Posted by & filed under Estate planning, Inheritance Tax, Living Trust, Loss of a Spouse, Secure Act.

Saving for retirement is a task that unfortunately we Americans have become worse and worse at over the years. Over half of the American population has not saved enough for retirement at the time of retirement and end up having to return to work with at least a part-time job. A full 25% of Americans don’t have any retirement savings or plans in place at any given time in their working careers. However, a law that was just signed into law by Congress on December 20, 2019, aims to improve and aid in Americans preparing and saving for retirement. The bill, called The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, has five major key takeaways that affect estate planning:

  • Part-time employees will now be qualified for retirement plans under their employers.
  • Small business owners will now be able to set up 401(k) accounts for their employees. 
  • 401(K) statements will now need to disclose potential monthly payments to the recipient on every balance statement 
  • The age at which you need to begin withdrawing money from retirement savings accounts has been shifted to 72 years, instead of 70.5 years. 
  • IRA distributions have been drastically altered.

How Are Part-Time Employees Affected?

 Under the SECURE Act, part-time employees who work at least 500 hours a year and have been with the institution for 3 years or more will now not be exempted from contribution plans from the employer. This will have a huge impact on those who have moved from full-time employment to part-time, instead of fully retiring. This will have a major impact on those who are 65 and above, who, in the last decade or so, have been forced to continue working in some capacity because their retirement accounts cannot support them fully. 

How Are Small Business Owners Affected?

The next large take-away from the SECURE Act is that now small businesses will be able to offer retirement plans for their employees. Previously, it was costly for small businesses to offer these kinds of options to their staff members, leaving employees to plan for themselves. Now, it will increase the cap of the income that employees need to be able to save from 10% of income to 15% of their income. This adjustment is important for those who have spent their lives in small businesses, and have been left to their own devices in terms of retirement planning. This aims to assist them in making their retirement planning more feasible.

How is My 401K Affected by the SECURE Act?

 Another significant part of the SECURE Act is the transparency it will require from 401(K) accounts. As of right now, 401(K) accounts are not required to disclose the monthly allowance the retiree would be receiving on each statement. While this might seem trivial, the sum of money saved has been allowing Americans to become falsely secure in the amount they are saving, without having a real concept of what that sum will translate into. Now, 401(K) accounts will be required to display the monthly allowance on every balance, for the retiree to better understand exactly the sums they will be receiving when they do retire. 

How Does the SECURE Act Affect Our Retirement Age?

Finally, the SECURE Act adjusts the age at which people need to begin withdrawing money from 70.5 years to 72 years of age. While this is a subtle change, since the majority of people are working into more advanced years anyways, those who do not need to withdraw money will have an additional 1.5 years to keep that money in their retirement accounts. Withdrawals from the retirement accounts are still allowed before then, but this increase in age is aimed at helping those who are continuing to work anyways, by allowing them more time to save.

How Does the SECURE Act Affect An IRA?

Trusts should no longer be beneficiaries of most IRA’s under the SECURE Act.  Previously if your living trust was written properly your trust could be the benefit of your IRA so that your trustee could maintain some control over your beneficiaries.  Now with the SECURE Act, if your trust is named one of the beneficiaries, the beneficiaries of the trust will probably have to take distribution of the entire IRA in the 10th year after death, which will result in a larger tax burden. Finally, if your IRA beneficiary is very young or disabled, you will want to consider a “trusteed IRA” which allows a professional to manage the IRA after your death.

How Does the SECURE Act Affect My Inherited IRA?

You will have to pay taxes on inherited IRAs sooner than you may have expected. The SECURE Act essentially eliminates the “stretch IRA,” which was an estate planning method that allowed IRA beneficiaries to stretch their distributions from their inherited account — and the required tax payments on them — based on their life expectancy. For example, if you named a grandchild as your beneficiary, most of your account could’ve stayed invested for decades after your passing, and the grandchild could’ve continued to take advantage of the tax benefits. Under the new law, however, most beneficiaries must now withdraw all the distributions from their inherited account and pay taxes on it within 10 years. The exceptions to this are for spouses and the chronically ill or disabled. One important thing to remember is that this provision is not retroactive and will not affect those who have already inherited an IRA. It will apply to those starting on Jan. 1, 2020, and may affect the estate planning of those planning to pass on an IRA to a non-spouse.

What Should I Do If My Living Trust Is Named As Beneficiary Of My IRA?

Under the SECURE Act, if your living trust is named as beneficiary of your IRA, your beneficiaries will probably only have two options, both bad: cash it all out immediately, or cash it all out in year 10.  This may cause a huge tax.  There are other options available, but these need to be explored on a case by case basis.  For most people, you simply need to name your spouse as primary IRA beneficiary, and your children as contingent IRA beneficiaries.  However, if your children are young, disabled or foolish, other options will need to be explored.  For example, you may be able to name a trust company or fiduciary as trustee of your IRA.  You can also explore ROTH IRA conversions with your tax and financial advisor.  More complex but powerful options may also be available.

What Should I Do Now?   

With these new changes in retirement planning, you may still have some remaining questions. The Law Offices of Joel A Harris are more than prepared to provide you with legal counsel pertaining to your retirement, establishing a trust to protect your legacy and your assets, and any other legal questions you may have. Whether it is in retirement planning or any other kind of legal counsel, The Law Offices of Joel A Harris, located in Concord, Walnut Creek, and Antioch are available to help you to the best of their abilities. Joel Harris is an attorney with over 25 years of experience and is extremely familiar with this process. If you are not sure how to begin, or you just want some help navigating the legal side of your retirement process, feel free to visit us online, in person or call us by phone at (925) 757-4605.

Sources

  1. https://money.com/what-serure-act-retirement-law-means-for-you/
  2. https://www.bankrate.com/retirement/how-secure-act-could-impact-retirement-savings/
  3. https://www.investopedia.com/what-is-secure-act-how-affect-retirement-4692743
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiehopkins/2019/05/24/8-major-ways-the-secure-act-could-impact-your-retirement-plan/#1a8d36d63437 
  5. https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T021-C032-S014-4-estate-strategies-for-retirees-after-secure-act.html

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