You should read this excellent short column by financial writer Arden Dale of The Wall Street Journal, “Minding Retirement Accounts in Estate Plans,” on integrating IRAs, 401(k) plans, federal employee Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) accounts, and similar retirement savings accounts into estate and trust plans. The article deals primarily with choosing primary beneficiaries in a way that will minimize estate and income taxes. For most married retirement plan beneficiaries, that will mean choosing their spouses to receive the plan proceeds outright and free of trust, via a rollover after the first spouse’s death.
However, trusts continue to be important contingent, or secondary, beneficiaries, especially for larger plans. The ability of your children or grandchildren (and in some cases, your spouse) to compound retirement plan investments over a long period of time makes IRAs and similar plans one of the most valuable tools for wealth succession planning for your family. Well-drafted retirement plan trusts help ensure that such plan “stretch-outs” will be administered property. I will normally recommend a separate IRA Inheritance Trust if you wish to
- preserve and guard retirement plan assets from your beneficiaries’ “predators and creditors” – including remarriage spouses, your children’s and grandchildren’s creditors, and their improvidently-chosen spouses;
- control distributions after your death (discourage or prevent a beneficiary from withdrawing all of the assets he inherits from you at once, absent a very good reason);
- direct otherwise-reluctant retirement plan administrators to divide an account into separate accounts for your children;
- limit payouts to any special-needs beneficiaries (including those who become disabled after your death) to protect ongoing government benefits; and
- ensure that your retirement plan money stays in your family.
Generally speaking, if you and your spouse’s combined retirement plan assets exceed $250,000, it will be cost-effective for us to create stand-alone IRA Inheritance Trusts for each spouse in addition to your Revocable Living Trust. If you’d like to arrange an appointment or a phone call, or receive more information via email, please call or email me, or use the contact tool in the sidebar.
(Updated: December 2020)