Estate and Elder Law

John Dedon On Estate Planning: Is It R.I.P. For IRAs?

In an October online article in The Wall Street Journal, the reporter described how Congress is examining large IRAs, and IRAs holding real estate and closely held business interests. Congress’ concern is that IRA income tax advantages are being used by the wealthy in ways beyond that contemplated by the original legislation. Traditional IRAs grow tax-free, with no distribution requirements until an individual attains 70 ½. Surviving spouses can receive tax free rollovers from a deceased spouse and thereby enjoy the same benefits. IRAs can also be "stretched" to provide income tax benefits for children and future generations. More recently, Roth IRAs, which are funded with after tax dollars, allow tax free withdrawals.

In current times, with social security funding concerns and most employers eliminating defined benefit plans, the need for individuals to plan for their own retirements is even more pressing. So why would Congress attack IRAs? Well, think Mitt Romney, with over $100 million in an IRA, and others with IRAs owning business assets that are growing without annual income tax. Of course, at Mr. Romney’s death, unless he leaves his IRA to charity, 40% will be paid to the IRS for estate tax, and his IRA beneficiaries will also be subject to income tax on withdrawals; so perhaps Congress should remember the Government will get their share sooner or later.

Notwithstanding, Congress and the President are examining whether limitations need to be placed on IRAs. For example, the President wants to prohibit contributions to IRAs that have more than $3 million of assets. Congress may eliminate stretch IRAs, mentioned above. Also, Congress is considering greater limitations on the types of assets that can be held by an IRA.

No, it is not R.I.P. for IRAs. But in this era of budget concerns, IRAs are another financial mainstay under attack.

Read more discussion of estate planning topics affecting Virginia residents and U.S. citizens at Dedon on Estate Planning.