Does widow have to put husband's IRA in her name? | Ed Slott and Company, LLC

Does widow have to put husband's IRA in her name?

If a husband dies, does the surviving spouse have a period of time to put it in her name? If she leaves it in his name, can she contribute to it? I know this sounds like a stupid question because there is really no reason not to change it. It was a just a question I couldn't answer for sure.

No set period of time, but complications can arise if she does nothing. Among other things, she will have no successor beneficiary named, and she might have excess accumulation problems if she does not take RMDs as required. This could also leave a tax mess for estate beneficiaries. She has a choice between maintaining a beneficiary interest and actually rolling it over or assuming the IRA as her own. If she is under 59.5 and needs distributions, she should re title the IRA in inherited form so she can take penalty free distributions. She does not actually have an RMD until the year her spouse would have been 70.5. If she has reached 59.5, she should assume ownership, and she ALSO is deemed to have assumed ownership if she fails to take an RMD required as a beneficiary of his IRA or if she contributes to the IRA. But she can wait to take ownership as long as she wants. If her husband was much younger, she could actually avoid RMDs longer by keeping it in beneficiary form until the year he would have reached 70.5. Upon his death, her only choices should be to determine whether to title his IRA in beneficiary form or to take ownership. Doing absolutely nothing will result in many potential consequences.

As Alan said, the worst thing you can is to do nothing. Many procrastinate until it is too late, and options are limited.

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