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Should I Name a Living Trust Beneficiary of a Roth IRA?

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account (IRA) that allows qualified withdrawals on a tax-free basis provided certain conditions are satisfied. Established in 1997, it was named after William Roth, a former Delaware Senator.

A Roth IRA is similar to a traditional IRA with the biggest distinction between the two being how they’re taxed. A Roth IRA is funded with after-tax dollars; the contributions are not tax-deductible. But once you start withdrawing funds, the money is tax-free. Conversely, traditional IRA deposits are generally made with pretax dollars; you usually get a tax deduction on your contribution and pay income tax when you withdraw the money from the account during retirement.

Can a living trust be named as the beneficiary of a Roth IRA?  The simple answer is yes, a living trust can be the beneficiary of a Roth IRA. However, without knowing more about an individual’s specific circumstances, it’s hard to know if this is a wise move.

A November 2018 article from NJ Money Help entitled, “Be careful when choosing a beneficiary,” explains that there are several things you need to know when considering a living trust as the beneficiary of a Roth IRA.

By designating a living trust as your Roth IRA beneficiary, the distributions from the Roth IRA at your death will become mandatory based on the life expectancy of the oldest beneficiary named in the trust.

This is an important point if you’re currently married. That’s because you’ll forfeit the ability for a spousal rollover, by naming the trust as your beneficiary.

Current law permits IRAs to be passed to a spouse as a beneficiary, and the spousal beneficiary can treat the account as if it was their own IRA. In the case of a Roth IRA, this means the surviving spouse can continue to defer distributions tax-free for their lifetime.

By naming the living trust as beneficiary, this benefit is lost no matter if your spouse is one of the living trust beneficiaries.

Why?

Distributions are required to begin immediately, if the beneficiary is anyone other than a spouse.  Thus, you would forgo the ability to allow the funds to continue to grow tax-free for a longer period of time.

You should talk about this with an experienced estate planning attorney. He or she will be able to look at your entire financial situation before you determine if this is a wise move for you.

If you would like to discuss your options concerning a Roth IRA with an estate planning attorney in Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, or Naples, Florida, schedule a complimentary call with Edward J. Welch at Welch Law, PLLC.

Reference: NJ Money Help (Nov. 2018) “Be careful when choosing a beneficiary”

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