Wed 2 Dec, 2009 07:48 am
In New York State, must a spouse be the primary beneficiary of an I.R. A. if there is a spouse?
No it doesn't have to be! You can set up a trust for your IRA and declare a designated beneficiary through the trust.
In some states (I'm not sure about NY), the spouse must sign that they are aware of a different beneficiary if they are not named as such.
Here's some pertinent info...
Naming your spouse as a beneficiary
When it comes to taxes, your spouse is usually the best choice for a primary beneficiary.
A spousal beneficiary has the greatest flexibility for delaying distributions that are subject to income tax. In addition to rolling over your IRA to his or her IRA, a surviving spouse can decide to treat your IRA as his or her own IRA. This can provide more tax and planning options.
If your spouse is more than 10 years younger than you, then naming your spouse can also reduce the size of any required taxable distributions to you from retirement assets while you're alive. This can allow more assets to stay in the retirement account longer and delay the payment of income tax on distributions.
Although naming a surviving spouse can produce the best income tax result, that isn't necessarily the case with death taxes. One possible downside to naming your spouse as the primary beneficiary is that it will increase the size of your spouse's estate for death tax purposes. That's because at your death, your spouse can inherit an unlimited amount of assets and defer federal death tax until both of you are deceased (note: special tax rules and requirements apply for a surviving spouse who is not a U.S. citizen). However, this may result in death tax or increased death tax when your spouse dies.
If your spouse's taxable estate for federal tax purposes at his or her death exceeds the applicable exclusion amount (formerly known as the unified credit) of $1.5 million in 2004 and 2005, then federal death tax may be due at his or her death.
Naming other individuals as beneficiaries
You may have some limits on choosing beneficiaries other than your spouse. No matter where you live, federal law dictates that your surviving spouse be the primary beneficiary of your 401(k) plan benefit unless your spouse signs a timely, effective written waiver. And if you live in one of the community property states, your spouse may have rights related to your IRA regardless of whether he or she is named as the primary beneficiary.
Naming a trust as a beneficiary
You must follow special tax rules when naming a trust as a beneficiary, and there may be income tax complications. Seek legal advice before designating a trust as a beneficiary.
Naming a charity as a beneficiary
In general, naming a charity as the primary beneficiary will not affect required distributions to you during your lifetime. However, after your death, having a charity named with other beneficiaries on the same asset could affect the tax-deferral possibilities of the noncharitable beneficiaries, depending on how soon after your death the charity receives its share of the benefits.