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Retirement Products

Naming a Trust

Why would an IRA account owner want to name a trust or non-person as a beneficiary?

One type of frequently used trust is called a "see-through" trust. It creates a mechanism for the deceased to control account withdrawals, post-death. In addition, a see-through trust allows the underlying beneficiary to “stretch” distributions over his or her life expectancy. Prior to naming a trust as a beneficiary, an investor needs to be aware of the complex rules that govern trust beneficiaries.  

First you would need to confirm that the trust meets IRS requirements as a "look-through" or "see-through" trust. It's referred to as a look-through trust because one is able to look through the trust to the named beneficiaries. In order for the trust to allow for life expectancy distributions ("stretch"), all trust beneficiaries must be individuals. Unless separate trusts are established for each beneficiary, the oldest beneficiary (i.e., the shortest life expectancy among the named beneficiaries) will be used to determine the life expectancy factor that determines the amount of the required withdrawal, which is then divided among the beneficiaries according to percentages designated by the trust.

To qualify as a look-through the trust must meet the following requirements:

  1. The trust must be a valid trust under state law;
  2. The trust must be irrevocable at death;
  3. The beneficiaries of the trust must be identifiable from the trust document; and
  4. The trust documentation has been provided to the IRA custodian no later than October 31st of the year after the IRA owner’s death.

If the trust does not satisfy the look-through requirements, an account owner is treated as though he or she did not have a designated beneficiary and the minimum distributions will be made over the account owner's life expectancy if the account owner dies after his or her required begin date (RBD), which is April 1 of the calendar year after he or she attains age 70½. If a participant dies prior to his or her RBD, the account must be exhausted by the end of the fifth year that includes the anniversary of his/her death. Further, if any of the beneficiaries are non-persons (a charity, for example), the option to stretch post-death withdrawals is lost, as non-persons do not have a life expectancy.

This discussion regarding the option to name a trust as a beneficiary and its effect on the IRA proceeds post-death is not intended to be tax or legal advice. When an IRA beneficiary designation is made, including whether or not a trust should be incorporated into that designation, the individual making the designation should review this serious matter with their tax or legal advisors before proceeding.

Please consult an IRA specialist at 888-522-2388 for additional information.

Open an IRA

  1. Complete the writable IRA Application

  2. Print and send to Lord Abbett by mail, fax, email or use our Free FedEx shipping option

  3. You’ll receive a confirmation once your IRA is established

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