Your IRA Has An Unnamed Beneficiary!

And, this one could end-up with the lion’s share of all you worked for.

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Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

It’s one thing if you forget to name someone as a beneficiary – you have three kids and forgot to name one of them (oops!) – but, it’s even worse when someone you didn’t even name may end-up with the lion’s share of your retirement account!

Can’t happen?  Oh yes, it can.

Let’s assume you have a 401(k) or IRA valued at $600 000.   Who would you like to inherit it?  Chances are it’s your loved ones/kids.   So, why haven’t you given it to them already?  Simple:  You may need the money.   But, when you do pass away, your beneficiaries must include withdrawals in their taxable income.   It’s not uncommon for retirees to die sometime between ages 75 and 95… this is often the time the IRA passes to the next generation at or near their peak values.

Leaving timing and amounts aside, if you live in a high-tax state like California, the combination of other taxable income and withdrawals can easily put someone in a higher tax bracket.

Will assume the IRA is $600,000 and you have three successful kids.  It wouldn’t be unrealistic for a successful two-income family to end-up in a combined state and federal tax bracket of 40%

Here’s what each will end-up with:   $200,000 (1/3 of the IRA) less $80,000 (40% state and federal taxes) = $120,000.

Oh, yeah… your 4th kid:  Uncle Sam.   He received $80,000 x 3 kids = $240,000.  That’s THREE TIMES what each of your kids received!

Happy now?

How do we keep that extra $240,000 in your three kid’s pockets? You can use a tax-offset strategy.  It’s simple:  You transfer the risk.   Now, this isn’t something you can do with stocks, bonds, gold, or real estate.  There’s only one tool in the financial toolbox I know of that can do this.  

The strategy:  You purchase a $600,000 survivorship life insurance policy.  When the parents die, the children inherit the IRA.   They also each inherit 1/3 of the life insurance proceeds ($200,000) which, by the way, comes tax-free.  They can use the death benefit proceeds to pay the taxes they owe for inheriting the IRA.  They keep the entire IRA (each is now $80,000 richer) and your family has retained an additional $240,000.

Each received $200,000 instead of $120,000.   That’s a 70% increase!

They also now have choices.  Because taxes aren’t an issue, they could liquidate the IRA and invest the money where they’ll have complete liquidity and no future required minimum distributions or explore other options available to them.

Either way, they’re better off.   Thanks, mom and dad.


Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and an ACCREDITED INVESTMENT FIDUCIARY® serving private clients since 1991.   Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a  registered investment advisor with clients located across the U.S.. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.