Friday, March 23, 2018

Ensuring that Inherited IRAs Benefit their Beneficiaries.


As we have discussed in previous posts, there are many forms of trusts used in the estate planning process. While many planning strategies have greater benefit to individuals with more complex financial situations today’s post addresses one form of stand-alone trust which can be very beneficial to a wide variety of clients.

An “IRA Trust,” is a stand-alone trust, separate from a Living Trust that acts as the beneficiary of IRAs or retirement benefits. The provisions of an IRA Trust satisfy all of the regulations related to the distribution of IRAs and retirement benefits, allowing clients to create a situation where their beneficiaries can take advantage of their inherited benefits over their lifetime and enjoy extra protection from creditors and other potential problems.
The beneficiaries of the IRA Trust can be the same as those of the client's Living Trust. However, the distribution terms of an IRA Trust terms are often different from the Living Trust and frequently more restrictive in order to ensure that no matter what happens to the Living Trust assets, the IRA Trust assets will be available to help support children, grandchildren and other beneficiaries. Alternately, clients can use an IRA Trust to provide for a different group of beneficiaries than their Living Trust beneficiaries. For example, the Living Trust may benefit a second spouse while the IRA Trust has children and grandchildren as beneficiaries. Finally, an IRA Trust can help beneficiaries in more difficult or complex situations, such as beneficiaries who for any number of reasons are not prepared to handle large sums of money. In these situations, the IRA Trust Trustee can provide professional management of Trust assets, allowing the IRA assets to grow tax deferred, except for required distributions, and ensure that the beneficiaries do not waste those distributions.
Just like a Living Trust, the distribution provisions of an IRA Trust dictate how the beneficiaries receive distributions. One design option for an IRA Trust is the "conduit trust", under which the trustee has no power to accumulate plan distributions in the trust and must allocate any distribution received from the IRA or retirement plan to the beneficiaries. The conduit trust lessens the trustee’s ability to control the income but still allows control over principal distributions as necessary.
Alternatively, when it is desirable or necessary to impose greater control upon the dispersal of the Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), an "accumulation trust" allows the trustee to hold the RMDs in trust for the beneficiary’s benefit. For example, if the beneficiary of the IRA Trust is special needs child, it is important to limit income distributions in order to avoid adversely affecting the beneficiary's right to receive state or federal benefits. It is important to remember however when using an accumulation trust that the federal government taxes income received from the IRA but not distributed to beneficiaries according to the potentially higher trust income tax rates.
Whether a client wants to provide for multiple generations, ensure a lifetime of income for a beneficiary in a difficult personal or financial situation, or simply ensure that different groups of beneficiaries receive the asset that provides them the greatest value, an IRA trust is an extremely useful tool for a wide variety of situations. Due to the complexities surrounding IRA and retirement plan distributions, it is important to work with experienced estate planning attorney familiar with those regulations in order for an IRA Trust to achieve a client's goals.

Matt

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