Articles Tagged with Retirement Plan

Reviewing your estate plan and updating the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts is important anytime you have a major life change. A last will and testament does not generally cover who will receive the benefits from your retirement accounts when you pass away, which makes review and revision all the more important when necessary.

Some of the most important times to update your retirement accounts include after a divorce, remarriage, and having children. Other examples of when you will need to revise the beneficiaries on your retirement account could be if you have designated a charity to receive your benefits and it is no longer solvent. In either case, it can be especially difficult for heirs to challenge the designation in court and recover what should be theirs.

Should you fail to designate a beneficiary altogether or that individual passes away before you do, your beneficiary may be determined by state law or the provision that governs your account. Federal regulations govern profit-sharing plans, 401(k)s, and money purchase pension plans and will automatically go to your spouse if you are married. Unless your spouse signs and notarize a document stating otherwise, no one else may be designated as a beneficiary for these types of accounts.

We recently had some discussions with a Madison family that was trying to make the most of their father’s IRA and had questions about naming the beneficiary of an IRA. The family wanted to make sure that after the father died, the IRA would benefit one of the children, and then after that child died, the family wanted the IRA to be shared among the other children.

retirement trustThe family kept asking: “Should we name the child as the beneficiary, or should we name a trust (for the benefit of the child) as the beneficiary.

One of the children was married to an accountant. His suggestion (whether it has merit or not is debatable) was, “Don’t name a trust as the beneficiary of an IRA because I hate trusts.”

One of the children stated, “Dad wants it left to a trust for the benefit of a child so that Dad has the assurance that when the child dies, the remaining IRA would go to the child’s siblings.”

What should they do?

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What Types Of Trusts Are Useful In Protecting Retirement Plans?

There are a number of schools of thought here. In our practice, we feel a revocable living trust is not a good vehicle to handle retirement plans. Often these are not drafted with the appropriate language to comply with the IRS service regulations to be what’s called a “see-through trust”. A Retirement Plan Trust is specifically drafted to comply with the service regulations and meet all the criteria so that if this trust is designated as the beneficiary, you will be able to preserve the tax deferral for those named beneficiaries to get the stretch advantages.

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No, it does not. It transfers by beneficiary designation. Much like life insurance that goes to the individual named in the policy, the retirement plan goes to the individual named on the beneficiary designation in the plan document. If you don’t have a beneficiary designated or the individual that you designated is deceased, the account value can wind up in your probate estate; and if this happens, the only choice is that all the taxes are due right away, and there is significant inflexibility. But in general, it will avoid probate.
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A lot of people do not understand the landscape of how retirement plans pass to beneficiaries. They do not necessarily understand the particularities and technicalities of how one inherits and their choices presented by fund custodians. IRAs have only been around since the mid-1970’s and we are only beginning to see multiple generations inheriting them. The lifetime distribution option (stretch IRA) is an even more recent addition to the mix so the idea of not just simply cashing it out is relatively new. Whenever you have these options and choices, people just aren’t savvy enough. Continue reading