by Charles L Stanley CFP® ChFC® AIF®

CharitableGivingWhen entering retirement, having a big, fat IRA feels good. It provides a certain sense of security —and that’s a good thing. However, when you consider estate planning for a family with a taxable estate in excess of $5.25 million, that big, fat IRA is a horrible asset to own. Why? Because at the death of the IRA owner, the IRA will be subject to both income tax and estate tax. Depending on the details of the case, it’s entirely possible to lose 75% or so of the value of the IRA to taxes. So, what should you do to avoid this extreme taxation?

Give it away

Actually the give it away strategy is only fully effective if the owner is already planning to make charitable gifts anyway. It’s just much more efficient to make those gifts directly from the IRA to your chosen charity [501(c)(3) organization]. Making charitable gifts directly from an IRA avoids income tax on the distribution and reduces the taxable estate. This reduces the after-tax cost of the gift by quite a margin.

The caveats

As you might expect, there are a few caveats to using the give it away strategy:

  • This opportunity is only available to IRA owners who are at least 70-1/2 years old when the gift is made. This is a little different than the Required Minimum Distribution that can be made in the year you turn 70-1/2. For the charitable gift, you must already be 70-1/2.
  • These gifts can only be made from a traditional IRA. A charitable gift from your 401(k) plan will not qualify. The same is true of simple IRAs, SEPS, Keoghs, 403(b) plans and profit sharing plans. However, you can do a two-step process by rolling your funds from your plan into a traditional IRA before making the charitable gift from there.
  • The recipient can only be a pubic charity. Donor-advised funds and private foundations do not qualify.
  • No quid pro quo. Your entire gift will be disqualified from the tax-free benefit if you receive anything or are entitled to receive anything (a chicken dinner?) from the charity as a result of your contribution.
  • If you contemplate a charitable gift from your IRA, be sure to consult with your advisor first. There are a few more caveats than what are listed here. You wouldn’t want to make a significant gift (limited to $100,000) and find it doesn’t qualify.

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