How to Use a Roth IRA to Avoid Paying Estate Taxes

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How to Use a Roth IRA to Avoid Paying Estate Taxes

A Roth individual retirement account (Roth IRA) is one of the most efficient methods for minimizing the tax liability that your heirs will face after you die. Aside from all of the various benefits of Roth IRAs, there are two reasons to include one in your estate planning:

Key Takeaways

  • You don’t have to take yearly payments from a Roth IRA during your lifetime, so you may leave it entirely to your heirs if you don’t need the money.
  • In most situations, heirs may take tax-free from a Roth IRA over a 10-year period.
  • Spouses who inherit Roth IRAs may handle them as their own accounts. That is, there are no withdrawal deadlines.

You Can Leave the Whole Roth IRA to Your Heirs

Unlike regular IRAs and many other kinds of retirement plans, a Roth IRA does not require you to take any required minimum distributions (RMDs) throughout your lifetime. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) doesn’t mind if you utilize the money since you previously paid the income taxes on it.

If you don’t need the money right away, you may leave it in the account to grow tax-free. As a result, a Roth IRA is an excellent vehicle for asset transfer. The account balance, plus profits, may be transferred to your beneficiaries.

You don’t even need to name a beneficiary in your will since the beneficiary named on your Roth IRA contract is enough to avoid probate. In fact, the beneficiaries identified on your Roth take priority over anything specified in your will.

How Your Heirs Can Avoid Taxes

Spouse Beneficiary

A spouse who inherits may opt to become the Roth IRA account holder without making any modifications; this is known as a spousal transfer. That is, no taxes should be due on account withdrawals, and no minimum distributions are needed.

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Alternatively, the spouse may transfer the assets into an inherited Roth IRA in their name and choose to distribute the funds over their life expectancy or five years. In all situations, the funds are tax-free.

Non-Spouse Beneficiary

Non-spousal beneficiaries might previously extend payouts across their own life expectancy as well. Adult children and other heirs, however, will be unable to consider the IRA as their own as of January 1, 2020.

Instead, most people must remove the whole amount in their Roth account within 10 calendar years after inheriting it. There are no fixed RMDs in any given year, but the whole account balance must be paid out at the conclusion of the ten-year period. If the account existed for at least five years previous to the death of the account owner, the money distributed will be tax-free.

Non-spousal heirs who are within a decade of the deceased’s age, handicapped or chronically sick adults, or young children are excluded. However, these minors must be the account owner’s direct biological children, stepchildren, or adopted children (no grandkids), and the 10-year limit applies to them as well when they attain majority age.

Maintain the beneficiary designations on your Roth IRA and other financial accounts so that the money goes where you want it to go as soon as possible.

Roth IRAs Help You Avoid Probate

The money you leave your heirs in a Roth IRA, like profits from a standard retirement account or a life insurance policy, does not have to go through probate. This simplifies and expedites the distribution of cash to your loved ones while also potentially lowering the expense of settling your estate.

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When you start your Roth IRA account, the mutual fund companies, banks, brokerage firms, and other financial organizations that act as custodians will normally need you to name a beneficiary—and possibly alternative beneficiaries.

Do Roth individual retirement accounts (Roth IRAs) have required minimum distributions (RMDs)?

No. Unlike standard individual retirement accounts (IRAs), Roth IRAs do not have required minimum distributions (RMDs) throughout the account owner’s lifetime. If the account owner does not need the funds, they may keep them in the account to grow tax-free for their heirs.

What happens if I don’t designate a Roth IRA beneficiary?

If you die without a legally named beneficiary, the funds from your Roth IRA will pass via your estate and the probate procedure. Your spouse or children may someday inherit the Roth, but they will not get the same tax advantages as if you had selected them as beneficiaries.

Do beneficiaries pay taxes on withdrawals from an inherited Roth IRA?

Usually, no. A beneficiary does not have to pay taxes on withdrawals from an inherited Roth IRA if the account owner started it and began contributing to it more than five years before their death.

The Bottom Line

To guarantee that your desires are carried out after your death, you must choose a Roth IRA beneficiary. It’s also critical to examine your beneficiary designations (for all of your accounts) on a regular basis to ensure that they’re up to date, particularly following big life events like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a prior beneficiary. For example, your current spouse may be upset if your Roth IRA is transferred to a past spouse because you failed to amend the paperwork.

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