Leave Excess Retirement Savings For Grandchildren Without A Big Tax Bill

Leave Excess Retirement Savings For Grandchildren Without A Big Tax Bill

Naming grandchildren as beneficiaries of traditional IRAs used to be a popular estate-planning strategy. Grandchildren had their lifetimes to empty an inherited IRA, which also let them stretch out income-tax payments on the assets.


Under 2020 required minimum distribution (RMD) changes, grandchildren must now generally withdraw inherited IRA assets within ten years. That means upping annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) and potential yearly taxes. The tax bill can be particularly onerous if the distributions fall during the grandchild’s (or their parent’s if they’re minors) highest earning years. In addition, inherited IRAs have other complications. The beneficiary can’t convert an inherited traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Nor can they add money to an inherited IRA or combine it with their own IRA.

According to the Investment Company Institute, Americans held $12.5 trillion in IRAs in 2023, and 52% of households headed by someone 65 or older had one.


Suppose you named a grandchild as a beneficiary of your traditional IRA before 2020. Given the RMD changes requiring a shorter distribution period, you should review your planning and consider whether other transfer strategies might be more beneficial.

IRA Conversions

Look at converting your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. You can convert over several years to help minimize the annual tax bite. Yes, you’ll essentially be prepaying the income tax. But once the money is in the Roth IRA, it’ll grow tax-free, and the grandchild can take money from the Roth IRA tax-free once they inherit it. Several rules apply, so work with your tax professional.


Concerned about how a younger grandchild might use or squander the inherited IRA assets? Then you might consider leaving your IRA to a trust benefiting your grandchild.

A trust allows you to direct your chosen trustee to distribute the money to your grandchild according to the terms you set in the trust document. For instance, you might provide that larger sums of money can be withdrawn only to pay for college expenses or purchase a house.

Trusts can be complicated and may not reduce taxes on the IRA benefits. Before changing your current IRA distribution strategy, consult an adviser well-versed in inherited IRAs.

Original content by the PSK LLP. This information is provided with the understanding that Payroll Partners is not rendering legal, human resources, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from a lawyer, HR consultant or other professional.