Lawrence E. Fischer

Attorney at Law    -    Blog

Avoid Confusion in Filing Estate Tax Returns


In October 2015 a Federal Judge in Virginia upheld interest and penalties against an estate for the estate’s failure to timely file an estate tax return.


This case shows the importance of avoiding confusion over who is responsible for timely filing an estate tax return. It’s vital for the estate’s representative to be pro-active in hiring a professional to complete the return and get it timely filed. When there is more than one professional involved in providing advice or assistance to the estate’s representative or if no representative has been appointed, confusion can arise.


Many estate planning attorneys do not get involved in preparing and filing such tax returns, relying on accountants to complete this work. Some accountants may presume that the estate planning attorney is handling that work, when in reality, the attorney is not retained or been directed to do such work.


The key is this: If the estate has an appointed personal representative, that representative must clearly direct whose to do this work. If there’s no appointed personal representative, then the beneficiaries of the estate must step up to the plate and get the return timely filed. In this federal case of West v. Koskinen, Comm’rin the Eastern District of Virginia (2015), the estate had to pay $335,636.76 in penalties and interest when the tax return was filed late.

November 10, 2015

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Here’s a tidbit for those of you who prepare your own documents that need to be notarized.


After July 1, 2008 notarized documents must have the notarial certificate wording (“Appeared before me, John Smith…”) on the same page as the signature of the person signing the document. Documents not containing both signature and notary certificate on the same page are not deemed to be validly notarized in Virginia. (Reference Virginia Code Section 47.1-15)

October 6, 2015