Loss of Stretch IRA is Not Such a Big Deal

Orange City Iowa Estate Planning

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The stretch IRA is dead and everyone (including me) is writing about how this is the apocalypse for IRA planning. Well, it isn’t. Let’s all take a deep breath.

stretch IRAYes, the SECURE Act has eliminated the use of the stretch IRA, which is the ability to pass an IRA down to a child or grandchild and have them take out withdrawals over their lifetime. No big deal, says the article “No stretch IRA? No problem” from Investment News. Here’s why.

Only the biggest IRAs are affected. How many IRAs actually make it to the beneficiary that are large enough to justify stretched payouts? According to the Treasury Department, only about 20% of all individuals who were required to take the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) actually stick to the schedule and take that amount out. Four out of five people who own IRAs take much more money than the minimum. This reduces the amount in the account that is left for their beneficiaries and reducing and even eliminating the possibility of heirs using the stretch option.

There’s no change to spousal beneficiaries. Most married people leave their IRAs to their spouses, and surviving spouses are exempt from the new stretch restrictions. Spouses who inherit IRAs and other assets still have the same options they had before the SECURE Act was passed. Financially savvy spouses (or those with good advisors) will do a spousal rollover and further delay the “no stretch problem” for another generation. By doing this, they postpone the start of the ten-year payout rule. If they use more of the IRA during their own lifetime, again, there’s not that much to worry about.

Most beneficiaries don’t stretch. Not at all. Windfalls usually don’t last very long. How many beneficiaries wait patiently for 30, 40 or 50 years to deplete an inherited IRA? Not many. For many beneficiaries, the new ten-year rule might actually be more realistic. For the smaller IRAs, it may be more logical to empty the account with a lump-sum distribution, especially if it is distributed among several beneficiaries in low tax brackets. However, if the IRA is a Roth, hang on to it and let it grow, tax-free, for as long as possible.

Most beneficiaries are in lower tax brackets. People like to leave their IRAs to their grandchildren, but most grandchildren, under the SECURE Act, will not be able to stretch IRA payouts over their lifetime. If the grandchild is a minor, then the kiddie tax emerges, and the child might have to pay taxes on any withdrawals at their parent’s tax rates. Do your homework with your estate planning attorney.

While the inherited payout is ten years, the tax hit to younger, usually lower income earners, won’t be as bad. However, the kiddie tax could lead to a huge tax hit for your adult children and grandchildren. Another option is naming multiple grandchildren. More beneficiaries will at least stretch out the tax hit over multiple tax returns.

Speak with your estate planning attorney about what needs to change on your estate plan, in light of the new restrictions created by the SECURE Act. There are strategies that they can discuss with you to minimize the tax liability.

Reference: Investment News (March 2, 2020) “No stretch IRA? No problem”

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