Individual retirement accounts are an important part of many estate plans. By designating a beneficiary for the account the funds can pass to another person automatically without having to go through probate. However, if the primary beneficiary of your IRA passes away before you do, then the IRA might have to go through your estate. That can cause problems as a recently released private letter ruling by the IRS illustrates.
This was the subject of a recent Wealth Management article titled "The Importance of Naming a Contingent Beneficiary of a Retirement Account."
In this case the primary beneficiary of an IRA and a Roth IRA passed away before the testator. As a consequence the accounts had to go through the estate. As the sole beneficiary of the estate, the IRA and Roth IRA went to the deceased's spouse.
The spouse elected to roll over the IRA and Roth IRA into her own IRA. The IRS determined that she could do that. However, she was only allowed to do so because of the particular facts of this case and some language in the preamble of the regulations, not the body of the regulations.
This is important because the ruling seems to indicate that in other situations the result would not be as favorable. Naming a contingent beneficiary on your IRA can guard against such outcomes. If the primary beneficiary has already passed away, the contingent beneficiary will receive the funds instead.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your estate plans or when probating an estate or administering a trust, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage a Cincinnati estate planning attorney.
For more information about estate planning, probate or trust administration in Cincinnati (and throughout the rest of Southwest Ohio) and to review free resources regarding estate planning, probate or trust administration, visit my website. If you have questions regarding this article or a particular legal matter, feel free to contact me at 513-399-PLAN (7526).
Reference: Wealth Management (March 21, 2016) "The Importance of Naming a Contingent Beneficiary of a Retirement Account."