My ex-husband agreed in our written and filed martial separation agreement to pay our 2003 and 2004 taxes which we filed jointly. He died two weeks after our divorce was final. I know now he was sick at the end of our relationship which was why he acted so crazy and I chose to leave rather than stay in an emotionally abusive relationship. He changed the beneficiary on the life insurance he had taken out so that I would always have a home and replaced me with his children. I also do not get any widow benefits as the divorce was final when he died. i understand the legalities of this and although it's rationally unfair it is what it is.
However, he did agree in writing to pay the taxes and the IRS is not coming after me and has levied me and taken $2500 from my bank account unexpectedly about six weeks ago. I had no warning. They claim they sent me mail, however I never say anything. I had assumed that at least the 2003 had been taken care of. They told me they expected me to have to pay $220 per month to pay off the approximately $14,000 in taxes that they say are due. I have seen nothing in writing.
I don't believe his children opened probate for his estate as I still show up on the title as joint owner with my ex-husband. I did agree to let him have the condo. However it appears he did not take me off the title.
So, i have two issues here -- how do I pursue getting the money from his estate to pay the taxes -- and/or how can I work something out with the IRS. I currently do not have the money to pay them.
Any help and clairfication on this will be much appreciated. My guess is that the condo is not currently worth the loan amount, so forcing a sale seems futile, although perhaps a good threat as the last I knew his daughter isliving in the condo.
One question I have is how long do I have to file probate?
With respect to the question of the IRS coming after you for your ex husband's tax debt, unfortunately, the fact that he agreed to pay the tax in the marital settlement agreement will not be binding on the IRS. You may try responding to the IRS by providing them with a copy of the marital settlement agreement to see what they do. However, agreements between taxpayers have no effect on the application of the Internal Revenue Code.
You may consider filing an innocent spouse relief request with the IRS. In the request, you could ask for equitable relief from the liability by arguing that your ex agreed to pay the tax as part of the settlement, that he died shortly thereafter and then the estate (to the extent there was any value in the estate) was improperly divested of value. This may get you relief from the debt based on "equitable principles" and may encourage the IRS to pursue the beneficiaries of the estate for the recovery of the tax (instead of you).
If innocent spouse equitable relief is not your answer another option exists. You may have heard of the Offer in Compromise program. This program allows the IRS to cut a deal (i.e. settle for less than the full amount of the debt). There are three ways to ask for a compromise: financial hardship, doubt as to your liability for the debt and "other equitable reasons." Each requires the completion and submission of IRS forms.
As you said you are unable to pay, perhaps the financial hardship is appropriate. If so, you need to prepare a detailed financial statements from which the IRS will determine if a deal/compromise is appropriate.
As for your question on filing probate, that will likely be a question of state law where your ex lived. It is unrelated to how the IRS will handle your case but might be a way for you to recover something. You may want to contact a probate attorney in your state to learn a little more about the process. If the potential cost of an attorney is a concern, consider contacting the State Bar to find out what type of programs may exist for getting information or other legal assistance.
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