Mistake 6: Taking the money from the IRA, rather than properly establishing an Inherited IRA.

This is one of the most common mistakes for the following reasons:

  1. The client is not aware of the retirement distribution rules and merely asks for a total distribution of the IRA.
  2. The client asks the custodian/advisor what to do and is merely asked to sign a form so a check can be sent to them.
  3. The client’s CPA and/or lawyers are not familiar with this area of the tax law.
  4. The beneficiary is made aware of these new rules by the advisor and the beneficiary still says, “I need the money now. Give me the check!”

The last one is an example that I also encounter frequently. For example, a young man might come to me who is the beneficiary of his deceased father’s IRA. The IRA is worth $1 million. I look at the life expectancy table and explain to the son that if he makes the proper election, he will only be required to take out about $30,000 from the IRA and he could leave the other $970,000 tax deferred (I’ve also reviewed the entire estate and allocated for estate taxes).

In many cases, the child will respond, “Thank you for all that wonderful information. However, I would just as soon spend the money now! Close out my dad’s IRA and transfer all the money into my bank account.”

Unfortunately, this often happens in the real world and is a perfect example of improper planning! One of the key issues that an advisor should discuss with his client before he or she passes away is the possibility of establishing an Inherited IRA Trust, also known as an IRA Legacy Trust, Stretch IRA Trust, etc. This document specifically states what steps and elections the beneficiaries must take after the client passes away.

Ask your advisor about establishing an Inherited IRA Trust, which names a separate trustee to make decisions on behalf of the beneficiary.  While it is not a perfect solution in every scenario, there are a lot of benefits in the right set of circumstances.

Not all custodians allow for this type of planning, and of course, not all situations warrant this type of planning.  However, knowing your options can only help you when it is time to talk to your advisor.

Adapted from MD Producer materials