Law News and Tips

Planning with IRAs

Fred Vilbig - Tuesday, September 08, 2020

PLANNING WITH IRAS

Vilbig © 2020

     Many of us work all of our lives saving for retirement. Some begin at a young age tucking a little money away in an IRA, a 401(k), a 403(b), or a profit-sharing plan. Some put it off for some time because of day – to – day expenses, but most eventually save something, and when I meet with clients, if they don’t have some sort of a business, the two biggest assets they have is their house in the retirement savings.

     But being frugal and saving for the future can create some issues. What do you do with a retirement account if you outlive the account? Many people (particularly guys) just say they’re going to live until they run out of money. Good plan if you know when you’re going to die. The problem is, we don’t know if we are going to get hit by a semi tomorrow or linger in a nursing home for years. We just don’t know, so we need to plan.

     The simplest thing to do was to just name your spouse as the beneficiary and your kids as the contingent beneficiaries. If you have a 401(k), a 403(b), or a profit-sharing plan, federal law provides that if you name someone other than your spouse as the primary beneficiary, your spouse must consent to that.

     The same rule doesn’t apply to IRAs. Under federal law, you don’t need your spouse’s consent. However, in a recent Missouri case, it was determined that a surviving spouse has rights in marital assets, including IRAs. So Missouri law now protects a surviving spouse’s rights in an IRA.

     So assuming you’ve named your spouse as the initial beneficiary, on your death, he or she can roll the retirement account into his or her own name tax-free. If the surviving spouse is younger, that’s a good idea since using the younger spouse’s longer life expectancy means he or she can extend the tax-deferred growth of the account.

     On the death of the second of you to die, if you’ve named your children as the contingent beneficiaries, then the assets can be divided among them and rolled over into what is called an “inherited IRA.” It used to be that inherited IRAs would last for the life expectancy of the beneficiary. In the recent SECURE Act, Congress limited the term of inherited IRAs to 10 years. It’s still a good idea to keep the assets in a tax-deferred account, it’s just that there’s a time limit.

     But there’s another problem with inherited IRAs. In 2014, in the case of Clark v. Remeker, the US Supreme Court ruled that inherited IRAs are not protected from bankruptcy claims. What this means is that an inherited IRA is not protected from creditors. So if your son or daughter inherits an IRA from you and is later sued and doesn’t have insurance coverage on the matter, all of your hard earned money could go in payment of a judgment. To me, that’s a bad result.

     In order to avoid that result, we typically recommend that clients name their spouse as the initial beneficiary of a retirement account, but named a revocable trust as the contingent beneficiary. In 1999, the IRS provided us with “magic language” that permits us to flow an inherited IRA through a trust. By having the assets run through the trust, they are protected from lawsuits.

     If you have questions, let’s talk.

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