May 19, 2010

13 Tips to Make an IRA last longer recently published a really helpful article that summarizes the ways that those who inherit an IRA, or who are thinking about leaving one to their heirs, can make the best strategic use of that money.

Here's the top three in my opinion:

1) If you inherit an IRA, take out only the required minimum distribution, which is calculated based on your life expectancy. (If you're a surviving spouse, you don't have to start withdrawals until you're 701/2, but everyone else has to start taking money out the year after the owner has died, in most cases).


2) If you have an IRA, DO NOT name your 'estate' as the beneficiary. This will trigger the five-year rule, which means your heirs will have to take out all of the money within 5 years, and pay income tax on those withdrawals (if the account is an IRA, Roth IRA's are different).


3) Beneficiaries of inherited ROTH IRA's still have to take required minimum distributions, just like those from regular IRA's, starting a year after the death of the owner, but they don't have to pay income tax on those withdrawals. Because the owner of a ROTH IRA does not have to take any money out of those accounts during their lifetime, this can be a way of leaving more money to your heirs than a traditional IRA.

For more information on IRA's and other retirement accounts, you might want to check out The Mom's Guide to WIlls and Estate Planning (Nolo).