Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Adding Additional Protections for Inherited IRAs

     Last year the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously held that Inherited IRAs do not qualify for protection during a bankruptcy. Stating that the term "retirement funds" refers to money set aside for time when a person is no longer working, the Court stated that three characteristics disqualify the funds held in an Inherited IRA from the status of "retirement funds.” 
  1. The owner of an inherited IRA cannot add additional funds to the account. 
  2. Holders of Inherited IRAs must take distributions from those accounts without regard to the number of years until the account owner reaches retirement. 
  3. The owner of an Inherited IRA may make penalty-free withdrawals from the account, up to the entire balance of the account, at any time without triggering the 10% withdrawal penalty found in the Internal Revenue Code.
     This important for any client who expects their retirement accounts to make up a large part of their estate, because this decision means that those inherited retirement assets do not enjoy the usual protection from creditors and will be at risk if one of their beneficiaries files for bankruptcy after receiving their inheritance. Presumably, those assets will also be at risk if a beneficiary divorces a spouse.  Thankfully, we already have a tool that addresses this concern and provides protection for beneficiaries. A standalone IRA Trust named as the beneficiary of a client's IRA can make distributions to the beneficiaries of the IRA Trust without exposing the inherited IRA to creditors. I
     Normally only an individual can be a "designated beneficiary" under an IRA, but if a Living Trust meets certain requirements it is considered a "see-through" trust and the Internal Revenue Code and Regulations treat the beneficiaries of the trust as the "designated beneficiaries" of the IRA. This allows those beneficiaries to stretch their distributions to receive the minimum required distributions over the life expectancy of the oldest beneficiary. In the event that it would be more advantageous for each beneficiary to take distributions over their own life span, it is possible to create specific sub trusts for each beneficiary under the IRA Trust to stretch distributions over the individual beneficiaries' lifespans. 
     For years, we have been using standalone IRA Trusts to assist clients who wished to place different restrictions on the distribution of their retirement and nonretirement assets or to protect beneficiaries from misusing the benefits of an inherited IRA by taking large lump sum distributions, or as protection against possible creditors or loss of assets in a divorce action. With this recent decision from the Supreme Court, a standalone IRA trust provides clients with the peace of mind that in the event one of their loved ones becomes one of the nearly 1,000,000 people who file for bankruptcy in the United States each year, their inherited IRA assets will remain protected.
     The law and regulations governing "inherited IRAs" and the use of IRA Trusts is expansive and complex. Before a client begins designating a trust as the beneficiary of a retirement account they should consult with a legal expert in that area. Additionally at the death of the account owner, it is important to seek additional advice as to the best way to retitle accounts or distribute the assets. If you or your clients have specific questions regarding this or any other planning matter please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to provide you with an understanding of the consequences of any actions.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome and appreciate your comments but remind you that while not all viewpoints are equally respectable, all people should be treated with respect. The authors do not actively moderate comments but reserve the right to remove comments that are offensive, derogatory, or contain spam.