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How to Roll Over an Inherited 401k?


MarciaPresberry

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The rules that allow a beneficiary to roll over a distribution are different depending on whether you are the surviving spouse or not. A surviving spouse has more options. The IRS model tax notice has a pretty good description of the choices available for each.

If you are not a plan participant

Payments after death of the participant. If you receive a distribution after the participant’s death that you do not roll over, the distribution will generally be taxed in the same manner described elsewhere in this notice. However, the 10% additional income tax on early distributions and the special rules for public safety officers do not apply, and the special rule described under the section “If you were born on or before January 1,1936” applies only if the participant was born on or before January 1, 1936.

If you are a surviving spouse. If you receive a payment from the Plan as the surviving spouse of a deceased participant, you have the same rollover options that the participant would have had, as described elsewhere in this notice. In addition, if you choose to do a rollover to an IRA, you may treat the IRA as your own or as an inherited IRA.

An IRA you treat as your own is treated like any other IRA of yours, so that payments made to you before you are age 59½ will be subject to the 10% additional income tax on early distributions (unless an exception applies) and required minimum distributions from your IRA do not have to start until after you are age 70½.

If you treat the IRA as an inherited IRA, payments from the IRA will not be subject to the 10% additional income tax on early distributions. However, if the participant had started taking required minimum distributions, you will have to receive required minimum distributions from the inherited IRA. If the participant had not started taking required minimum distributions from the Plan, you will not have to start receiving required minimum distributions from the inherited IRA until the year the participant would have been age 70½.

If you are a surviving beneficiary other than a spouse. If you receive a payment from the Plan because of the participant’s death and you are a designated beneficiary other than a surviving spouse, the only rollover option you have is to do a direct rollover to an inherited IRA. Payments from the inherited IRA will not be subject to the 10% additional income tax on early distributions. You will have to receive required minimum distributions from the inherited IRA.

Payments under a qualified domestic relations order. If you are the spouse or former spouse of the participant who receives a payment from the Plan under a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), you generally have the same options the participant would have (for example, you may roll over the payment to your own IRA or an eligible employer plan that will accept it). Payments under the QDRO will not be subject to the 10% additional income tax on early distributions.

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If you’re faced with the unfortunate decision to roll over a 401k that you inherited from your spouse or someone else who named you as their 401k beneficiary, take comfort in the fact that inherited 401k rollovers are easy to complete. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides 401k heirs with multiple options to move the bequeathed money.

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