The Disadvantages of Paying IRA Through a Trust

by | Jan 18, 2024 | Trust Administration

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) stand as pillars of financial planning, offering individuals a vehicle to secure their retirement. As individuals explore comprehensive estate planning strategies, the question of whether to include an IRA within a trust often arises. While there are potential benefits to this approach, it’s essential to understand the potential disadvantages that may accompany the decision to pay an IRA through a trust.

Understanding IRAs and Trusts


IRAs: These tax-advantaged accounts are designed to help individuals save for retirement. Contributions to traditional IRAs are often tax-deductible, and earnings grow tax-deferred until withdrawals are made in retirement. Roth IRAs, on the other hand, involve after-tax contributions, with qualified withdrawals being tax-free.


Trusts: Trusts are legal entities that hold and manage assets on behalf of beneficiaries. They come in various forms, each serving unique purposes. In the context of estate planning, a trust can be a valuable tool for managing the distribution of assets, potentially minimizing estate taxes, and providing a structured approach to passing wealth to heirs.

The Attraction of Including IRAs in Trusts

The decision to include an IRA within a trust is often driven by specific goals in the estate planning process.


Control Over Distributions: Trusts provide a mechanism for more control over the distribution of assets, including IRAs. This is particularly relevant when the account owner wants to influence how and when beneficiaries receive the funds.


Creditor Protection: In some instances, trusts can offer an additional layer of protection against creditors. By placing an IRA within an appropriately structured trust, individuals may seek to shield these assets from potential creditor claims.


Mitigating Tax Consequences: Trusts can be crafted to address potential tax consequences, especially when dealing with substantial IRA balances. This includes strategies to minimize the impact of income taxes on distributions.

Drawbacks of Paying an IRA Through a Trust

While the advantages may be appealing, it’s essential to weigh them against the potential disadvantages.

Loss of Stretch IRA Benefits

One of the significant drawbacks is the potential loss of the “stretch IRA” strategy. Before the passage of the SECURE Act in 2019, non-spouse beneficiaries could stretch required minimum distributions (RMDs) from an inherited IRA over their life expectancy. This allowed for prolonged tax-deferred growth. However, the SECURE Act changed this provision, mandating that most non-spouse beneficiaries must now withdraw the entire IRA balance within ten years of the original account owner’s death. This compressed timeline may result in higher taxes for beneficiaries, especially if the IRA is substantial.

Complexity and Costs

Trust administration can be complex and may involve additional administrative costs. Establishing and maintaining a trust requires careful legal and financial oversight. There could be trustee fees, legal expenses, and potential tax implications that need to be considered.

Potential Tax Consequences

While trusts can be structured to mitigate tax consequences, they may also introduce new tax considerations. Trusts have their own tax brackets, potentially leading to higher tax rates on income retained within the trust.

Complexity in Trust Administration

While trusts offer a structured and controlled environment for wealth distribution, this advantage comes with the trade-off of administrative intricacies that can be burdensome. Trust documents often come with specific provisions that outline how assets, including an IRA, should be distributed. This can limit the flexibility of beneficiaries, as they may have fewer options for managing the inherited IRA compared to if it were held individually.

Limited Access to Funds

Placing an IRA within a trust may restrict the immediate access beneficiaries have to the funds. This lack of liquidity can be a disadvantage, particularly if beneficiaries have more immediate financial needs.

Navigating the Decision

Given the potential advantages and disadvantages, the decision to pay an IRA through a trust requires careful consideration. Several factors come into play.


Individual Goals and Priorities: The decision should align with the individual’s broader estate planning goals. If control over distributions, creditor protection, or specific tax considerations are paramount, a trust may be a suitable vehicle.


Beneficiary Profiles: The characteristics and financial situations of beneficiaries play a crucial role. For some, the loss of the stretch IRA may be acceptable, while for others, the potential tax implications may be a significant concern.


Family Dynamics: While the technical aspects of including an IRA in a trust involve legal and financial considerations, there’s another dimension that holds equal significance—family dynamics and effective communication. This additional layer is often underestimated but can profoundly impact the success and harmony of an estate plan.


Legal and Financial Guidance: Seeking professional guidance is paramount. An experienced estate planning attorney and financial advisor can provide insights into the specific implications of paying an IRA through a trust. They can tailor the strategy to align with the individual’s goals while navigating potential pitfalls.

Seeking Professional Guidance for Incorporating an IRA into a Trust

The decision to incorporate an IRA into a trust is a significant one, laden with potential implications for both the account owner and their beneficiaries. Navigating the complexities of tax laws, trust structures, and the evolving legal landscape demands a level of expertise that extends beyond the realm of general financial knowledge.


The financial and legal landscape is dynamic, subject to changes that can impact the efficacy of an estate plan. Seeking professional guidance establishes an ongoing relationship that allows for adjustments as circumstances change. Whether it’s changes in tax laws, shifts in financial markets, or alterations in personal circumstances, professionals can guide individuals through these changes, ensuring that the estate plan remains effective.

Schedule a Consultation with a Professional at Galanti & Copenhaver

The decision to include an IRA within a trust is a nuanced one, influenced by individual circumstances, goals, and the broader legal and financial landscape. While there are advantages, including increased control and potential creditor protection, it’s crucial to carefully weigh these against the disadvantages, such as the loss of stretch IRA benefits and the complexities of trust administration.


At Galanti & Copenhaver, our team understands the intricacies of estate planning, including the complexities surrounding IRAs and trusts. We provide personalized guidance, helping individuals navigate these decisions to ensure that their estate plans align with their unique goals and priorities. As the landscape of tax laws and estate planning evolves, staying informed and seeking professional advice remain key elements in making well-informed decisions that stand the test of time.