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  The remaining $1 million, though, will be subject to the new rules and will have to be withdrawn from the IRA within five years.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,

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

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

Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA

How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA

How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA


The Best Response to the New Estate Laws

The top estate planners in the country warn IRA and retirement plan owners to develop an appropriate response to the new estate tax laws just passed this December. We are now in a completely different tax environment ripe for the cruelest trap of all: where the standard language of traditional wills and trusts forces too much money (now up to $5,000,000) into a trust limiting the surviving spouse to income and the right to invade principal for health, maintenance and support.  If the trust is overfunded, which is likely under the new law, less discretionary income is available for the surviving spouse.  Furthermore, if this common trust is the beneficiary of an IRA or retirement plan, massive income taxes are also triggered – all this can be avoided with appropriate language in wills and trusts and appropriate beneficiary designations of IRAs, Roth IRAs and retirement plans.

Under the new estate tax laws, older traditional estate plans are not helpful, but harmful, because of the severe restrictions they place on the surviving spouse, something most couples do not want.  Many IRA and retirement plan owners have this detrimental language in their existing wills and trusts and don’t even know it. IRA and retirement plan owners with assets between $600,000 and $5,000,000 are particularly vulnerable. Both spouses have likely become quite accustomed to making expenditure decisions based on desire in addition to need. To lose that control would be devastating. Without a review of their older traditional estate plan they could be  thinking they have left everything under the control of their spouse, but in reality, they have not.

 I encourage you to have your will reviewed and updated to comply with the estate planning law.  In Pittsburgh?  Please join us for one of our FREE workshops entitled, “How to Avoid the Cruelest Trap of All:  Don’t Unknowingly Restrict Your Surviving Spouse’s Independence or Access to the Family Money After the Tax Relief Act of 2010.”   See our location and times on  Not in Pittsburgh, you can purchase this workshop to view in the comfort of your own home for just $97 – to order call our office at 412.521.2732.

Beneficiary Designations in a Second Marriage

Estate planning can be tricky to begin with — toss in a second spouse and children from different marriages and relationships and it becomes even more difficult.

Recently, Jim Lange came across an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that dealt with the estate planning challenges caused by divorce and remarriage.  The example that was used was that after 15 years of a second marriage, a husband was getting ready to retire with $1 million in his IRA.  His second wife was shocked to learn that she had no ownership rights to the account.

One of the proposed solutions listed in the article was a tool called a QTIP trust (qualified terminable interest property trust).  In this case, a QTIP trust would be listed as the beneficiary of the husband’s IRA and would then provide an income stream for the surviving spouse while protecting a portion of the assets for the children.

Jim thinks that this is the wrong approach and offered his solution in a letter to the editor.  Jim’s first point is that naming a QTIP trust as the beneficiary of an IRA accelerates income and taxes to the detriment of both the surviving spouse and the children.  The surviving spouse is left with only an income stream and the kids don’t inherit anything until the second spouse dies.  He’s also concerned about the fees generated by the QTIP trust solution — attorneys have to be paid to draft the trust and annual CPA and trustee fees have to be paid after the first death.

Instead, Jim prefers to leave a certain percentage of the IRA to the surviving spouse and give the rest to the children of prior marriages.  It’s a simple solution that provides more money for the heirs and less for the IRS.

Coincidentally, the topic of the June 3rd edition of our radio show, The Lange Money Hour, was trusts — so, we started the show with a discussion about the Post-Gazette article.  A special thank-you to a guest who agreed to join us on short notice — Tom Crowley, Senior Wealth Planner and VP at PNC Wealth Management.  While Tom agreed with Jim about the tax consequences of naming a QTIP trust as beneficiary of an IRA, he pointed out that in his practice, some clients are willing to sacrifice more money in taxes in order to gain greater control over the distribution of the funds.

During the rest of the show, Jim went on to explain the ins and outs of various trusts including living trusts, spendthrift trusts, charitable trusts and trusts for minors.  Keep in mind that every case needs to be evaluated on an individual basis.  If you have questions about any of these trusts or think that you need a thorough review, be sure to call the office at 412-521-2732 and a member of the Lange team can help.