If the IRA owner dies after the required beginning date (RBD) and his/her beneficiary is his/her spouse, the spouse beneficiary may either:

  1. Begin death distributions by Dec 31 of the year following the year the IRA owner dies. In this case, the distributions must be calculated using the longer of the deceased's remaining life expectancy or the spouse's life expectancy. If the surviving spouse's life expectancy is being used, it must be determined on a recalculated basis. In other words, the tables must be visited each year to determine the factor, a life expectancy figure found in the IRS life expectancy tables. If the deceased's life expectancy is being used, it must be determined on a non-recalculated basis or in the year of death, subtracting one from the factor for each subsequent year.
  2. Treat the IRA has his/her own and do not begin required minimum distribution (RMD) amounts until he/she reaches her RBD.

The spouse beneficiary options apply only if the spouse is the sole primary beneficiary of the IRA. If the spouse is one of several primary beneficiaries, then he/she may be subject to the non-spouse beneficiary options should he/she choose to keep the assets in an inherited IRA. However, he/she may distribute and roll over his/her portion of the assets to his/her own IRA and need not begin distributions until his/her RBD.

(For more on RMDs, check out Avoiding RMD Pitfalls, IRS Modifies Separate Accounting Rules as well as Inherited Retirement Plan Assets – Part 1 and Inherited Retirement Plan Assets – Part 2.)

This question was answered by Denise Appleby
(Contact Denise)

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