Roll (over) with the IRA Changes!

Retirement planning can be extremely difficult as individuals are tasked with planning for an uncertain time period. In many ways, retirement planning is like trying to shoot a moving target in the wind. Each and every year new legislation, court cases, and market conditions impact retirement planning. 2014 was no different. 

If nothing else, 2014 has been a year of change. While we could review political, economic and international, those affecting IRA planning have been especially interesting for retirees and the estate planning attorneys who advise them. Not surprisingly, Forbes has weighed in with an article chock full of advice titled "5 Biggest Retirement Planning Changes for 2015".

A Change in Creditor Protection for Inherited IRAs. Overall, qualified retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, pensions, and IRAs, have good creditor protections. However, in 2014 the Supreme Court cut back on some protection for IRAs. Typically, up to $1.25 million are protected from creditors if it's in a Roth or Traditional IRA under federal bankruptcy laws. But the U.S. Supreme Court, in Clark v. Rameker, held that inherited IRAs are not "retirement funds." So these don't get creditor protections afforded under federal law. This might change how you want to bequest assets to your heirs. You should speak with a qualified estate planning attorney if you have questions.

Qualified Longevity Annuities to 401(k)s. Annuities have long been an important part of ERISA qualified retirement plans. The primary form of payment for married participants in a defined benefit plan is a qualified and joint survivor annuity. However, longevity annuities-which can be used to pay for long-term care expenses and protect against outliving your assets-haven't had a big part in qualified plans even though there's a natural fit with retirement planning. The United States Treasury changed its rules in 2014, and now longevity annuities can be used in 401(k)s and IRA markets. Individuals are now allowed to hold a qualified longevity annuity contract, or "QLAC" within an IRA or 401(k) that's worth up to the lesser of 25% of their account balance or $125,000. Under the new Treasury rules, QLACs are excluded from the retirement account balance when calculating required minimum distributions, which gives people looking at retirement one more way to create a solid income plan for when they stop working.

IRA to IRA Rollovers. Individuals can receive an IRA distribution and roll those funds over to another IRA, or the same IRA, within 60 days to avoid tax issues. The old position of the IRS was that this rule applied to each IRA. As a result, if you had five IRAs, you could take a distribution from each of the five IRAs and roll it over to the same or another IRA within 60 days without any issues. However, the law said that a rollover from an account was allowed only once in a 12-month period. After the Tax Court decision in Babrow v. Commissioner, the 12-month rollover limitation now applies to all IRAs. This mean that only one 60-day rollover is allowed in any 12-month period, regardless of the number of IRAs an individual owns.

Increased Access to Annuities in Target Date Funds. Another way to give qualified defined contribution plan participants more access to a guaranteed income source, Treasury granted expanded access to annuities inside of 401(k) plans. The new rules allow 401(k)s to offer target date funds that have deferred income annuities as the default investment option. The target date fund can have annuities that start payments at retirement or later, giving people another way to produce guaranteed retirement income and protect themselves from going broke later in retirement.

Read more about these changes and talk to your estate planning attorney about how they may affect and benefit you and your estate.

Reference: Forbes (December 8, 2014) "5 Biggest Retirement Planning Changes for 2015"

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