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Tax Identification Number

A tax identification number is generally required for administration of an estate after death. This is true whether the estate will require a probate or it will avoid probate with a Revocable Trust. Income from the deceased’s assets (for example, interest on a savings account earned after the date of death) cannot be reported using the deceased’s Social Security number. The IRS requires a separate Social Security number for reporting post-death income to the estate or Revocable Trust.

Some financial institutions are very direct about asking for the tax identification number. Other financial institutions may not put it at the top of their list and it may not seem as important. However, after a death it is very likely that you will be asked to provide a tax identification number to at least one financial institution for the estate or Revocable Trust involved.

Obtaining a tax identification number creates an obligation to file a separate federal and state income tax return for the estate or Revocable Trust. The IRS will ask a number of questions in the process of giving out the tax identification number. Because the person who will eventually be preparing the tax returns for the estate or Revocable Trust will want to control the information provided to the IRS and how things are set up, the advisor who will prepare those tax returns should be the one who requests the tax identification number from the IRS.

If Fitzgerald Law Office does some other legal work or is involved with the administration of the estate after death, we frequently prepare estate and trust income tax returns for an estate as well. However, it is rare for Fitzgerald Law Office to prepare estate or trust tax returns unless the firm is retained to do some other legal work involved with an estate.

Many clients choose to use a Revocable Trust so that their family can avoid probate. If the Revocable Trust does its job so well that the family does not need any assistance from an attorney, the family will generally rely upon their accountant or tax preparer to do the tax returns for the estate or Revocable Trust. In those situations, the accountant or tax preparer is the best choice to get the tax identification number.

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