Figuring the Final RMD after an IRA Owner’s Death | Lord Abbett
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Retirement Perspectives

Here’s a look at the rules that apply for a “year-of-death” required minimum distribution from an account owner’s IRA.

Read time: 3 minutes

 

Key Takeaways

  • When an IRA account owner dies, things can get tricky with RMDs in the year of death.
  • If the year-of-death RMD was not already taken by the IRA owner, it must be taken by the beneficiary. But no RMD is required if the owner died the year they would turn 72.
  • Tricky IRS rules apply.  Talk to an advisor.

 

The owner of an IRA is generally subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs) in the year they turn age 72. Questions can arise concerning how to handle RMDs in the year in which an IRA owner dies. This is where it can get tricky. Here we cover the rules that apply for a “year-of-death RMD” where the account owner dies prior to taking their RMD for the year of death.

Required begin date for Required Minimum Distributions

The required begin date (RBD) for the mandatory RMDs for traditional IRA owners (including SEP and SIMPLE IRAs) is April 1st of the year following the year the owner turns 72. Notably, if the IRA owner dies prior to her RBD, no minimum distributions are required for the year of death, even if the owner died in the year, they were due to turn 72. In other words, if the IRA owner is already age 72 but dies before their RBD, a year-of-death RMD is not required.

The RMD for the year of death will only need to be taken if the IRA owner died on or after her RBD.

Example: Bart turns 72 in September 2021.  He dies on December 1, 2021. A year of death RMD is not necessary because Bart died before his RBD - April 1, 2022 (i.e. April 1st of the following the year he turned age 72).

 

If the IRA owner died before his or her RBD, there is no RMD for the year of death.

 

How is the year-of-death RMD determined?

When an IRA owner dies after her RBD, the year-of-death RMD must be taken. Importantly, the RMD will be calculated as if the account owner was still alive. Typically this means using the IRS Uniform Life Table. The Uniform Life Table is the life expectancy table to be used by all IRA owners to calculate lifetime distributions unless your beneficiary is a spouse who is more than 10 years younger than you. In that case, you would use the actual joint life expectancy of you and your spouse based on the regular Joint Life Expectancy Table. The Uniform Lifetime Table is never used by IRA beneficiaries to determine RMDs for their inherited IRAs.

Example: Maggie, age 74, dies in 2021 prior to taking her 2021 RMD. Therefore, her year-of-death RMD that must be taken from her IRA will be calculated using the Uniform Lifetime Table and the life expectancy factor (23.8) that corresponds to her age (74).

Who is responsible for the year of death RMD?

The IRA beneficiary is responsible for taking the year-of-death RMD. In other words, if the year-of-death RMD was not taken by the IRA owner (prior to death), it must be taken by the designated beneficiary. The RMD is reported as income by the beneficiary.

PRACTICE TIP: Unless the named beneficiary is the estate, the distribution is taken by the IRA beneficiary and is reported on her income tax return in the year of distribution. The only instance where an estate takes and reports the RMD not taken as income is when the estate is the beneficiary.


Example: Moe, age 80, dies in 2021 prior to taking his 2021 RMD. Mo’s daughter Lisa is his designated beneficiary. Lisa must take Mo’s 2021 RMD by December 31 of the year of death.  What’s more, the RMD will be included in Lisa’s 2021 taxable income.

An RMD that fails to be distributed by December 31 of the year of death are subject to the 50% federal penalty tax.

If there are multiple (more than one) beneficiaries and the (now) deceased IRA owner did not take her year-of-death RMD, each beneficiary is responsible for their portion of the RMD. To make it equitable, they can “split” the IRA into multiple inherited IRAs using each beneficiary’s social security number.  This ensures each beneficiary takes their portion of the RMD and pays the associated tax liability.

 

Disclosure:

The information provided is not directed at any investor or category of investors and is provided solely as general information about Lord Abbett’s products and services and to otherwise provide general investment education. None of the information provided should be regarded as a suggestion to engage in or refrain from any investment-related course of action as neither Lord Abbett nor its affiliates are undertaking to provide impartial investment advice, act as an impartial adviser, or give advice in a fiduciary capacity. If you are an individual retirement investor, contact your financial advisor or other fiduciary about whether any given investment idea, strategy, product or service may be appropriate for your circumstances.

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