Tapping an Inherited IRA? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Many people are looking at their inherited IRAs this year, when COVID-19 has decimated the economy. The rules about when and how you can tap the money you inherited changed with the passage of the SECURE Act at the end of December 2019. It then changed again with the passage of the CARES Act in late March in response to the financial impact of the pandemic.

Things are different now, reports the article “Read This Before You Touch Your Inherited IRA Funds” from the News & Record, but one thing is the same: you need to know the rules.

First, if the owner had the account for fewer than five years, you may need to pay taxes on traditional IRA distributions and on Roth IRA earnings. This year, the federal government has waived mandatory distributions (required minimum distributions, or RMDs) for 2020. You may take out money if you wish, but you can also leave it in the account for a year.

Surviving spouses who do not need the money may consider doing a spousal transfer, rolling the spouse’s IRA funds into their own. The RMD does not occur until age 72. This is only available for surviving spouses, and only if the spouse is the decedent’s sole beneficiary.

The federal government has also waived the 10% early withdrawal penalty for taxpayers who are under 59½. If you are over 59½, then you can access your funds.

The five-year method of taking IRA funds from an inherited IRA is available to beneficiaries, if the owner died in 2019 or earlier. You can take as much as you wish, but by December 31 of the fifth year following the owner’s death, the entire account must be depleted. The ten-year method is similar, but only applies if the IRA’s owner died in 2020 or later. By December 31 of the tenth year following the owner’s death, the entire IRA must be depleted.

Heirs can take the entire amount in a lump sum immediately, but that may move their income into a higher tax bracket and could increase tax liability dramatically.

A big change to inherited IRAs has to do with the “life expectancy” method, which is now only available to the surviving spouse, minor children, disabled or chronically ill people and anyone not more than ten years younger than the deceased. Minor children may use the life expectancy method until they turn 18, and then they have ten years to withdraw all remaining funds.

There is no right or wrong answer, when it comes to taking distributions from inherited IRAs. However, it is best to do so, only when you fully understand how taking the withdrawals will impact your taxes and your long-term financial picture. Speak with an estate planning attorney to learn how the inherited IRA fits in with your overall estate plan.

Reference: News & Record (May 25, 2020) “Read This Before You Touch Your Inherited IRA Funds”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

How the CARES Act has Changed RMDs for 2020 – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Before the CARES Act, most retirees had to take withdrawals from their IRAs and other retirement accounts every year after age 72. However, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, has made some big changes that help retirees. Whether you have a 401(k), IRA, 403(b), 457(b) or inherited IRA, the rules have changed for 2020. A recent article in U.S. News & World Report, “How to Skip Your Required Minimum Distribution in 2020,” explains how it works.

For starters, remember that taking money out of any kind of account that has been hit hard by a market downturn, locks in investment losses. This is especially a hard hit for people who are not working and will not be able to put the money back. Therefore, if you do not have to take the money, it is best to leave it in the retirement account until markets recover.

RMDs are based on the year-end value of the previous year, so the RMD for 2020 is based on the value of the account as of December 31, 2019, when values were higher.

Remember that distributions from traditional 401(k)s and IRAs are taxed as ordinary income. A retiree in the 24% bracket who takes $5,000 from their IRA is going to need to pay $1,200 in federal income tax on the distribution. By postponing the withdrawal, you can continue to defer taxes on retirement savings.

Beneficiaries who have inherited IRAs are usually required to take distributions every year, but they too are eligible to defer taking distributions in 2020. Experts recommend that if at all possible, these distributions should be delayed until 2021.

Automatic withdrawals are how many retirees receive their RMDs. That makes it easier for retirees to avoid having to pay a huge 50% penalty on the amount that should have been withdrawn, in addition to the income tax that is due on the distribution. However, if you are planning to skip that withdrawal, make sure to turn off the automated withdrawal for 2020.

If you already took the distribution before the law was passed (in March 2020), you might be able to roll the money over to an IRA or workplace retirement account, but only within 60 days of the distribution. You can also only do that once within a 12-month period. If the deadline for a rollover contribution falls between April 1 and July 14, you have up to July 15 to put the funds into a retirement account.

For those who have contracted COVID-19 or suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, the distribution might qualify as a coronavirus hardship distribution. Talk with your accountant about classifying the distribution as a COVID-19 related distribution. This will give you an option of spreading the taxes over a three-year period or putting the money back over a three-year period.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (May 4, 2020) “How to Skip Your Required Minimum Distribution in 2020”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys 

Should You Move Your 401(k) to A Roth? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Overhauling the retirement savings system is the subject of considerable talk in Washington these days, with the focus on how to give an immediate boost to government tax revenues. With retirement fund accounts being measured in the trillions, it is no surprise that they are being eyed.

One of the ideas being discussed, according to the article “What ‘Rothifying’ 401(k)s Would Mean for Retirees” from The Wall Street Journal, is to repeal the current structure of pretax contributions to retirement accounts and adopt a system where contributions would come only from after-tax contributions, just as Roth IRAs do now. It also has a name, “Rothification.” It could become very popular in the not too distant future.

However, behind this need to plug the gaps in the national budget could be a dismal scenario for workers saving for retirement.

Those U.S. savers who do save money for retirement now contribute to their IRA, SEP, and other tax-deferred accounts with money that is deducted from their taxable income. They only pay taxes on this money when they take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) during retirement, or after age 72. The tax deferral provides a powerful incentive to save. The Investment Company Institute reports that defined contribution plans and IRAs were valued at $18.3 trillion as of the third quarter of 2019.

With a federal deficit now at more than $1 trillion and the federal debt at $23 trillion (according to the U.S. Treasury), the money has to come from somewhere. The Treasury also estimates that it will forgo $2.4 trillion in tax revenue from the nation’s tax-deferred retirement savings over the next ten years.

With Social Security having an additional $43 trillion in underfunding, according to the 2019 report of the Social Security and Medicare trustees, government funds are going to have to come from somewhere.

Under “Rothification,” savers would make their retirement fund contributions with after-tax income, and the Treasury would get its money now, rather than waiting for current workers to retire or die.

The challenge is that people do not save as much as they need to for retirement. Many of them are depending upon Social Security to cover the lion’s share of their retirement income. Removing the tax incentive for retirement saving will discourage retirement saving.

What will that mean for estate planning? Adjusting to the changes from the SECURE Act already has estate planning lawyers reviewing estate plans for the new ten-year withdrawal requirements for IRA beneficiaries. Once the “Rothification” discussions move from talk to legislation, expect large push-back from the financial services industry, which runs these accounts, now worth $18.3 trillion.

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (February 17, 2020) “What ‘Rothifying’ 401(k)s Would Mean for Retirees”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys