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Estate planning and tax preparation go together

It is often said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Sadly, death does not preclude the need to pay taxes. In addition to the distribution of an estate according to the deceased's will or trust, taxes must be paid by the estate. If the deceased did not engage in estate planning, then the estate is settled through the courts in accordance with Massachusetts intestate law.

A personal representative, or executor of the estate, may be responsible for filing the appropriate taxes following the person's death. The estate of the deceased is responsible for paying income tax for the portion of the tax year during which he or she was alive. The representative is responsible for verifying that returns were paid in the last years of a person's life. Failure to do so could result in the representative being liable for any unpaid income taxes.

In addition, an estate tax return may be required if the value of the estate is greater than $1 million. The value of the estate is determined by the value of all assets owned by the deceased, either solely or jointly owned, at the time of death. This includes life insurance policies, retirement assets, real estate and any other objects of value. In Massachusetts, an estate tax return must be filed within nine months after the date of death.

Filing taxes regarding a deceased person and his or her estate can seem overwhelming to someone who may not be familiar with the intricacies of estate planning and tax law in Massachusetts. A personal representative for the deceased may benefit from consulting with a knowledgeable legal professional. An attorney who is familiar with the details of the law and tax requirements can simplify the process.

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