For many, the most special person in their lives is their spouse. The tax code treats spouses in unique ways by granting them abilities unavailable to others. Inheriting an IRA is one of those times.
Your spouse has options when inheriting your IRA. Here they are:
The most often used spouses-only option is the ability to roll the IRA into their own name. This makes things very simple for the surviving spouse. By rolling into their own name, they call all the shots and the funds are treated as if they had always been in the spouse’s name.
Most surviving spouses do this reflexively as the default. It feels like a no-brainer.
However, there are circumstances in which other options should be considered. Three that we see a lot are a surviving spouse who is older than the deceased spouse, a surviving spouse who is under 59 ½ years old and a surviving spouse in a high marginal income tax bracket.
When the survivor is older than the deceased and rolls the IRA into their own name, the IRA is treated as if it were always the survivor’s so Required Minimum Distributions are based on the survivor’s higher age. RMDs will be larger if they had already begun or will start sooner if they had not already begun.
This can be addressed by taking the deceased’s IRA as an inherited IRA. The IRA stays in the deceased’s name and the surviving spouse is referred to in the title with wording like “spousal beneficiary”. RMDs will then be based upon the deceased’s birthdate and the Single Life table unless and until the funds are rolled into an IRA just in the surviving spouse’s name.
A surviving spouse in a high-income tax bracket with no need for the taxable income that comes from the IRA may prefer that lower income family members inherit the IRA money instead. The surviving spouse can disclaim their interest. The disclaiming spouse does not get to decide how the funds are distributed. The funds flow to the contingent beneficiaries as though the disclaiming spouse pre-deceased the original IRA owner. Anyone interested in disclaiming should consult a qualified attorney.
If you have questions about your IRA or an inherited IRA, please contact us today. 817.638.9016.