The executor or administrator of a deceased person's estate applies to the Internal Revenue Service for an employer identification number, known also as a federal tax identification number. If the decedent left a will -- or in some cases, if there is no will -- the estate goes through probate to gather assets, pay creditors and distribute the remaining assets to heirs or beneficiaries. The IRS and state probate courts require use of the employer identification number, or EIN, for the probate process, which can include opening an estate bank account, and for filing taxes for the estate
As the executor, administrator or attorney for the estate, you may apply for an EIN using the online application method only if you are located in the U.S. or its territories. You also may apply by mail or fax. All methods require you to complete and submit Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number, to the IRS. The IRS no longer takes domestic EIN requests by telephone. Operators refer domestic callers to the agency's EIN Online Assistant.
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International applicants submit a completed and signed Form SS-4 via mail or fax to the IRS, using the address or fax number provided for non-domestic applicants. You or the authorized person you designated on Form SS-4 calls the IRS to discuss your Form SS-4 and to receive an EIN for the estate. Operators take EIN calls at 267-941-1099, Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Eastern Time.
Completing Form SS-4
You will need the decedent's Social Security number or other taxpayer identification number to complete Form SS-4. The IRS publication, "Instructions for Form SS-4 Application for Employer Identification Number (EIN)," contains information about how to complete the form for an estate.
• Line 1 - Enter the decedent's name followed by "estate," as in "Jane Smith, Estate" • Line 3 - Enter the name of the executor, administer or other authorized person • Lines 4-6 – Enter the mailing address and location information for the person named in Line 3 • Line 7 – Enter the responsible person's name, which is the same name provided on Line 3, and that person's Social Security number or other individual tax identification number • Lines 9 and 10 – Select "Other" and write in "Estate" and the decedent's Social Security number • Line 11 – enter the date of the decedent's death • Line 13 - enter zero • Enter information for the Third Party Designee, if appropriate, • Write in your name and title, executor or administrator, and sign and date the form
Form Submission and EIN Assignment
The IRS provides addresses and fax numbers for sending Form SS-4 on its website page, "Where to File Your Taxes" (for Form SS-4)." Locate current information before sending your form. Generally, the IRS provides an EIN immediately after an online application, in four days for a faxed request and in four weeks for mailed forms. However, the processing time differs for an estate EIN since the IRS usually reviews the actual form before assigning the EIN. You will receive a mailed IRS notice that provides the EIN, the assignment date and information for filing tax forms.
- IRS.gov: Employer ID Numbers
- Nolo: Probate FAQ – What is Probate?
- IRS.gov: Instructions for Form SS-4 (Revised January 2011) Application for Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- IRS.gov: How to Apply for an EIN
- IRS.gov: Form SS-4 Application for Employer Identification Number
- IRS.gov: Where to File Your Taxes (For Form SS-4)