An individual retirement trust allows you to maintain the tax advantages that come with saving and investing in an individual retirement account (IRA), while providing you with the long-term control of a trust. You may be familiar with the uses and benefits of an IRA, and you may have a good understanding of trusts, but this unique solution can be the best of both worlds.

The basics

An IRA, whether Roth or traditional, is a savings mechanism that allows you to invest funds for your future retirement. The sooner you begin putting money into an IRA, the more time your money has to grow before you reach 72, the age at which you are required to begin taking distributions from the account. IRAs prepare you for retirement and provide tax advantages, allowing you to choose whether to make contributions tax-free (traditional) or receive your distributions tax-free (Roth).

A trust is an estate planning tool that allows you to set aside funds for specific beneficiaries to receive when you pass away. Trusts can be managed by a third party called a trustee. The trustee handles management of the trust, including things like managing trust investments, making distributions to beneficiaries and taking care of trust assets, both during your lifetime and after your death.

An individual retirement trust combines the tax advantages of an IRA with the long-term control of a trust. This type of account allows you to save for retirement while maximizing tax advantages and ensures your IRA funds are distributed according to your wishes. Simply select your beneficiaries—whether people, organizations or charities—and the percentage of funds each beneficiary should receive, plus any conditions you have in mind. Once you have selected beneficiaries and determined percentages of distribution, the trustee oversees all of the distributions, including adjustments you may direct over time.

Using an individual retirement trust allows you to bypass the complicated IRS requirements involved in naming a trust as an IRA beneficiary, which is an alternative option. The trust portion of the account also helps protect your legacy from asset seizure by the potential creditors of your beneficiaries. If your heirs inherit your IRA assets without the protection of a trust, funds can be taken by a beneficiary’s creditors in the event of a beneficiary’s bankruptcy.

Also, individual retirement trusts can be set up with disability provisions that ensure your accounts are maintained in the event of your illness or long-term incapacitation. In this case, the trustee will take over the management of your retirement fund investments, coordinate bill pay and administer distributions as set forth in the document—all without the need for a separate guardian or conservator.

Who can benefit from an individual retirement trust?

Individual retirement trusts offer a unique structure that may not work for everyone. Most importantly, this structure is best for those who already have significant retirement assets and are concerned about the future management of those assets. If you are particularly tax-sensitive, you may benefit from an individual retirement trust because it allows you to maximize the tax deferment available through the stretch payout option, whether the IRA is a traditional or Roth account.

If you have divorced and remarried, this solution can help you streamline the inheritance process by allowing you to select a variety of beneficiaries with varying inheritance percentages. Step-children can be included, as can organizations of your choice. For blended families, individual retirement trusts are beneficial in that they provide extensive control over the distribution of assets. Specifically, beneficiary designations will not be changeable, even after your passing, which ensures the heirs you have chosen are provided with exactly what you have determined for them regardless of later marriages or life changes.

Individual retirement trusts are also good vehicles for those concerned with the use of the funds by heirs and seek to include limitations. Any amount set aside for a beneficiary that is more than the required minimum distribution (RMD) can be subject to the trustee’s discretion.

Bottom line

An individual retirement trust can help you achieve the tax advantages of an individual retirement account paired with a comprehensive asset management plan for your heirs–now and in the future. You will be able to build and customize your legacy with multiple beneficiaries, long-term control and detailed asset distribution options. Combining an IRA with a trust can streamline your legacy administration and simplify the process in one efficient document.  

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