As we just stated, the stretch concept allows an IRA to be passed on from generation to generation. However, in doing so, the beneficiary must follow certain rules to ensure he or she doesn’t owe the IRS excess-accumulation penalties, which are caused by failing to withdraw the minimum amount each year.
The primary benefit of the stretch provision is that it allows the beneficiaries to defer paying taxes on the account balance and to continue enjoying tax-deferred and/or tax-free growth as long as possible. Without the stretch provision, beneficiaries may be required to distribute the full account balance in a period much shorter than the beneficiary’s life expectancy, possibly causing them to be in a higher tax bracket and/or resulting in significant taxes on the withdrawn amount.
Generally, the stretch option is not a binding provision, which means the beneficiary may choose to discontinue it at anytime by distributing the entire balance of the inherited IRA. This allows the beneficiary some flexibility should he or she need to distribute more than the minimum required amount.
Benefits for Spouses
A spouse beneficiary is allowed to treat the inherited IRA as his or her own. When the spouse elects to do this, the stretch concept is not an issue, as the spouse beneficiary is given the same status and options as the original IRA owner. However, should the spouse choose to treat the IRA as an inherited IRA, then the stretch rule could apply.
If you are interested in having the stretch concept apply to your IRA, consult your current IRA provider or financial institution. If they seem unfamiliar with the term, ask specific questions: will the beneficiary be allowed to take distributions over a life-expectancy period? Will the beneficiary be allowed to designate second- and subsequent-generation beneficiaries? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you are able to use the stretch concept with the IRA.
If the answer is no, then you may want to discuss the possibility of making such allowances with your IRA provider. Most IRA providers would rather make such allowances than have their customer transfer his or her IRA to another financial institution that can accommodate his or her needs. Finally, be sure to consult with your tax and financial professional for assistance with making beneficiary designations that suit your financial profile and your wealth-management goals.
This article is an excerpt from a public post that should not be construed as giving, tax or legal advice..
by Denise Appleby,CISP, CRC, CRPS, CRSP, APA