CWF's IRA/HSA Guidance - 2019 Assist With the Review and Updating of IRA Beneficiary Designations
It happens for various reasons, an IRA
owner dies and his or her estate is the
IRA beneficiary. The general IRA rule is,
this situation should be avoided if at all
possible unless the IRA owner has knowingly
made the decision that he or she
wants their estate to be the IRA beneficiary.
The purpose of this article is to suggest
that IRA custodians/trustees should periodically
review your IRA files and give
your IRA owners the chance to update or
change their IRA beneficiary designations.
We are being told in consulting
calls, our IRA owner recently died and
the estate is the beneficiary because
there was no one else designated as a
primary beneficiary or a contingent beneficiary
who was alive at the time the
IRA owner died. Individuals who had
been designated as a beneficiary had
predeceased the IRA owner and no succeeding
beneficiaries had been designated.
The general tax and administrative rule
for traditional/SEP/SIMPLE IRAs is, it is
preferred if an IRA owner designates a
living person as a beneficiary rather than
her or his estate. By designating a child
or grandchild as a beneficiary the IRA
owner will allow the designated beneficiary
substantial flexibility in how and
when the beneficiary would
withdraw the inherited IRA funds and
when federal income taxes would be
paid. This is certainly true for a Roth IRA
because the tax rules require a Roth IRA
must be closed under the 5-year rule if
the beneficiary is the estate versus earning
tax free income for the life expectancy
of the beneficiary if a living person has
been designated as the Roth IRA beneficiary.
There will be times when a person designates
a person as their contingent beneficiary
and also a primary beneficiary.
Then the contingent beneficiary dies and
the IRA owner does not designate any
succeeding contingent beneficiary and
then the primary beneficiary dies.
In prior years, some individuals when
establishing their IRA adopted the
approach of naming their spouse as
100% the primary beneficiary and their
estate as their contingent beneficiary.
They thought this would ease the administration
of their estate.
If your institution has not had its IRA
owners review beneficiaries for a number
of years, now would be a good time to do
so. Your IRA owners should, of course,
act after considering the advice of their
advisers, be it an attorney, accountant or
knowledgeable family member.