Wednesday, August 5, 2015

These heirs are apparent

DEAR HARRY: My wife and I are getting on in years, and we're planning our estate.

We are not likely to exhaust our retirement accounts, so we have named our children as successor beneficiaries to our IRAs and 401(k)s.

I always had assumed that our kids would have to withdraw amounts from these plans based on their own life expectancies, but we recently were told that IRS rules would force them to look for the oldest person who could possibly be an heir (whether or not that person was actually an heir), and use that person's life expectancy to determine the Required Minimum Distribution.

If this is so, how can we protect our children?

WHAT HARRY SAYS: Some people don't make sure their brains are in gear before engaging their tongues.

Sometimes IRS rules are confusing or obscure, but not in this case. Your heirs will have their respective amounts in separate IRAs with a title including your name. For example: John Smith, deceased July 1, 2013, FBO (for benefit of) Mary Smith, beneficiary. They each will be required to withdraw based on their own life expectancies. IRS has a table for this.

In each succeeding year, they will reduce the original life expectancies by one to get the Required Minimum Distribution. Keep in mind that the beneficiary designated in your pension plan will supersede one named in your will.

Email Harry Gross at, or

write to him at Daily News, 801 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19107. Harry urges all his readers to give blood. Contact the American Red Cross at 800-Red Cross.

Daily News Personal Finance Columnist
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