I am a non-spouse inheriting a traditional IRA, and the account owner died before they began RMDs

The distribution options you have depend on whether the IRA owner died before the required beginning date (RBD). The RBD is April 1 of the year that follows the year in which the IRA owner reached age 70 ½.

For instance, for an IRA owner who reached age 70 ½ in 2019, the RBD is April 1, 2020.

If the IRA owner died before the RBD, a beneficiary can either distribute within five years under the five year rule or over time based on the date of death of the IRA owner under the life expectancy rule.

  • Under the five-year rule, the amount of any distributions are optional until December 31, 5 years after the year the IRA owner died. By which, the entire amount must be withdrawn.  
  • Under the life expectancy rule, beneficiary RMDs must begin by December 31 of the year that follows the year in which the IRA owner died.

You can always take more than the RMD amount, but you must take the minimum to avoid an IRS 50% excess penalty on any shortfall of your RMD amount.

For example, if you are required to withdraw $10,000 by the end of the year, and you withdraw only $5,000. You will owe the IRS an excess accumulation penalty of $2,500 or 50% of the $5,000 that you did not withdraw by the deadline.

If you think you missed your beneficiary RMD deadline or took less than the RMD amount, please contact your tax advisor. (1)


(1) This information is for general education purposes only and not intended to be tax advice. We encourage you to consult a qualified tax professional before requesting a distribution.

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