Death and Taxes and Paperwork
June 17, 2016 11:44 AM   Subscribe

What paperwork will the IRS accept that proves I am authorized to sign my deceased Mother's tax returns?

My mother died back in early December. Of course, we had to file her final tax return in April. I signed as her Executor, and we attached paperwork showing that she made me her POA, Executor, and Trustee.

This week, though, I got a letter from the IRS requiring me to sign a document of Declaration that her tax return is accurate and true. It further requires that I provide a "court certificate" showing that I am authorized (as Executor) to sign for her postmortem. POAs become invalid after the death of the individual.

I spent some time on the phone with an IRS rep yesterday. She really couldn't tell me what "court certificate" meant or what, exactly, might suffice.

The document I have establishing me as Executor is my mother's will. The will is signed and witnessed, but it is not notarized, nor did the attorney that drew it up enter it at the Registrars office. So, there is no seal or anything on it. As I said, we sent a copy of the will along with her tax return. Apparently, it wasn't good enough for them.

We're kind of scratching our heads, trying to figure out what we need to send back to the IRS that will make them happy. Would entering the will at the Registrars office (which results in my copy getting a stamped seal and a government file number) work? If not, what will? What counts as a "court document?"

FWIW, my Mother does not owe, nor is she getting a refund.
posted by Thorzdad to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This may depend on your state, but when my mom died I had to provide Letters Testamentary from my state's court system. It was a certified government document indicating I am the executor.
posted by griphus at 11:55 AM on June 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't have a copy of mine at hand (I can find and email them if you need) but it looked very much like this.
posted by griphus at 11:57 AM on June 17, 2016

They are correct in that POA dies with the deceased. A will establishing you as Executor is not sufficient for the IRS. When a person dies and you are their Executor, you take that will to the court in your area that handles this (in NY it is the local county Surrogate's Court) and they will issue you Letters Testamentary. That document (Letters Testamentary) is what the IRS requires.
posted by bedhead at 12:14 PM on June 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sorry for your loss. Yes, you need to not just be the executor, you need to be certified as the executor by some legal body and then you get a zillion pieces of paper (all the same) that you send to people like the IRS. You can call the regional court system in the state she lived in to get specifics on how this works. When my father died this was the county court in the county he had lived in. Also don't worry about the IRS, they are just bureaucrats in this so don't feel hustled or otherwise harassed by them. There are a lot of automated letters they send that sound scary but they're usually reasonable (though perhaps unclear on what is going on) when you speak with them.
posted by jessamyn at 12:28 PM on June 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Step by step:

The will nominates you as executor. You don’t automatically have that title.
You have to take it to the proper court (“probate court” or “surrogate court”) and have the court open an estate and appoint you as executor.
When that is done, you receive a document from that court (in my state, called “Letters of Authority”)
That document serves to satisfy the IRS, banks, etc. that you indeed are authorized to act.

The nomination in the will is not sufficient. The court has to appoint you and issue the document.
posted by yclipse at 8:07 PM on June 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks all. In trying to figure this out, we discovered that, in Indiana, the state does not require estates to enter probate if the total value of the estate is under $50,000, which my mom's certainly was.

We consulted with a tax attorney and, since mom was neither getting a refund nor owed anything, all, all that was needed was a couple of IRS forms and a letter from her explaining the situation in Indiana re:no probate documents.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:05 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

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