For many of us, having too much money in a retirement plan sounds like a dream come true.
But then again, for those who have done a great job saving throughout their working career, living with more in retirement savings than you need may feel like a burden. The cause is frequently required minimum distributions and the complexities of estate planning for retirement benefits. There are ways to minimize this, but not all of them are intuitive.
For those over age 70½, you may do what is called a qualified charitable distribution. This means that you are taking money directly from your IRA and giving it to a qualified charity. This QCD must be made from an IRA, so if your retirement assets are in another type of retirement account, transfer it to an IRA and then make your QCD. The maximum is $100,000 per year and this does qualify for your required minimum distribution for the year.
The amount of the QCD never hits your income tax return as income and the gift to the charity is not deductible as a charitable contribution.
For many this is important because eliminating income from distributions reduces your adjusted gross income, which is the threshold for many other costs and calculations. How much you pay in taxes on Social Security income, the deduction for medical expenses and the reductions and phase outs for itemized deductions and personal exemptions are all based on your adjusted gross income.
You cannot gift an IRA, but can accomplish a similar objective in a few ways.
The first is to simply take a withdrawal and pay taxes now, gifting the net after-tax amount. This sounds counterintuitive, but if the retiree finds themselves in a very low tax bracket compared to the beneficiaries, this may make sense.
A second alternative is to convert a portion of your IRA to a Roth IRA, which will enable your next generation IRA inheritors to stretch tax free payments over their lifetime. However, with a conversion Traditional IRA account owners should consider the tax ramifications, age and income restrictions in regards to executing a conversion from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The converted amount is generally subject to income tax.
A third alternative is to use a trust for your IRA beneficiary to stretch the taxable payments over the life of your beneficiaries.
You may simply spend your retirement assets.
In a large, taxable estate, it is more cost-effective for your beneficiaries to inherit after-tax dollars than an IRA balance. Intuitively, most want to defer the IRA withdrawals as long as possible. Naturally, money will grow faster without the burden of taxation.
Before acting on pure intuition, consider the totality of your lifetime income tax planning to bring into focus your personal income tax burden today and in the future, the tax rate for your beneficiaries and your ultimate estate tax burden.
A last alternative is to skip a generation. Passing by your already successful children for the grandchildren could be wise long-term planning for all three generations.
John P. Napolitano CFP, CPA is CEO of U.S. Wealth Management in Braintree, Mass. Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn or uswealthnapolitano.com. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. John Napolitano is a registered principal with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. US Financial Advisors and US Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial. He can be reached at 781-849-9200.