Your irrevocable trust is a permanent agreement that describes how your trust assets are managed, identifies who receives the trust's contents and appoints someone to oversee the trust –– known as the "trustee". You can't directly transfer an IRA account to your trust during your lifetime, but you can name the irrevocable trust as the IRA's beneficiary when you die. In this way, the entire account balance that would normally pass to your beneficiaries as lump sum, and on which they would have to pay taxes, goes, instead, to the irrevocable trust. IRS rules allow the beneficiary to take minimal annual distributions from the trust. These distributions continue over the expected lifespan of the oldest beneficiary of your trust, thus lowering, and sometimes eliminating, taxes.
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Contact the IRA's custodian. Ask for the form needed to name a new beneficiary. Ask if the custodian has additional requirements for naming a trust as a beneficiary, such as an affidavit from the trustee.
Complete the beneficiary form. Insert the irrevocable trust's name on the form as the primary beneficiary. Write the trust's name exactly as it appears on the original agreement. Sign and date the form.
Make a copy of the original irrevocable trust agreement. Attach the copy to the back of the beneficiary form.
Complete any other required forms. Attach the forms to the beneficiary form with the trust agreement. Make at least two copies. Keep one for your records and give one to the trustee.
Send the beneficiary form, agreement copy and any other documents needed, back to the custodian. Ask the custodian for proof of the beneficiary change for your records.
- Original trust agreement
Tips & Warnings
- Contact an estate planning attorney if you're unsure about moving the IRA to the irrevocable trust.
- Don't withdraw your money from your IRA and then place the cash into the trust. Doing so might trigger a steep tax penalty for early withdrawal from the IRS.
- Adding IRA distributions to the irrevocable trust can trigger a tax rate jump. At the time of publication, an irrevocable trust that exceeds $9,750 in value is subject to a tax rate of 35 percent.
- If your irrevocable trust is not considered "see-through" under IRS rules -- you have entities that are not people, such as a charity -- your beneficiaries might be forced to pull all the funds from the IRA when you die, triggering tax penalties.