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Let's say Alice is 78 and Bob is 74, so both are already taking RMDs, and are married. Bob dies, and Alice becomes the owner of Bob's IRA.

According to the IRS here, Alice can continue taking Bob's RMDs, as opposed to switching to her RMDs, which would be higher since she's older.

What does Alice have to do to qualify to continue taking Bob's lower RMDs? Can she still roll the IRA over to a different brokerage? If so, does she have to be careful to roll it into a new IRA and not her existing one?

Assuming she does roll it into a new IRA, it will still need to be opened in her name and birthday, so will the Form 5498s generated reflect her RMD amount or Bob's? If her's, can she safely ignore it and continue taking Bob's RMDs?

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  • What is the status of Alice to Bob? Siblings/partner/other individual or spouse? As I'm reading through the section on Beneficiaries: irs.gov/publications/p590b#en_US_2022_publink100089979 there is some nuance so your scenario needs clarification. Jun 26, 2023 at 22:57
  • @MorrisonChang Yes, sorry, I mentioned it in the title but neglected to in the body; Alice and Boba are married.
    – Craig W
    Jun 26, 2023 at 23:11

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I don't think that Alice needs to do anything to continue to take RMDs according to Bob's RMDs. It is the other way -- which essentially is Alice electing to treat the IRA inherited from Bob as her own IRA and to take RMDs according to her age -- which requires some paperwork to be filed with the IRA custodian to let the IRA custodian know that Alice wishes to use her own RMD schedule. In this case where Alice is older than Bob, there is no reason for Alice to opt for taking withdrawals according to her RMD schedule.

To answer other questions, Yes, Alice can roll over the Inherited IRA as well as her own IRAs to a different brokerage, and Yes, she should continue to maintain the Inherited IRA as a separate entity from her own IRA accounts, and not commingle it with her own IRA. The title and ownership of the Inherited IRA should be kept exactly as they are currently, as well as the contingent beneficiary (the person or charity who inherits what's left in Bob's IRA after Alice's death) who was chosen by Bob should be left as is. Any changes in any of these items are effectively a declaration that Alice has chosen to treat the IRA inherited from Bob as her own IRA and so her RMD schedule (and not Bob's RMD schedule) will apply henceforth to the Inherited IRA.

Finally, I want to remind readers that Bob's RMD schedule changes upon his death. If he had lived beyond 74, his life expectancy would have decreased from 25.5 at age 74 to 21.1 at age 79 etc. The RMD is, of course, 1/life expectancy = 3.92% at age 74 and 4.73% at age 79. But since Bob died at age 74, in succeeding years, the life expectancy decreases by 1 each year (instead of following the table published by the IRS) and thus is reduced to 20.5 (4.87% RMD) in 5 years. Put another way, the entire Inherited IRA must distributed as RMDs over the next 25.5 years. Thus, if Alice lives for a few more years, there might come a time when it would be better to opt to treat the IRA inherited from Bob as her own IRA and switch to using her own RMDs instead of the RMDs required from Bob's modified RMD schedule.

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  • TIL that the life expectancy of a dead person is greater than 0 :-) Jun 27, 2023 at 14:39
  • @GS-ApologisetoMonica Well, there is no life expectancy for a dead person, but what the IRS says is that Bob had an RMD of 3.92% (= 1/25.5) in the year of his death. Whatever part of the RMD was not taken by Bob before he died must be taken by Alice during that year. In following years, the RMD from the Inherited IRA is determined by subtracting 1 each year from the "life expectancy" of the previous year -- so 24.5, 23.5, 22.5. etc -- with the RMD given as 1/"life expectancy". Yes, it is weird to talk of life expectancy of a dead person but that is shorthand for the actual calculations. Jun 27, 2023 at 19:16

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