One of the most important, if not the single most important, thing executors must do is handle the taxes of the deceased and the estate. Not doing so properly can result in personal liability for the executor.
Bluffton Today recently published an article entitled "Tax filing for the deceased," providing a good overview of an executor's tax responsibilities.
First, an executor needs to ensure that the deceased has filed any required returns for previous years. If previous returns have not been filed, then the executor must do so.
Second, the executor needs to file the deceased's final 1040 for the final year of life. For tax purposes, the year is from Jan. 1 until the date of death. The executor will need to get a certificate to show his or her appointment and attach it to the tax return. If any refund is due, the executor must also file a Form 1310.
Finally, the executor may need to file a form 1041 return for estate assets accumulated after the deceased passed away. A Federal Identification Number will need to be obtained for the estate. Of course, if the estate is large enough, then estate taxes will also have to be paid.
It should go without saying that an executor would be wise to seek the assistance of an estate attorney to make sure that the taxes are filed properly.
Reference: Bluffton Today (Feb. 3, 2016) "Tax filing for the deceased,"