Meet Probate Court and Tax Deadlines for Estates and Trusts
4 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Avoiding Common Trust and Estate Mistakes
You must meet all probate court deadlines to avoid being removed as executor or trustee and to avoid fines or even jail sentences. File income tax returns, Form 1041, and estate tax returns, Form 706, on time. To avoid missing key deadlines, place all probate court and tax filing deadlines prominently on your calendar. You may seek tax filing extensions, amend incorrect returns, and file protective claims as necessary.
Don’t miss probate court deadlines
Make sure you place all the probate court’s deadlines on your calendar prominently. Circle, underline, or write in neon if necessary. Even if you haven’t been able to complete the task set by the court (preparing the probate inventory, for example), showing up to explain why you’re unable to comply usually buys you additional time. If you fail to show up, the courts often demand immediate compliance.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the probate court isn’t a real court or the judge not a real judge just because proceedings have been fairly low-key to this point. Probate court judges have full judicial authority, which includes removing you as executor or trustee, fining you, throwing you in jail for contempt of court, or any other such sanctions they deem necessary to make you comply.
Don’t forget tax filing deadlines
You wouldn’t fail to file your own tax returns; don’t forget to file the trust’s or estate’s, either. Income tax returns (Form 1041) are due three and one half months after the estate or trust’s year end, and estate tax returns (Form 706) are due nine months after the date of death.
Place income tax return and estate tax return due dates on your calendar. Begin preparation far in advance of the due date so you know about any problems or lack of information far in advance of the filing deadline.
Don’t forget, extensions are available if you’re unable to file returns when due, and you may amend returns that turn out to be incorrect.
What do you do if you know you can’t possibly get all the information prior to the return’s due date, even if you extend that due date by the maximum six months allowed?
If you know it’s just a matter of a few months, or a year, you’re probably safe in just amending the return after you have all the pertinent data.
If what’s missing may take longer to acquire (such as litigation begun during the decedent’s lifetime, to which you’ve now become a party), you want to suspend the statute of limitations indefinitely until you resolve whatever’s outstanding.
To file a protective claim, write Protective Claim under Reg. Sec. 301.6402-2(2) across your return in big black letters. Make sure you otherwise pay all taxes due. Be sure to file your return on time (as extended). Protective claims work only if every other aspect of the return you’ve filed has its t’s crossed and its i’s dotted.