Is It a Good Idea to Put an IRA into a Trust?

by | Oct 2, 2023 | Trust Administration

IRA into a Trust

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are essential tools for saving for retirement, offering tax advantages and financial security during your golden years. However, when it comes to estate planning, you may be wondering whether putting your IRA into a trust is a wise strategy. While there can be advantages to using a trust with an IRA, it’s not always the best choice for everyone. 

The Basics of IRAs and Trusts

Before diving into the advantages and disadvantages, let’s briefly review what IRAs and trusts are.

IRAs: Individual Retirement Accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts designed to help individuals save for retirement. They come in various forms, including Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and SEP IRAs, each with its unique tax benefits and rules.

Trusts: Trusts are legal entities that hold and manage assets on behalf of beneficiaries. There are different types of trusts, such as revocable and irrevocable trusts, and they can serve various purposes in estate planning.

Advantages of Putting an IRA into a Trust

Control Over Distribution: One of the primary advantages of using a trust with an IRA is control. By naming the trust as the beneficiary of your IRA, you can specify how and when the funds are distributed to your heirs. This control allows you to protect the assets and ensure they are used according to your wishes.

Asset Protection: If you’re concerned about your heirs’ financial responsibility or their exposure to creditors, placing your IRA in a trust can provide asset protection. The trust can shield the assets from creditors and lawsuits, preserving them for your beneficiaries.

Stretch IRA Strategy: Certain types of trusts, such as a see-through or conduit trust, can facilitate the “stretch IRA” strategy. This allows beneficiaries to extend the distribution of inherited IRA funds over their lifetimes, potentially maximizing tax-deferred growth and minimizing tax liability.

Avoiding Probate: Assets held in a trust generally bypass the probate process, which can be time-consuming and costly. By putting your IRA into a trust, you can ensure a smoother and more private transfer of assets to your heirs.

Disadvantages and Considerations

Complexity: Trusts can be complex legal entities, and managing an IRA within a trust adds another layer of complexity. This can result in higher administrative costs and legal fees.

Loss of Flexibility: Once an IRA is placed in an irrevocable trust, you lose flexibility. You can’t change the beneficiary or alter distribution instructions without the consent of the trustee and beneficiaries.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): If you’re over the age of 72, you are required to take RMDs from your IRA. The rules regarding RMDs for trusts can be intricate, and failure to comply can result in penalties.

Tax Implications: Trusts have their tax rules, and income generated within the trust may be subject to higher tax rates. Additionally, if not structured correctly, the trust could be subject to significant income tax liabilities upon distribution.

When Is It a Good Idea?

Putting your IRA into a trust can be a good idea if you have specific goals for asset distribution, want to protect assets from creditors, or wish to facilitate a stretch IRA strategy for your heirs. It can also be beneficial in cases where beneficiaries are minors or individuals with special needs who may require managed distributions.

When Is It Not Advisable?

On the other hand, if your estate is relatively straightforward, and you don’t have complex distribution goals, the added complexity and administrative costs of a trust may not be necessary. In such cases, naming individual beneficiaries directly on your IRA may be more efficient.

The Complexity of IRAs and Trusts

IRAs and trusts are complex financial instruments on their own, and combining them adds another layer of intricacy to your estate planning. Let’s explore these complexities in more detail.

Understanding IRAs

IRAs come in several forms, each with its own rules and advantages.

Traditional IRAs: Contributions are often tax-deductible, and withdrawals are taxed at retirement.

Roth IRAs: Contributions are made with after-tax dollars, and qualified withdrawals are tax-free.

SEP IRAs: Simplified Employee Pension IRAs are designed for small business owners and self-employed individuals.

Inherited IRAs: These IRAs are established when you inherit an IRA from a deceased account holder.

Each type of IRA has its rules and tax implications, and choosing the right one depends on your financial situation and retirement goals. When considering a trust, it’s crucial to understand how it will interact with your specific type of IRA.

The Complex World of Trusts

Trusts are versatile estate planning tools, but they come in various forms as well. The two primary categories are revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts.

Revocable Trusts

These trusts allow you to retain control over your assets during your lifetime. You can make changes, add or remove assets, and even dissolve the trust if you choose. However, they offer less asset protection and tax benefits compared to irrevocable trusts.

Irrevocable Trusts

Once established, these trusts cannot be altered or revoked without the consent of the beneficiaries. They are often used for asset protection, estate tax planning, and Medicaid planning. Irrevocable trusts can be further categorized into various types, including irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs), charitable remainder trusts (CRTs), and qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs), among others.

When contemplating whether to put your IRA into a trust, you’ll need to consider the type of trust that aligns with your goals and the type of IRA you hold. For example, a see-through or conduit trust is often used with traditional IRAs to facilitate the stretch IRA strategy for beneficiaries. On the other hand, if asset protection is a primary concern, an irrevocable trust may be more appropriate.

The Importance of Beneficiary Designations

Regardless of whether you use a trust with your IRA, beneficiary designations are crucial. These designations determine who will inherit your IRA and how the funds will be distributed. If you have a trust, the trust itself should be named as the beneficiary, and the trust document should specify how the assets should be distributed to the beneficiaries.

If you don’t name beneficiaries or fail to update your beneficiary designations, your IRA may be subject to probate, and the distribution of assets may not align with your wishes.

Schedule a Consultation with a Professional Estate Planning Attorney

Your financial security and the legacy you leave for your loved ones are of paramount importance. Contact Galanti and Copenhaver today to embark on a path toward a well-structured and secure estate plan. We are here to ensure that your estate plan reflects your individual needs and provides peace of mind for both you and your heirs for generations to come.