Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA

How to Use Gifting and Life Insurance as possible solutions to the Death of the Stretch IRA

Using Gifting as a Soltion for Death of the Stretch IRA James Lange

This post is the ninth in a series about the Death of the Stretch IRA.  If you’re a new visitor to my blog, this post might not make much sense unless you read the preceding posts, which spell out the specifics of the proposed legislation that might cost your family a lot of money.  This post discusses some ways that you can use gifting and life insurance as a possible solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA.

If you’ve been following my previous posts, you know that the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation could spell devastating tax consequences for your beneficiaries (other than your spouse, who is considered exempt).  Strategic planning to minimize those taxes will become very important once this legislation is finalized.  And while the techniques that follow are not for everyone, they can be beneficial for people who are in a position to take advantage of them.

What is a Gift?

When estate planners talk about gifts, they’re not talking about the presents you exchange on birthdays and holidays.  Generally, they’re referring to gifts of assets – cash, investments, etc. – that, when transferred to someone else, can reduce your current tax bill and, ultimately, the tax that your beneficiaries will pay after you die.  Current IRS rules allow you to gift a maximum $14,000 every year, tax-free, to each of your children.  Your spouse can also gift $14,000 to each child and, if you wanted to, both of you could also gift $14,000 to your child’s spouse.  Let’s say that you have three children, and they’re all married.  This means that you and your spouse could gift $56,000 to each of their families, tax free.  It also means that you’ve just reduced the size of your own taxable estate by $168,000.  Gifting can help reduce the amount of income tax that you owe now, and can be an effective solution to help manage the taxes that will be due at your death.

Maximizing the Tax Benefits of your Gift

But why not maximize the value of your gift by making it tax-efficient for the beneficiary too?  One idea would be to fund a Roth IRA for each child.  Roth IRAs are not tax-deductible, but the future earnings on the account are, under current law, completely tax-free.  A gift of a $5,500 Roth IRA to a 25-year old could make a significant difference in his standard of living when he retires.

If you have grandchildren who are of school age, a gift of a college savings plan could be an excellent tax-savings strategy.  While the contributions to a Section 529 plan are not deductible on your own federal tax return, the withdrawals are tax-free as long as the proceeds are used for qualifying expenses incurred by a student who is enrolled at a qualifying institution.

But what happens if your family situation is such that, even if you gift the maximum amount legally possible to all of your beneficiaries, taxes will still be a concern after your death?  In that case, you may want to consider life insurance as a possible solution.

Using Life Insurance as a Solution for Problems After Your Death

I don’t recommend life insurance just so that your heirs will receive even more money when you die.  Rather, I recommend it so that your heirs, and not the government, will get the money you’re leaving behind.  Here’s why.  Monthly payments such as pensions, annuities and Social Security that you rely on for cash flow, will likely change (if your spouse survives you) or stop completely when you die.  Your bills, though, will keep coming until they’re settled by your executor.  Many of these bills will be caused by taxes.  Your executor will have to file an income tax return on April 15th, and estate and inheritance taxes are generally due nine months after you die.  If your assets are not liquid by nature (for example, if you own real estate or a family business), or if you owned investments that happened to have declined in value at the time of your death, life insurance can provide sufficient cash to pay those taxes.  Without it, your heirs may be forced to liquidate your assets for far less than what they are worth.  The proceeds from life insurance, if it’s set up properly, are free of state and federal estate, inheritance and transfer taxes.

Remember, life insurance is a gift – and if you can’t afford to give your children a cash gift, then it isn’t likely that you can afford to give them a gift of life insurance either.  If you can afford to give them a gift, though, then life insurance is an option that you might want to consider.

Gifting and the Death of the Stretch IRA

When the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation is finalized, gifting (and especially life insurance) will likely become even more effective solutions than they have been in the past.  Please stop back soon, because my next post will go into the details!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

 

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post?  Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?

Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?

Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?

The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA

How Does the Exclusion Amount to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation Work?

The Proposed Exclusion Amount to the Death of the Stretch IRA Complicates Planning.

The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA

This post is the eighth in a series about the Death of the Stretch IRA.  If you’re a new visitor to my blog, this post might not make much sense to you unless you back up and read the preceding posts related this one.  Those posts spell out the details of the proposed legislation that will cost your family a lot of money.  This post discusses the proposed exclusion amount to the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation and explains how it will be applied to each IRA owner.

When I wrote my book, The Ultimate Retirement and Estate Plan for Your Million-Dollar IRA, I accurately predicted most of what the Senate Finance Committee is proposing to make law.  The one point that I did not predict, though, was that each IRA owner would be permitted to exclude a portion of their retirement plans from the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation.  I don’t know if it was the Committee’s attempt to make the legislation seem not as bad as it is, but it certainly makes things more complicated for individuals who are trying to design an effective estate plan.  So I want to explain how the exclusion amount works.

The Exclusion Amount Applies to All Retirement Accounts

The whole idea behind the exclusion is that a certain portion of your IRAs and retirement plans would be protected from the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation.  Most people would think, “That’s great!  I’m going to apply my exclusion to my Roth IRA so that my beneficiaries can continue to enjoy the tax-free growth for the rest of their lifetimes.”  Well, that’s not how the exclusion amount works.  It has to be prorated between all of your retirement accounts.  Let’s say that you die with $2 million in retirement plans – $1.5 million in your 401(k), $400,000 in a Roth IRA, and $100,000 in a Traditional IRA.  Here’s how the exclusion amount would work.  Your 401(k) accounts are 75 percent of your retirement plans, so 75 percent of the exclusion amount (or $337,500) of that would apply to that account.  Your Roth IRA accounts are 20 percent, so  20 percent of the exclusion amount (or $90,000) would apply to that account.  Your Traditional IRA accounts are 5 percent of your retirement plans, so 5 percent of the exclusion amount (or $22,500) would apply to it.  The bottom line is that the exclusion amount has to be applied to all of your retirement accounts, both Traditional and Roth.

The Exclusion Amount Applies to All Non-Exempt Beneficiaries

I’m going to emphasize one subtle but very important point about the Death of the Stretch IRA and your beneficiaries.  The legislation did provide that some beneficiaries are completely exempt from the new tax rules.  For most of you, the most important exempt beneficiary is your spouse.  You can leave $10 million in retirement plans to your spouse (although I’d prefer that you’d add disclaimer provisions for your children!), and he/she can still stretch them over the rest of his/her life.  Disabled and chronically ill beneficiaries are exempt, as are minor children.   Charities and charitable trusts are also considered exempt beneficiaries.  Now that you know who is considered an exempt beneficiary, I want to talk about the beneficiaries who aren’t exempt.  For most of you, it’s your adult children.  If you have adult children who aren’t disabled or chronically ill, and you name them as beneficiaries on your retirement plans, the exclusion also has to be prorated between them.  You may have preferred to leave the amount that was excluded from your Roth account – in the above example, $90,000 – to the child who would receive the most tax benefit from it, but that’s not how the exclusion amount works.  If you have two children and they are named as equal beneficiaries, then each will receive (and can continue to stretch) 50 percent of the excluded amount– or $45,000.  Both children would also receive $155,000 from the Roth that can’t be stretched, and the account would have to be withdrawn within five years.  Granted, qualified withdrawals from Roth accounts aren’t taxed, but the greater cost is that the bulk of their Roth inheritance will no longer be permitted to grow tax-free.

Planning Opportunities Created by the Exclusion Amount

Oddly enough, there are certain planning opportunities created by the exclusion amount that is proposed in the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation.  If you have a beneficiary who is exempt, then you should remember how the exclusion works.  Suppose that you die with retirement plans that are worth $500,000 and you left 10 percent (or $50,000) to charity and the remainder to your child.  In that case, none of your retirement plans would be subject to the Death of the Stretch IRA rules.  That’s because the charity is an exempt beneficiary, so the $50,000 it received is exempt from the rules.  And the remaining $450,000 that went to your child is within the permitted exclusion amount, so her inheritance can be stretched over her lifetime.

I predict that the proposed exclusion amount will create headaches for financial advisors across the country.  Just imagine the chaos!  Where your beneficiary might have inherited one IRA, now they’ll inherit two – and each will be subject to a different set of rules.  How can they call this “simplified”?

Please stop back soon for my next post on this important legislation!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

 

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post?  Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?

Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?

Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?

Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?

What is the likelihood that the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation will pass?

Why is The Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation Likely to Pass by James Lange

This post is the seventh in a series about the Death of the Stretch IRA. If you’re a new visitor to my blog, this post might not make much sense to you unless you back up and read the preceding posts related this one. Those posts spell out the details of the proposed legislation that will cost your family a lot of money. This post discusses the reasons I believe it is very likely that this legislation will pass.

To be fair, my critics point out that this idea has been brought up many times before, but hasn’t yet passed. I can’t argue with them on that point. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus was the first major proponent of the idea, proposing the elimination of the Stretch IRA as part of the Highway Investment Job Creation and Economic Growth Act of 2012. The American Bar Association followed suit in 2013, recommending their elimination as part of a tax simplification proposal to the Senate and House tax-writing committees. And President Obama was very much behind the idea, including it in every one of his budget proposals since 2013. Even though it’s been proposed over and over again, it’s never passed. So why am I saying it is likely to pass, and soon?

The Politics of the Death of the Stretch IRA

When the idea was first proposed to the Senate by Max Baucus in 2012, it was defeated by an uncomfortably close margin of only 51-49. That vote, interestingly, was mostly along political party lines. President Obama presented the idea in every one of his budget proposals since 2013, but couldn’t get it past a House of Representatives that was controlled by the Republican Party. But on September 21, 2016, the Senate Committee on Finance voted 26-0 to effectively kill the Stretch IRA. And what was especially interesting about that vote was that it had unanimous bipartisan support.

So why isn’t it the law now? Well, think back to what it was going on in the fall of 2016. The nation was locked in a tumultuous political battle over who would be our next President, and Congress was busy dealing with allegations of malfeasance by both candidates. And before we knew it, the election came and went, and then the 114th United States Congress quietly adjourned without ever having time to consider the Finance Committee’s recommendation.

Is the Stretch IRA safe?

Does this mean, then, that the possibility of the Death of the Stretch IRA is overblown? I don’t think so, and here’s why. With the exception of Senators Schumer and Coats, all of the veteran members Finance Committee of the 114th Congress received the same Committee assignment after the election last fall. That means that 24 out of the 26 individuals who voted to recommend this legislation to the 114th session of Congress are in a position to make the same recommendation to the new Congress. And do you really believe that, considering the current political climate, it’s likely that they’re going to change their minds?

Trump and the Death of the Stretch IRA

What about the fact that we’ve got a new (and very rich) President? Won’t he protect his own ass(ets) by fighting the Death of the Stretch IRA? With the exception of an Executive Order, the President doesn’t create laws. He signs (or vetoes) legislation that has been voted on by Congress. However, President Trump has made several campaign promises that, if he has any hope of making good on them, will require a lot of money. The nation is already dangerously in debt, so borrowing to finance them could mean political suicide for him. However, the President has also promised to simplify the nation’s overly complicated tax code. It seems quite possible to me that, in exchange for getting Congress’ support on a major tax reform issue, he might have to compromise and allow the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation to be a part of the overhaul. It’s all in the art of the deal!

Please stop back soon for my next post on this important legislation!

Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?

What happens in the future concerning the DOL Fiduciary Rule could be life-changing for you and your family.

How the Fiduciary Rule Affects You by James Lange

This post is the sixth in a series about the Death of the Stretch IRA.  The five posts that precede this one spell out the details of the proposed legislation that will cost your family a lot of money, as well as some possible solutions to the problems that will be caused by the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation that you should consider now.  This post will discuss DOL fiduciary rule, and how it could affect your estate and retirement plans.

What are the current laws concerning the DOL Fiduciary Rule?

You might be surprised to learn that the current laws permit your insurance agent or financial advisor to recommend an investment that has higher fees for which they receive a sales commission than an alternative.  That’s right!  As long as the investment is deemed “appropriate” for your situation, it’s perfectly legal for your advisor to recommend that you buy something that might cost you thousands of dollars in fees, rather than a comparable but cheaper alternative.

President Obama wanted to level the playing field for investors.  He first proposed a common fiduciary rule in 2010, and the Department of Labor released new guidelines in April of 2016 that gave financial services companies a year to comply with them.  The new rule was scheduled to take effect next month, but President Trump has asked the Department of Labor to review it and potentially rescind it.

How would the DOL Fiduciary Rule affect you?

How would the DOL fiduciary rule affect you?  To give you an example, suppose that you inherited $1 million that you wanted to invest.  One advisor might tell you that an annuity is the way that you should go, another might recommend mutual funds, and yet another might recommend individual stocks.  If there is no fiduciary rule to guide you, who should you believe?   The advisor who seems the nicest?

If the DOL fiduciary rule was in place, the advisor who recommended the annuity would be required to tell you up front that he would make as much $100,000 from your $1 million purchase.  And while he might have valid reasons for saying that an annuity is the best option for you, he’ll have to be able to prove why the benefit to you is greater than the $100,000 payday he’ll realize from your purchase.  And if you knew exactly how your advisor is paid, do you think you might be inclined to ask more questions before you sign on the dotted line?

We have always been fiduciary advisors.  A fiduciary advisor does not get paid for recommending one product over another, but generally charges a fee for advice or for managing the account as a whole.  In my practice, I have to provide my clients with services such as Social Security analyses, Roth Conversion calculations, tax projections, etc. for roughly twenty years to make the same amount of money that a non-fiduciary advisor could make from selling a product.  That’s twenty years of money that stayed in my client’s pockets, and I’m happy that it did.

Regardless of whether the DOL fiduciary rule is overturned or not, you should ask whether the individual(s) who manage your money are fiduciary advisors.  While what’s happened in the past is water over the dam, what happens in the future could be life-changing for you and your family.  The proposed Death of the Stretch IRA legislation means that billions of dollars will be passed to the next generation within the next twenty years.  The government is looking to get their hands on as much as possible, and the taxes that will be due after the Death of the Stretch IRA will have a devastating effect on your family’s inheritance.  Don’t add to that problem by choosing the wrong advisor.   Put your trust in one who adheres to a fiduciary standard, whether the government makes it the law or not.

Please stop back soon!

Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

What You Should Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

What to do now to protect your heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA

What Should You Do Now About the Death of the Stretch IRA James Lange

This post is the fifth in a series about the Death of the Stretch IRA.  The four posts that precede this one spell out the details of the proposed legislation that will cost your family a lot of money.  In this post, I’m going to talk about some possible solutions to the problems that will be caused by the Death of the Stretch IRA that you should consider now.  As I said in my earlier posts, using Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan to take advantage of the existing minimum required distribution rules that allow inherited IRAs to be stretched will, for most of you, produce a much more favorable result than any other option available.  The Death of the Stretch IRA legislation is designed to accelerate income taxes on retirement plans, so the Charitable Remainder Unitrust should be your “Plan B” that you consider only after the law changes.

How can Social Security help with the Death of the Stretch IRA?

If you’re considering retiring, the very first thing you should do is evaluate your Social Security benefits.  Many people feel that the best age to take Social Security benefits is 62 – get back what you paid into the system before it collapses, etc!  I used to agree with that line of thinking until noted economist Larry Kotlikoff brilliantly pointed out the flaw in my logic.  Larry told me that the last thing I should worry about was not getting back what we had paid into the system if my wife and I die young.  If you die, he said, you will have no financial worries – because you’re dead!  Our fear, he told me, should be that we might live a very long time and possibly outlive our money.  Wow!  What an attitude adjustment!  But after thinking about it, I realized Larry was right.  Your Social Security benefits will give you a guaranteed income that will last for the rest of your life, so it makes sense to maximize them and get the most you can.  I wrote an entire book on that subject – you can get it for free by going to the first page of this website – so I’m not going to cover those techniques in this blog.  Or, check out an earlier blog post that talks about my latest Social Security book The Little Black Book of Social Security Secrets, Couples Ages 62-70: Act Now, Retire Secure Later.   But, getting the highest Social Security benefit is something that you should be evaluating now, because it will benefit you before and after the Death of the Stretch IRA.

How much can you afford to spend every year in retirement?

Second, know exactly how much you can afford to spend every year during retirement, without having to worry about running out of money.  Many financial advisors point to a rule of thumb known as the Safe Withdrawal Rate, which is the amount that you should be able to withdraw from your assets over the course of your lifetime without worrying about running out of money.  And while there is certainly validity in knowing how much you can spend during the retirement, the problem with rules of thumb is that they are just that!  I have proven that there is also a benefit to spending your savings strategically – I discuss it at length in my flagship book, Retire Secure! – but the idea, sadly, is usually not included in general discussions about Safe Withdrawal Rates.  The bottom line?  Don’t rely on estimates – talk to someone who is skilled in running the numbers, and then check your numbers regularly.  That way, you won’t have to worry about running out of money, no matter when the Death of the Stretch IRA passes.

Are you paying to much to invest your money?

Third, know how much you are paying to invest your money.  As more and more people become educated about investment fees, the trend (thankfully) has been to move away from high-cost products such as annuities and front-loaded mutual funds, and from stockbrokers who survive by constantly buying and selling in their client’s accounts.  Instead, more people are looking toward low-cost mutual funds that can provide diversification, income and even growth without having to pay huge fees.  The cost that you pay to earn a return on your money is so important that I’ve even been known to suggest that it should be included as part of your Safe Withdrawal Rate calculation.  In years past, there was an odd prestige associated with the idea of having your money managed by a broker who charged high fees.  That is not the case anymore!  Americans are moving in droves to low-fee investments because they now fully understand how much they save over the long term.  And doing the same will benefit you no matter when the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation passes.

Please stop back soon!

Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust Protect Your Heirs From the New IRA Tax Rules James Lange

This post is the fourth in a series about the Death of the Stretch IRA.  If you’re a new visitor to my blog, this post might not make much sense to you unless you back up and read the three posts, How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?, Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?, & Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA? immediately before this one.  Those posts spell out the details of the proposed legislation that will cost your family a lot of money.  If you’re familiar with the specifics of the legislation, then please read on, because I’m going to talk about some possible solutions to the problems that will be caused by the Death of the Stretch IRA.

What is the best way to protect my IRA, once this Stretch IRA legislation is passed?

Many people have asked me, “What is the best way to protect my IRA, once this legislation is passed?  Well, the Senate Finance Committee did say that some people could be excluded from the new tax rules – my post of February 28th discusses them – so let’s look at how they might figure into your game plan.

I firmly believe in providing the surviving spouse with as much protection as possible, so I usually recommend that you name your spouse as your primary beneficiary and give him the right to disclaim your IRA to someone else.  If your spouse needs the money, that’s great.  He is excluded from the legislation, so he can still “stretch” your IRA after your death.

But suppose you have no spouse, or that your surviving spouse will not need your IRA because he has sufficient assets of his own?  In that case, your IRA will likely go to your child or children.  And the problem with that is that children are not excluded from these new rules unless they are disabled or chronically ill.   So here is one possible solution that can protect your children from the harsh new tax structure.

Let’s assume that you have an IRA that is worth $1.45 million, and that your beneficiary is your child.  Under the proposed new rules, your child can exclude $450,000 of your IRA and stretch it over the remainder of her life.  The remaining $1 million, though, will be subject to the new rules and will have to be withdrawn from the IRA within five years.  Even if she tries to spread the withdrawals out over five years to minimize the tax bite, she’ll still have to include about $200,000 in her income every year.   Depending on her income from other sources, that will probably push her up into a higher tax bracket.  The current maximum tax rate is 39.6 percent, so it’s possible that your child would have to pay $400,000 in federal income taxes – even more, if the state you live in taxes IRA distributions.

Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) provide a possible solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA?

Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) provide a possible solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA, and protect your child from these taxes?  If you look at my post on February 28th, you’ll see that charities and charitable trusts are excluded from the five-year rule! And while the CRUT has to comply with certain IRS rules regarding how and when money can be withdrawn, the IRA that is inside the trust is not subject to tax UNTIL you take withdrawals from it.  So if your child receives the minimum possible from the trust every year, it is possible that he can avoid much of the income tax acceleration that will happen once this legislation is passed.

Will your child have more money over the long term with the income from the $1 million that goes into the trust, or if he has to follow the new IRA rules and has to withdraw your IRA and pay taxes within five years, leaving him with an after-tax amount of about $600,000?  I’ll answer like a lawyer – it depends.   One of the very real problems with a charitable trust is that, once the beneficiary dies, any money that is left over goes directly to the charity.  So if your child dies after receiving just one distribution from the trust, the charity will end up receiving more money from your IRA than your family will.  There are some possible ways to manage this risk, though, such as taking out a term insurance policy on the life of your child.  So if he does die prematurely, the proceeds of the life insurance can replace the money that will go to the charity.

For some people, a CRUT can be a bad idea.  There is a cost to draft the legal documents, but that cost is nothing compared to the cost of maintaining the CRUT over the long term.  The Trustee must file a tax return for the CRUT to show the IRS how much has been paid to the beneficiary.  The CRUT’s tax return produces a form that has to be included with the beneficiary’s tax return, just like a W-2 or 1099, and the extra paperwork means a higher tax preparation fee for the beneficiary every year.  My rule of thumb is that it’s not worth the money or headaches to establish a CRUT and name it as your beneficiary if your IRA balance is below $1 million.

I encourage you to watch this short video to learn more about the pros and cons of Charitable Remainder Unitrusts, and how they can be used to help shield your retirement savings from the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation.  However, do not take action and establish a CRUT until the final legislation has passed.  If you are using Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan, the current Stretch IRA rules will produce a far more favorable result than the trust.

Please stop back soon,
Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

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How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

What does your required minimum distribution look like now and after the Stretch IRA is no more?

The Nitty Gritty Details of the Stretch IRA James Lange

Those of you who have read by books know that I am a believer in paying taxes later, rather than paying taxes now. Even if you do your best to stick to that game plan, though, you will eventually have to withdraw money from your IRAs and qualified retirement plans because the IRS wants their tax money. This post goes into the nitty gritty details of how those required minimum distributions are calculated, and how you can use the current rules to your advantage.

How do the required minimum distribution rules affect you?

As of this writing, you’re required to begin taking distributions from your IRAs by April 1st of the year following the year that you turn 70½. The IRS won’t let you decide how much you want to take out. In their Publication 590, they spell out the rules, provide factors that you have to use, and let you know how much it will cost you in penalties if you don’t do the math right. There are three tables that they have created that contain the factors you have to use. The most popular is Table III, which is for unmarried individuals and married individuals whose spouses are not more than 10 years younger. Table II is for IRA owners who have spouses who are 10 or more years younger, and Table I is for beneficiaries of IRAs. The factors in those tables are based on an average life expectancy and have nothing to do with your own health and life expectancy. So when you turn 70 ½, you have to look up the factor that you must use, divide it into your IRA balance as of December 31st, and that will give you the required minimum distribution you must take by April 1st.

These required minimum distributions can cause huge problems for retired people because they can increase your tax bracket, cause more of your Social Security to be taxed, and even make your Medicare premiums go up. And while you can’t generally avoid them while you’re living (unless you continue to work), you can use the rules to your advantage to minimize the tax bite that your surviving spouse and children will have to pay. Under the current rules, your children are allowed to take only the required minimum distributions from your IRA after your death. The good news is that, since they have a longer life expectancy, their required minimum distributions will be lower. Keeping more money inside the tax shelter of the IRA for a longer period of time is what the Stretch IRA is all about.

If you’ve always been the kind of person who enjoys numbers, then you may find this short video interesting. It walks you through required minimum distribution calculations for your own IRA or retirement plan, as well as the calculations your beneficiaries will use after your death. It also discusses the tax implications of those distributions. The Senate Finance Committee, though, has voted 26-0 to eliminate the Stretch IRA for most beneficiaries. When it is enacted into law, your children will have to withdraw your IRA and pay tax on it within five years. Even your Roth IRAs aren’t safe – your children will have to withdraw the entire Roth account within five years of your death. And even though withdrawals from Roth accounts aren’t taxable, the greater loss is that the future growth on your IRA money will no longer be tax-free.

This is big news, and I want to make sure that you stay informed about the latest developments. Please stop back soon!

-Jim

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Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

What Are the Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

Death of the Stretch IRA Who is Excluded From the Five Year Rule James Lange IRA Expert

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that the Senate Finance committee has voted 26 0 to eliminate the Stretch IRA. The idea makes sense – the billions of dollars they’d make in tax revenue would help the new administration pay for promises made on the campaign trail. I believe that it will pass, and so I wanted to spend a little bit of time today and discuss the exceptions to the proposed new Inherited IRA rules.

If there is any good news in this mess that Congress has dumped on us, it is the fact that they have protected your spouse from the new rules affecting Inherited IRAs. So everything that you read in Retire Secure! about taking minimum distributions from your spouse’s retirement plans still holds true. If you die and leave all of your IRA money to your spouse, she can still stretch it over the course of her lifetime. But don’t get too comfortable, because the new rules have a catch. Even though she can still stretch your IRA, it might not be the best idea to leave your spouse all of your money – a concept that is so complicated that I’ll have to devote an entire future post to it.

Some beneficiaries can still benefit from Stretch IRAs

Disabled and chronically ill individuals are excluded from the new rules, as are beneficiaries who are not more than ten years younger than you – such as siblings or an unmarried partner. The privilege isn’t extended to their beneficiaries. Once they die, their own beneficiaries will have to pay taxes according to the new rules. Minors are also excluded from the five year rule, but only while they are minors. Once they reach the age of majority – which varies depending on which state they live in – they have to pay accelerated taxes according to the new rules. This could open up a Pandora’s Box of problems during their college years, because the distributions they’d have to take from the inherited IRA could make them ineligible for any type of financial aid!

Charities and Charitable Remainder Unitrusts (CRUTS) are also excluded from the five year rule. This exception can provide some planning opportunities for the right individuals, but it’s also a topic so complicated that I’m going to devote an entire future blog post to it as well.

Current proposal about Stretch IRAs offers some protection with an exclusion

The other interesting news is that the proposed new rules give each IRA owner a $450,000 exclusion – meaning that their beneficiaries can exclude (and therefore, continue to stretch) a certain portion of the account. Granted, they may change this amount, but as it stands now, you have nothing to worry about if the total IRA balance in your family is less than $450,000. If you have a $1 million IRA, your beneficiaries will be able to stretch $450,000 but will have to pay accelerated taxes on $550,000. The exclusion has to be prorated between all of your retirement accounts – including Roths. And while distributions from Roth accounts aren’t taxable, the greater damage is that your beneficiaries will lose the benefit of the future tax free growth. You can’t even choose which of your beneficiaries gets to use the exclusion – it’s prorated between your beneficiaries!

These new rules for Inherited IRAs will be an administrative headache for all of your beneficiaries. The exceptions to the rules, however, provide planning opportunities that if possible, you should take advantage of while both you and your spouse are alive. I encourage you to watch the short video attached to this post, and stop back soon to learn more about the things you can do now to minimize the effects of this devastating legislation.

Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

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Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?

New Rules for Inherited IRAs and the Death of the Stretch IRA

Death of the Stretch IRA

Now that the dust has settled from the election and President Trump has taken over the reins of the White House, voters are asking the question, “Just how does he plan to pay for his tax cuts?” At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to ask readers to refer to my latest book, The Ultimate Retirement and Estate Plan for Your Million-Dollar IRA. In that book, I warned readers about the legislation that proposed the Death of the Stretch IRA and offered solutions that you can implement to minimize its devastating effects.

Shortly after the book went to press, the Senate Finance Committee proved to me that I am on the right track. In September of 2016, in a stunning bipartisan show of support, they voted 26-0 to eliminate the stretch IRA. The Senate, however, adjourned for the year before they could vote on the Finance Committee’s proposal, so the legislation will have to be reintroduced on their 2017 legislative calendar.

What is a stretch IRA?

What is a stretch IRA, and why should you care if it goes by the wayside? The stretch IRA refers to the ability of your heirs to continue the tax-deferred status of your retirement plans long after your death. The current inherited IRA rules permit your beneficiaries to take very small minimum distributions over the course of their lifetimes, allowing more of their inheritance to remain in the protected tax-deferred account for a longer period. The new rules for inherited IRAs, on the other hand, will require that your children and grandchildren remove the money from the account within five years and pay income taxes on the withdrawals. Depending on the size of your IRA and other factors, these harsh new rules could throw your beneficiary into a higher tax bracket. Ultimately, they may even make the difference between your child being financially secure for the rest of their lives, and going broke.

I think that the election of President Trump will spell the end of the stretch IRA as we know it. The idea was introduced every year since as part of Obama’s budget but never had quite enough support to become law. Our new president wants to cut taxes for the majority of Americans and needs to find a way to pay for his plan. Since most people don’t think about taxes unless they’re associated with money they’ve earned themselves, eliminating the stretch IRA could be an easy way for the government to force billions in previously untaxed retirement accounts into their coffers. I believe that the Finance Committee’s proposal will reappear in 2017, but as part of a much larger tax reform bill – which is precisely what our new president has promised. In previous years, a bipartisan and unanimous recommendation by a Senate Committee would almost guarantee passage by Congress, but whether that still holds true after one of the most bitter and contentious elections in history remains to be seen. In any event, I will be offering a series of short video clips over the upcoming months that keep you up to date on the status of the legislation and provide insights as to what a change to the inherited IRA rules will mean to your beneficiaries. Remember, the key to smart planning is not trying to avoid estate tax, but income tax.

Please stop back soon! Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

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Roth IRA Conversions Early in 2016 Present Potential Advantages

Let’s face it. The stock market has declined a lot in the past few months.

Many people wonder if they should move to cash and do nothing with their investments. While we do not recommend trying to time the future moves in the stock market, the reality is that it is better to buy low and let it grow more in the future. This is especially true for Roth IRA conversions which result in long-term advantages when the account grows after the conversion. So maybe the time to convert is now.

Lange Roth IRA Money Nest Egg

But, what if the market continues to decline after you convert? One good thing about the current tax law is that you can undo a 2016 conversion as late as April 15, 2017 and perhaps even to October 15, 2017. This gives you a long time, over a year, to see if it grows. If it really dives after you convert, you can even do another conversion at a lower price and undo the first conversion later. The technical term for the undoing of a conversion is a recharacterization, because the Roth IRA is recharacterized as a traditional IRA by moving it back to the original or a different traditional IRA account. Converting early in the year is often recommended as it gives the account more time to grow before a decision must be made on a potential recharacterization.

We have written many articles about Roth IRAs and Roth conversions and included discussions of the extensive advantages they provide. We discuss conversions in our book Retire Secure! and we have written an entire book on Roth IRAs called The Roth Revolution. Both of these books can be purchased on Amazon, but we would be happy to send you a copy for free. To receive a free copy, call us at 412-521-2732, or email admin@paytaxeslater.com and ask for one. Just reference this newsletter offer! These articles and discussions go into much deeper detail on the many strategic ways to do Roth conversions to your advantage, depending on your current situation.

The Roth conversion amount will add to your taxable income, so there are many tax traps to consider when deciding how much to convert, such as …

  • Higher tax rates and related tax surcharges and phaseouts of deductions first implemented for 2013 could result in extra tax if you convert too much.
  • For people who are covered by Medicare parts B and/or D, and pay Medicare premiums, converting too much in 2016 can raise the Medicare premiums in 2018.
  • Also, for medium- or lower-income people who get Social Security income, a conversion can make more of the Social Security subject to tax and also can turn tax-free long-term capital gains and qualified dividends into taxable amounts.

However, paying extra tax can sometimes be worth it in the long run if the Roth IRA account grows a lot after the conversion. These are just some of the things that should be considered in determining the best conversion amount.

Other considerations include the current and future financial and income tax situations of you and your beneficiaries. As we move further into an election year, the possibility of tax law changes looms ahead. Since future tax laws can affect the long-term success of a conversion early in 2016, they should also be considered.

Due to all these considerations and more, we stress the importance of “running the numbers” to be certain that the decisions you are making about Roth IRA conversions are absolutely right for your situation. In general, we like Roth IRA conversions for taxpayers who can make a conversion and stay in the same tax bracket they are currently in, and have the funds to pay for the Roth conversion from outside of the IRA. It is best to run the numbers to determine the most appropriate time and amount for your situation. This is a service that we have provided for hundreds of clients and currently offer free for our assets under management clients. We like to do these number running sessions with the clients in the room. This allows them the opportunity to bring up questions, adjust the scenarios, and feel extremely comfortable with the final decisions.

We usually find many people hesitant to make any changes in their investments when they decline in value. However, you should not pass up the opportunity to do a Roth conversion in a troubled market, as it could provide you and your family more financial security in the long run. Because of the many things to be considered when doing a Roth conversion, we suggest you discuss how much to convert in 2016 with your qualified advisor.

If you are interested about learning about whether a Roth IRA conversion is right for you, please click here and fill out our pre-qualification form. If you qualify, we will contact you to schedule an appointment with either James Lange or one of his tax experts.

Unfortunately, this Free Second Opinion is for qualified Western Pennsylvania residents only.

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