or credit shelter trust, for example.

Accounting Year and Employees

As you move on to complete the SS-4 form, you can skip the question that relates to business start-up dates, but you must answer the question that requests information about principal lines of business. Trustees of most testamentary trusts can check the “other” box and write “trust” on the accompanying line. Additionally, you must indicate the trust’s tax year, which is generally the same as a calendar year, whether the trust has any employees (a trustee isn’t an employee), employee-related wage information and whether the trust has ever applied for an EIN in the past. To complete the SS-4 form, sign the bottom of it and include the name, address and phone number of any third party designee you authorize to receive the EIN – which takes approximately four weeks when mailing the SS-4 form to the IRS.