New federal rules under the SECURE Act for IRAs will significantly add to the tax burden for some heirs by telescoping the permitted period for withdrawals. But this pain can be greatly reduced by converting regular IRAs to Roth IRAs before bequeathing them, explains CNBC’s recent article entitled “Here’s a way to beat the tax burden for IRA heirs.”
Before the new legislation, beneficiaries could enjoy their entire life expectancy to take withdrawals from inherited IRAs. As a result, they were able to stretch out these accounts, and the tax on withdrawals, over decades. That’s why they were given the nickname “stretch IRAs.”
But this changed in December of 2019 when Congress passed the Secure Act of 2019. The bill preserves the lifelong stretch period for surviving spouses, minor children, the chronically ill, and other individuals who aren’t more than 10 years younger than their benefactors (this group would include most siblings). However, for other heirs—including adult children—the new rules restrict the stretch period to a single decade. Beginning with the IRA bequests from benefactors who die in 2020, adult children must now take out all of the funds from these accounts within 10 years and pay ordinary income tax on each withdrawal. With this accumulated wealth to heirs, adult children will also be saddled with a huge tax burden. This means more of a need for estate planning to address this.
A wise solution for some might be to convert their regular IRA into a Roth IRA. Unlike regular IRAs, contributions to Roth IRAs are made solely with post-tax money. Though unlike regular IRAs, Roth IRAs carry no income tax on withdrawals, the Secure Act means they will now be required to drain the account within 10 years of inheritance. Note that as you get near retirement, converting to a Roth has a few other advantages. Holders of regular IRAs must begin taking annual required minimum distributions (RMDS) at age 72 (before the new legislation in December, this age was 70½). However, if you plan to keep working or are retiring with sufficient income from other resources, you may not decide to take withdrawals. Rather, you may want to allow these assets in your account grow intact rather than gradually weaning them for withdrawal. Converting to a Roth allows you to do this.
Depending on your situation, a Roth conversion might be a wise option if—not only to lessen your heirs’ tax burden but also to sustain the growth of your retirement nest egg. Visit with your financial planner and ask your estate planning attorney about the new retirement rules and how it fits into your estate plan.
Reference: CNBC (Feb. 12, 2020) “Here’s a way to beat the tax burden for IRA heirs”