Who is required to pay a deceased parent's tax bill?

My father died intestate and there is no estate. He did not own a home or a vehicle and does not have a surviving spouse. Am I required to pay his tax bill?


All bills go to the decedent and the estate. You get to do all the paperwork, but you are not obligated.

Since your father passed intestate, someone needs to be named the administrator of his assets. might be you, might be a random court person. Dealing with this right now.


I assume an administrator will be appointed by a judge if no one volunteers. What if nobody has access to his records (w2, etc.)?

The paperwork appointing a person as the administrator, executor, etc. (language varies by state) will give that person the authority to access the records and accounts.

Typically, that person will be required to prepare an inventory of the deceased’s property with their value, as well as a list of known debts. And likely need to publish a notice of the death, including a statement for anyone who feels like they are owed money by the decedent to apply to xyz by a certain date. The notice will need to be published for a period of time specified in state law, and state law will also include the timeframe in which debts must be noticed to the administrator. (Bills that are first sent five years after the estate is settled would rarely if ever be owed.)

A tax return will need to be filed for the year which contains the date of death. Many times, this will get overlooked, especially if someone dies on a date early in the year. For example, if a person died on January 10, 2023, a tax return should be filed for the tax year 2023. Taxes may be owed, or a refund may be due. In either case, the estate is responsible for the taxes or for distributing the refund proceeds to appropriate parties.

My question actually pertains to what if you don’t know where the records are, where they worked, etc. Lets say the decadent lived thousands of miles from the person who has been appointed executor or administrator and the executor/adminstrator has had little contact with them for the last 20 years. How do you file a tax return then with minimal knowledge.

This is an excellent question. My heirs have everything needed to access all my accounts, but how would they handle my income taxes?

This may involve a detailed search and an effort which could take quite a lot of time. Someone, preferably a relative or close friend, may have to go through the person’s house or apartment. A search for things like old papers, checkbooks, legal documents, tax records, etc. Often, this is not a pleasant task, and things could be found that some people would prefer to keep private. Talking to relatives, friends, neighbors, lawyers, doctors, etc. could help.

If a person has been appointed the administrator of the estate, and that person is unable to perform the task, then another administrator should be appointed. When doing estate planning, designating a person to be the administrator is key. As you mentioned, ideally that person should be local and know the person well.

Don’t rely on having username and password information for online accounts. Often, accounts are locked as soon as a person dies.

Engaging a lawyer to help with the entire process is recommended. Find one that does this type of work every day.

An executor, administrator or successor trustee with the death certificate and court or trust document naming them as exec/admin/trustee has the authority to request 1099s from banks, financial custodians, etc. in order to do the final income tax returns and the estate income tax returns. They just need to file all the paperwork necessary to be recognized as THE representative for the deceased. Then they can call, ask for 1099s to be sent. It would help if the deceased kept copies of old tax returns, but if not you could probably get copies of the last one filed from the IRS and state (I haven’t done that, personally, so I don’t really know).

1 Like

Good information. Thanks

One more thing…

The Social Security Administration should be notified of a person’s death almost immediately. In some cases, the funeral home may handle this for you. Just make sure it is done. If Social Security payments continue after a person dies, the payments will have to be returned to the Social Security Administration. If they are not, it can be quite a mess to deal with. The best thing to do is to get the payments stopped ASAP. This is also true if a person is receiving a pension. Pensions typically are not as messy as Social Security, but they can be a little difficult to deal with. Just remember that things change as of the date of death. There is no grace period.

Possible, I guess, but I accessed my fed and state sites and see no way to find or access the returns.

So I saved the fed to PDF then tried to mail to myself as a test. My outlook / live mail asked if I wanted to encrypt it and I clicked yes. Sent to myself but it failed.

“Your message wasn’t delivered because the recipient’s email provider rejected it.”

So my outlook / live could not recognize a file from my outlook / live. Huh?

[still trying to find a way to encrypt my tax return so son can decrypt it.

Any suggestions?

At 84 and in horrible health this issue is vital to me.
I have already sent all my account info to my son, and as verification, he accessed my VG, TRP, banks, etc. All good.

Thanks to this thread, I needed to send him my tax info.

Using VeraCrypt, I encrypted my 2022 and 2023 tax returns and sent them to him as a sort of guide.

As my bennie, he would get all my funds including the last remaining IRA. He would be required to take IRA funds within X years. [ten?]

He is required to file tax returns for the year of my death. Since he has access to all accts plus phone numbers, then he just makes contact and gets the info? Or has them mailed?

At the end of my death year, he gets my IRA info for RMD’s.

Using my previous tax returns as a guide, the info is constant so he just has to change the $$$ entrees?

That sound about right? Or?

Sounds good!

He would have 10 years on the inherited IRA. If you had not started RMDs, he could wait until the 10th year and take it out lump sum if he wanted the benefit of growth, but you’ve already taken RMDs so he’ll have to take RMDs each year of the 10, or deplete it sooner. I think the 10 years starts the year after death, and you would be responsible for your RMD in your year of death. Not sure about that – there used to be a loophole about the year of death which may have been fixed by now.

He might be able to access your accounts online after you die, but if he doesn’t, the trust document should give him the authority to receive 1099s in order to do your last tax returns.

The other thing he’ll probably have to do is file estate income tax returns, Fed & state. Those can operate on the fiscal year, unlike personal income tax returns. For example, you were to die in November, and it took him 6 months to transfer all your assets to heirs, he could file 1041s for the year Oct 1 2024 to Sep 30 2025 to report all the income your assets earned (namely, int, div & CG on bank and mutual funds in your taxable accts). There probably won’t be any estate income tax to pay; usually the income is passed on to heirs by form K-1 and reported on their personal income tax returns. 1041 forms are more complex than 1040s, so it behooves him to get your assets transferred to heirs within a year so he does them only once.

1 Like

robertpri, Your still young. We have an QC Inspector at United Airlines that is in his 80’s, TWA or AA could use your help.

Thanks! I’m 84 but don’t feel a day over 90.

I kinda thought that. Many thanks! Really good info that I’ll forward to him.

Heh, I would need to accurately predict my death?

Well that was the reason for the loophole – some said the deceased can’t be responsible for the RMD in the year of death if he/she died during the year. But then it would be unfair to make the heirs pay RMD in the year of death, especially if they didn’t even get possession of the inherited IRA before the end of the year. I don’t know what they (Congress? IRS?) did about this.

In my/my dad’s case, dad waited until the end of the year to take RMDs and one year died before that, so I took an RMD that year, ignoring the loophole.

1 Like

Confusing, eh? Millions face this issue, so it’s disappointing there is no clear information. Then again, lawyers prefer to keep it all secret so we must retain them to sort it out.

Some years I take RMD’s when I needed cash, but just guessed at the 12/31 year end value. Some years I wait until year end to get the value and the divider.

I have bled my IRA’s down over the years, but still low six digits. I will suggest son deplete them at once, and pay the tax burden, and not face yearly headaches. His choice.

Again, many thanks for all your great info