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What You Should Know About The SECURE Act and Retirement Accounts

By Howard C. Stross
March 16, 2020

The SECURE Act, which changes the law applicable to retirement accounts, became effective on January 1, 2020. The SECURE Act increases the age for required minimum distributions from retirement accounts from 70 ½ to 72 years of age (for those born on July, 1, 1949, or later) and it eliminates the maximum age for contributions to traditional IRA accounts for older Americans still in the workforce. Probably the SECURE Act’s most impactful change is the elimination of the “stretch” option for most non-spouse beneficiaries of inherited IRAs, which allowed distributions to be taken over a beneficiary’s life expectancy.

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Under the new law, most designated beneficiaries must withdraw the entire balance of the IRA by the end of the tenth year after the IRA participant’s death. The new law does not change the requirement that charities and estates as beneficiaries must withdraw the entire balance of the IRA by the end of the fifth year after the IRA participant’s death.

There are exceptions to the new ten-year mandatory withdrawal rule for “eligible designated beneficiaries.” Besides spouses, the IRA participant’s minor children (until they reach the “age of majority”), disabled and chronically ill beneficiaries, and beneficiaries who are not more than ten years younger than the IRA participant can still take distributions over their life expectancy.

Under the SECURE Act, the ten-year time frame for taking distributions will result in the acceleration of income tax due, which may cause your beneficiaries to be bumped into a higher income tax bracket, thereby causing the beneficiaries to receive less of the funds contained in the retirement account than originally anticipated.

Because of the SECURE Act, planning with trusts should consider the type of beneficiary and the tax consequences, and should weigh the trustmaker’s desire for tax minimization against the need for asset protection. Additional considerations include implementing Roth IRA conversions, using charitable remainder trusts, including distributions to charitable beneficiaries, and using life insurance to pay taxes or offset amounts passing to charities. For a spouse, consider rollovers, treatment as an inherited IRA, or, under limited circumstances, the spouse disclaiming to a younger generation beneficiary.

If you have questions about how the SECURE Act may affect your estate plan, contact Stross Law Firm, P.A. at (813) 852-6500 to schedule a complimentary initial discussion.

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