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Your Personal Finance Questions, Answered: Why Is Putting an IRA Into a Trust So Complicated?

By Motley Fool Staff - Feb 5, 2018 at 8:20PM

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The tax advantages of an Individual Retirement Account aren’t the only things that can get dented by making that move.

At the Motley Fool Answers podcast, we can tell a lot about what's on our listeners' minds by looking into the mailbag, and no surprise, right now, the topic of interest is starting to be taxes. So for this episode, hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp recruit a special guest to help answer their queries: Megan Brinsfield, head of financial planning for Motley Fool Wealth Management. Taxes, though, are not the only subject of concern this month, but as a CFP and CPA, she's more than qualified to advise our listeners about retirement accounts, 529s, and more.

In this segment, she briefly covers some of the difficulties your heirs might run into if you pass along an IRA through a trust.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Jan. 30, 2018.

Alison Southwick: The next question comes from Bob. "My wife and I are a blended family. We both have separate personal revocable trusts that benefit each other until we're both gone. At that point, all the assets get distributed evenly to the five kids who are now all adults. I remember Bro talking about trusts some time ago, and stating that tax-deferred accounts should not be in them. Could you elaborate on the details about why?" Bro, you're going to have to wait to answer.

Robert Brokamp: Let's get Megan. And feel free, Megan, by the way, to disagree with whatever I said.

Southwick: We're going to get the Megan take.

Megan Brinsfield: I can't wait.

Southwick: Here comes the hot Megan take.

Brinsfield: Coming to you live. The trust receiving an IRA type account is a complex area, so it's not necessarily yes, you should definitely do it or no, definitely don't do it. Just know that if you decide to name a trust as a beneficiary of an IRA, things get complicated really quickly.

One of the biggest benefits of an IRA is being able to stretch out those required minimum distributions when the ultimate beneficiaries receive it, and sometimes if you don't do everything right inside a trust, you mess up the ability to stretch it out. You have to take all the distributions within five years, and inside a trust you're hitting the highest income bracket at $12,500 of income, as opposed to an individual, who hits the highest bracket at $500,000 of income.

You definitely want to be very careful, especially if you have charitable beneficiaries. It doesn't sound like Bob is in that situation. But we generally recommend trust as a beneficiary for people who are more concerned about the beneficiary's ultimate financial situation. If they're not particularly responsible with money, or maybe subject to making poor marital decisions, those could be good candidates for setting up a trust as a beneficiary.

Brokamp: I'll agree with Megan on that. It's really not a black and white thing. If you were to research it, the majority of people would say it's too complicated and it's unnecessary, but in the situations that Megan highlighted, a trust is a great way to pass on wealth to people who may not be ready to handle it well.

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