As the population in the U.S. ages, it is common for people to inherit an individual retirement account from parents, an aunt or even a friend. However, it's important that certain steps are followed so that small errors don't become expensive. There are several options on how you can handle the account, but it is dependent on some factors such as your relationship with the original account holder, the age of the original account holder when they passed away and the type of account you inherited. Here are four steps you should follow to avoid expensive mistakes.
Step 1: Title the New IRA
The first step after you inherit an IRA is to correctly set up the inherited IRA. If you skip this step, you will not be in a position to properly stretch the distributions. An inherited IRA should have the name of the deceased original owner, and it should also indicate that the IRA was inherited. However, the case is different when the deceased was a spouse because a spouse can rollover the amount in the inherited IRA into their own account. When setting up the inherited IRA, you are required to name your beneficiary. If you pass on without emptying the inherited IRA your beneficiary will continue taking the distributions but according to the first heir’s life expectancy.
Step 2: Calculating the Right Distribution Amount
The prior year-end account value and the life expectancy are needed to calculate the distribution amount. For this calculation, the value of the account from the last year is used. For example, to calculate the distributions for the year 2018, the account value on 31st December 2017 is used. Life expectancy is also important, and the heir if not a spouse can use the Single Life Expectancy Table. However, it can be done only once, and every year after that the heir can deduct one from the previous year’s factor.
Step 3: Determine If the IRA Has an After-Tax Basis
Most beneficiaries are either not aware, or they do not bother to find out of the IRA they just inherited has an after-tax basis or not. Such a single mistake can prove quite expensive in the future. If you have inherited an IRA and you find out that it has an after-tax contribution you should make an effort of filling in the Form 8606. Filling in this form is to kelp you claim the non-deductible portion of the required minimum distribution. You can ask the executor if they know if it has an after-tax contribution but they might not know and they have to check the tax returns of the deceased to find out if they filled the form in previous years. To be sure, you should do some research on prior-year tax returns.
Step 4: Make a Plan for the Taxation of Distributions
Taxation of distribution is different for Roth IRAs. With Roth IRAs, in most cases, the distributions are tax-free if the beneficiary is taking the minimum distributions. For traditional IRAs, the distributions are fully taxable unless the original IRA owner had a tax basis on their IRA. You can refer to step three above to find out if the IRA had a tax basis. If the distribution is taxable, you can add the taxable portion of the distribution to the tax projection for the year to find out the amount of tax you should withhold.
To avoid making expensive mistakes, you should hire a knowledgeable adviser as soon as you get a notification that you have inherited an IRA. A single mistake could mean that you lose your ability to stretch the payments. A mistake could also get you stuck with a large tax bill on the amount you inherit.