How to Locate a Decedent’s Assets through Tax Returns
6 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Marshalling Estate Assets
For an estate executor in the process of locating a decedent’s assets, the decedent’s prior tax returns may be a useful resource. These tax returns (and the supporting documentation) provide information regarding income and deduction, and may also help to eliminate items you thought the decedent owned but he or she actually didn’t. If you can’t locate these returns, you can request copies from the IRS.
If you find paper copies of tax returns, you may also find the supporting documents to those returns in the same spot. Those official forms (Forms W-2, 1099, and 1098) can direct you to the decedent’s employer, as well as to all the interest-bearing bank accounts and dividend-paying stocks he or she owned. You can also find evidence of retirement income and mortgages owed.
Sometimes it’s difficult to locate prior tax returns, either on paper or buried somewhere on the computer hard drive. If you’re having trouble, you can obtain copies of prior years’ tax returns, including copies of all W-2s, 1099s, and 1098s directly from the IRS by filing Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return.
Send this form, together with the fee of $39 for each year requested, to the IRS Service Center indicated on the form instructions. Send a copy of your fiduciary appointment with the Form 4506. The IRS won’t give you information if you’re not authorized to receive it.
If you don’t need to see an actual copy of the entire return but only want to know the information that’s on it, you can file Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return instead and you won’t have to pay a fee.