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Bush > Trusted IRA’s

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Stacy Bush, Valdosta Today Finance Contributor

In a typical IRA, your beneficiary takes control of the IRA assets upon your death. There’s nothing to stop your beneficiary from withdrawing all or part of the IRA funds at any time. This ability to withdraw assets at will may be troublesome to you for several reasons. For example, you may simply be concerned that your beneficiary will squander the IRA funds.

Or it may be your wish that your IRA “stretch” after your death–that is, continue to accumulate on a tax-deferred (or in the case of Roth IRAs, potentially tax-free) basis–for as long as possible. IRA owners sometimes select much younger IRA beneficiaries because their young age means a longer life expectancy, and this in turn requires smaller required minimum distributions (RMDs) from the IRA each year after your death–allowing more of your IRA to continue to grow on a tax-favored basis for a longer period of time. Your intent to stretch out the IRA payments may be defeated if your beneficiary has total control over the IRA assets upon your death.

Even if your beneficiary doesn’t deplete the IRA assets, in a typical IRA you normally have no say about where the funds go when your beneficiary dies. Your beneficiary, or the IRA agreement, usually specifies who gets the funds at that point. And in a typical IRA, particularly a custodial IRA, your beneficiary is responsible for investing the IRA assets after your death, regardless of his or her inclination, skill, or experience.

A trusteed IRA can help solve all of these problems. With a trusteed IRA, you can’t stop the payment of RMDs to your beneficiary but you can restrict any additional payments from this IRA. For example, you could maximize the period your IRA will stretch by directing the trustee to pay only RMDs to your beneficiary. Or you can ensure that your beneficiary’s needs are taken care of by providing the trustee with the discretion to make payments to your beneficiary in addition to RMDs as needed for your beneficiary’s health, welfare, or education.

Another option is to impose restrictions on distributions only until you’re comfortable your beneficiary has reached an age where he or she will be mature enough to handle the IRA assets.

In each case, the balance of the IRA (if any) passing, upon your beneficiary’s death, can be paid to a contingent beneficiary of your choosing (the contingent beneficiary will continue to receive RMDs based on your primary beneficiary’s remaining life expectancy). For example, if you’ve remarried, you may want to be sure your current spouse is provided for upon your death, but also that any IRA funds remaining on your spouse’s death pass to the children of your first marriage. Or you may want to ensure that if your spouse remarries, his or her new spouse won’t be the ultimate recipient of your IRA assets.

A trusteed IRA can also be structured to qualify, for example, as a marital, QTIP, or credit shelter (bypass) trust, potentially simplifying your estate planning.

Finally, a trusteed IRA can even be a valuable tool during your lifetime. For example, the IRA can provide that if you become incapacitated the trustee will step in and take over (or continue) the investment of assets, and distribute benefits on your behalf as needed or required, ensuring that your IRA won’t be in limbo until a guardian is appointed.

Stacy Bush has practiced independent financial advising in the Valdosta area for 14 years. Growing up on a farm in Donalsonville, Georgia, he is keen to the financial needs of South Georgia and North Florida families. Stacy and his wife, Carla, live in Valdosta with their four children. You can submit questions about this article to askstacybush@lpl.com