Using Flexible Estate Planning as a Possible Solution for the Death of the Stretch IRA
The previous posts in this series discuss the proposed legislation that would spell the Death of the Stretch IRA, and offer some ideas that you might be able to incorporate into your own estate plan to reduce its devastating effects. This post will show you how flexible planning can minimize the damage that income taxes could do to your childrenís inheritances after the Death of the Stretch IRA.
The $450,000 Exclusion, Use it or Lose it!
I want to go into detail about something that I first mentioned in my post of February 28, 2017, which was the proposed $450,000 exclusion to the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation. The proposed legislation said that each IRA owner would be entitled to their own exclusion of $450,000. Regardless of how many retirement accounts you own, and how many beneficiaries you name on them, it is critical that you donít overlook the fundamental step of making sure that your exclusion can be used after your death. If you donít use it, you will lose it!
Readers who have been around as long as I have may remember estate planning in the late 90ís, when the top federal estate tax rate was an outrageous 55% and only $600,000 of your estate could be protected from it. And in order to protect more of your assets from the IRS, attorneys had to draft elaborate trusts (often referred to as marital, or A/B trusts) which would allow each spouse to have a $600,000 exclusion of their own. That way, a total of $1.2 million of your familyís money could be exempted and would pass to your children without being subject to federal estate tax. Remember those days?
Common Beneficiary Language Can Cause Your Heirs to Lose an Exclusion
Well, now you have to think the same way about the $450,000 exclusion that is proposed in the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation. The proposal says that the change will apply only to the extent that an individualís aggregate account balances exceed the exclusion amount. But what do most people do when they fill out their beneficiary forms? They say, I want my spouse to have this money, and if my spouse dies before me, I want it to go to my children. Sound familiar? Well, suppose you have $450,000 in an IRA, and your spouse has $450,000 in an IRA. You die, your spouse rolls your IRA in to her own IRA, and now she has $900,000. In an earlier post, I told you that your spouse is an exempt beneficiary ñ so any money that you leave to her wouldnít have been subject to the $450,000 exclusion anyway. But suppose your spouse dies a week after you do. Since her IRA was worth $900,000 when she died, your children can only exclude $450,000. So half of her account could be sheltered under the old IRA rules, but the remainder would be subject to the proposed new IRA rules.
A Better Plan – Use Both Exclusions
A better plan would be to make sure that, if possible, you and your spouse can use both of your exclusions. For example, suppose you have $1 million in an IRA, and your spouse has $1 million in her own IRA. Both of you have estate planning documents that give your surviving spouse the right to disclaim to the next beneficiary in line. You die, and now your spouse has a decision to make. Sheís your beneficiary, and she can accept your IRA if she feels she needs the money. But suppose she doesnít need all of it? She could say, ìIíll be quite comfortable with only $550,000 of this, plus the $1 million from my own IRA.î In that case $450,000 of your IRA would go to the next beneficiary in line ñ your children. Since the amount that your spouse disclaims is within the exclusion amount, $450,000 of your IRA will go to your children and can be distributed according to the old rules. Then when your spouse dies, her entire IRA will pass to your children and they can exclude $450,000 of her IRA from the new rules too.
Flexible Estate Planning is the Key
Flexible estate planning allows your surviving spouse to decide who gets what after your death, and is the key to minimizing the harsh effects that the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation will bring if it is passed. Stop back soon for some more random thoughts!
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.