IF YOU INHERIT AN IRA FROM YOUR SPOUSE
As the beneficiary of an IRA from your spouse, you have several choices for how you want to handle the funds:
- You can name yourself as the owner of the account, thus treating the IRA as if it were your own. If you choose this option, you can roll over the funds into another IRA or qualified employer plan, qualified employee annuity plan [403(a) plan], tax-sheltered annuity plan [403(b) plan], or deferred compensation plan of a state or local government [457(b) plan]. Depending on your age, you may have to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) from the account.
- Or, you can keep the IRA in your deceased spouse’s name and designate yourself as the primary beneficiary of the account. This might be a viable option if your deceased spouse was below the RMD age and you are over the RMD age requirement. If you choose this option, the IRA will have more time to grow without taxation and you can delay taking the RMD until you reach the required age. This is also a viable strategy if you are younger than 59 ½ and need to take distributions from the IRA because distributions from an inherited IRA will avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty.
IF YOU INHERIT AN IRA FROM AN INDIVIDUAL OTHER THAN YOUR SPOUSE
If you inherit an IRA from someone other than your deceased spouse, the IRS guidelines do not allow you to treat the account as your own. And as the designated non-spousal beneficiary, you cannot make contributions to the IRA or rollover any assets into or out of the account. Generally, like the original owner of the IRA, you will not owe taxes on the funds until you take a distribution from the account.
IMPACT OF THE SECURE ACT ON INHERITED IRAS
The Secure Act passed by Congress in December 2019 changed the way RMDs are handled for non-spousal beneficiaries. Beginning in 2020, inherited IRA funds must be distributed within 10 years of the death of the original owner of the IRA. You are no longer allowed to take distributions from the IRA over your lifetime.
To understand the full impact of the law to your situation, you should consult with a financial advisor to determine how the new rules affect your strategy for distributions during your lifetime. A tax professional can also help you decide if you should delay or accelerate your IRA distributions during the 10-year distribution period in order to take advantage of lower or higher income tax rates in future years. For example, if you are going to continue to work for the next six years, you may want to delay distributions until the last four years of the distribution period.
CAN THE ASSETS BE RETAINED IN AN IRREVOCABLE TRUST?
If you are the original owner of the IRA , you also may need to consult with legal and estate planning professionals to help you determine if it’s in your best interest to pass the IRA outright to your heirs or to retain the funds in an irrevocable trust for their benefit.
Leaving the assets to an irrevocable trust typically results in higher income taxes on the distributions, but this needs to be reexamined under the Secure Act’s new 10-year rule mentioned above. While an irrevocable trust offers asset protection for the beneficiaries from such things as lawsuits, creditors, and divorce, you need to decide if the asset protection is worth the potentially higher income tax rates imposed on the distributions.
If you decide to retain the assets in trust, you may need to amend the language in your trust document. You may want to consider an accumulation trust rather than a conduit trust so that IRA distributions do not have to be entirely paid out of the trust within the 10-year period, which results in a loss of the asset protection.
WE CAN HELP
When a spouse or loved one passes away, it can be difficult to deal with all the emotions and details surrounding his or her death. While it’s important to do your homework and carefully weigh the pros and cons of the ways to handle your inherited IRA, you don’t need to face this task alone. Contact Commerce Trust Company today— we’re here to answer all your questions regarding your options and help you make informed decisions that are in your best interest.
¹ Source: “Who uses individual retirement accounts?” Briefing Book, The Tax Policy Center, https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/who-uses-individual-retirement-accounts, ©Urban Institute, Brookings Institution, and individual authors, 2020.
² Source: IRS, Publication 590-B, Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), https://www.irs.gov/publications/
The opinions and other information in the commentary are provided as of February 23, 2021. This summary is intended to provide general information only, and may be of value to the reader and audience.
This material is not a recommendation of any particular investment, estate planning or insurance strategy, is not based on any particular financial situation or need, and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified tax advisor, estate planning or investment professional. While Commerce may provide information or express opinions from time to time, such information or opinions are subject to change, are not offered as professional tax, insurance or legal advice, and may not be relied on as such.
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