How to Find Resources for Administering an Estate or Trust on Your Own

If you decide to administer an estate or trust on your own, there are important resources you should consult concerning tax issues, tax forms, probate courts, and more. Be sure to consult the necessary IRS publications, instructions for tax forms, your local probate court, and your state department of taxation or revenue. These resources can provide you the support you need to administer an estate without professional help.

Navigating the waters of estate administration by yourself isn’t impossible, but it’s also not uncommon to want expert advice and assistance along the way. Administering a trust or estate without professional help is entirely possible, but you should be sure to use the following key resources:

  • IRS Publication 559, Survivors, Executors and Administrators: This is a key resource that highlights important issues you need to be aware of when administering an estate or trust. It gives you tax advice for the decedent’s final Form 1040 and the estate or trust’s Form 1041 and Form 706. This resource also gives general administration advice, comprehensive income tax return examples, and a valuable checklist of forms and due dates.

  • Instructions for tax forms: Tax forms required for administering an estate or trust often seem dense and intimidating. This is especially true if you’re not sure where to look for a particular piece of information. Fortunately, most tax forms give instructions line by line. Very often, terms and concepts are introduced either at the beginning of the instructions or at the start of chapters within the instructions.

  • Your local probate court (or its equivalent in your state): In addition to being the best place to locate all the probate forms you need, most also have pamphlets available that explain the local probate process. Making friends with clerks or assistant registrars at the probate court never hurts. Many of them have been there for a long time, and they may be able to provide helpful information.

  • Your state department of taxation or revenue: Every state has specific requirements for estates and trusts. Many have publications available to help guide you through the process. In addition, if you have questions, call the state tax department and ask to be transferred to the fiduciary section. Every state tax department has at least one person in that area. Make sure that you get his or her contact info and keep it handy.

It is not a good idea to phone the IRS for fiduciary tax advice. The IRS doesn’t focus its training on fiduciary tax, and its telephone support is spotty, at best. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for in writing, you may want to ask a private practice tax expert who specializes in trust and estate returns.

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