IRAs (Individual Retirement Account) can be very useful if well used. And very wasteful if not taken care of properly.
In order to make sure that your IRAs last longer, and benefit you and your family in the long run, make sure you take the right precautions.
Here are some useful tips:
1. Make sure to fill out the beneficiary designation form.
You may think that the will controls who will benefit from your IRA. Well, it doesn't. While this form does, and it must be filed with your bank.
The beneficiaries can include your spouse or partner, family members, charity or a trust to benefit family.
2. Be aware that whoever inherits your IRA, if it's not your spouse, will have to withdraw a minimum amount each year.
If it is your spouse who inherits, usually there will be less strict rules.
3. A good way to extend the life of an IRA is by stretching out its withdrawals. Both the owner of the account or the beneficiary can try to withdraw no more than the required minimum distributions from a regular or inherited IRA and this way let the money grow tax-deferred or, in case of Roth IRA, tax-free.
4. The younger the beneficiary is, the less he or she is obligated to take out each year. This way the stretch previously mentioned would last longer.
5. Be careful what a non-spouse does with your IRA.
A non-spousal heir cannot roll your money into his or her IRA. Therefore your IRA should be left intact and designed as Inherited IRA.
On the other hand, a spouse can choose if he or she wants to keep the IRA as "inherited" or roll it into his or her own IRA. The second option is usually better if the spouse is over the age of 59 and a half.
6. Don't name your estate as beneficiary.
This action, as well as in case of the loss of the beneficiary designation form or if you forget to name a beneficiary, would mean that all IRA funds will have to be withdrawn within five years of your death and, in case of traditional IRA, all taxes payed as the money comes out.
7. Name "contingent" beneficiaries.
Since you don't want your estate to inherit the IRA, it's advisable to name "contingent" beneficiaries. This way, if your primary beneficiary dies before you do, the contingent beneficiary can keep stretching out the life of your IRA.
For example is your primary beneficiary is your child and you name the contingent beneficiary your grandchild, if your child dies before you, your grandchild can still stretch out the life of your IRA.
8. By choosing a Roth IRA rather than a traditional one, you pay your taxes in advance but you relieve your heirs from this weight when their time comes to withdraw.
Also, with a Roth IRA, after the age of 70 and a half you are no longer obligated to withdraw an yearly amount. This way you can take out what you need when you need it, and let the rest sit in the account, growing.