The probate process can be very complex, and filing your loved one’s final tax return is key to closing their estate efficiently. We’ll review current Florida estate laws to help guide you through this important probate responsibility.

Who Is Responsible for Filing a Decedent’s Taxes?

A decedent’s final tax return must be filed by the estate’s personal representative – also called the executor in some states. This role is declared in the decedent’s estate plan. In nearly all scenarios, Florida law also requires the personal representative to work with an estate attorney to close the estate.

If a will or trust was never created the decedent is considered to have died intestate, and a personal representative will then need to be appointed. This role usually goes to a surviving spouse or adult child, but it must be determined by the court. If you’ve been appointed as the personal representative of your loved one’s estate you’re responsible for a number of tasks beyond filing their taxes, like creating a valuation of the estate and distributing inheritance to heirs.

When Must a Final Tax Return Be Completed?

Taxes are probably the last thing you want to think about when you’re grieving, but it’s important to address this task in a timely manner. Your loved one’s tax return is due the April after their passing, just as if they were alive. If the decedent had not filed their tax return in the years before their passing, those will need to be filed, too. You can request an extension from the IRS if you need more time.

This process is pretty straightforward if your loved one had their financial documents in order, but challenges may arise if information can’t be located. For example, you may need to contact their work or bank to uncover information on income, charitable donations, or business expenses. You may also need to contact additional organizations to find information on healthcare expenses or your loved one’s retirement accounts.

If the decedent owes taxes, these funds will be paid from the estate, and this should be resolved before inheritance is distributed to heirs. This is, of course, a broad overview. There are many other details to consider, depending on whether there is a surviving spouse, dependents, etc. For additional information, the IRS provides this helpful resource for filing a decedent’s final tax return.

Understanding Florida Estate Tax Laws

Beyond the tax return, there are also critical estate laws specific to Florida. It’s important to note that at the time of this writing (2024), there is no estate tax in Florida. Florida eliminated this tax in 2004. As long as the decedent resided in Florida, this applies to estates of any scale and to the inheritance for any heir – even if the heirs live out of state.

In many cases, federal estate taxes will also not apply. However, as of 2024 the federal estate tax exemption kicks in at $13.61 million per individual. Anything above that is taxed at the estate tax rate. A federal estate tax return must be completed within nine months of the decedent’s passing.

Organizing and filing taxes each year is always stressful, but it can be extremely distressing when the return is for a deceased loved one. Our team has extensive expertise in estate administration, and we understand the intricacies of Florida estate law. We’ll work with you to file your loved one’s final return in a timely manner, so you and your family can focus on grieving.