Am I liable for my husband’s back taxes after I received his retirement account?

My husband recently passed away and he owed the IRS back taxes. I found out that I’m not liable for his taxes that year because I filed separate from him. We had only been married 2.5 months during that tax year. I was the beneficiary on his retirement and have already received the money in my name. Is there any way the IRS can come after me because I received his retirement and he owed back tax?

Asked on July 23, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Missouri


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The IRS cannot come after you for the bequests you received from your husband pursuant to his estate.  If he had a will and it was probated, usually your retirement benefits would fall outside of probate.  If probate is still open, the remaining assets he has would be subject to any back taxes owed but if these were not marital taxes, you should not be held accountable for them. If you wind up being contacted by the IRS, immediately consult with a tax attorney who can help you communicate with the IRS regarding extinguishing the agency's efforts in trying to collect it from you.

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