The U.S. Supreme Court recently answered this question. In an opinion written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor the Court found that Heidi Heffron-Clark, who inherited an IRA from her mother in 2001 and filed for bankruptcy nine years later, could not protect the account from her creditors.
The court’s analysis in Clark v. Rameker ruled that there were key legal distinctions between inherited IRAs and those you set up for yourself through annual contributions or company plans. The fact that inheritors cannot put additional funds into the inherited IRA account and the beneficiary can withdrawal money at any time without incurring a penalty make these inherited IRA accounts unique and “suggest that they are not retirement assets,” the court notes.
Another key distinction: Non-spousal IRA heirs must either withdraw the entire account balance within five years of the original owner’s death, or take out a minimum amount each year, starting December 31st the year after the IRA owner died.
The Supreme Court’s decision does not affect bankruptcy protection for retirement accounts of your own, which were expanded by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.
The decision does have important ramifications for spouses. A spouse who inherits their husband or wife’s IRA has an option not available to other inheritors. The surviving spouse can roll the assets into his or her own IRA and postpone distributions from a traditional IRA until they turn 70½. However, there is a catch to this. Just like other IRA owners they may have to pay a 10% early-withdrawal penalty if the money is taken out before age 59½ from the surviving spouse’s own IRA.
If you have any questions on this topic or are in a financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.