Thanks to the assistance of Michelle Ward of Keebler & Associates, LLP for bringing to our attention a recent case regarding bankruptcy exemption for inherited IRAs.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a district court’s ruling extending bankruptcy exemption to an inherited IRA (Download Case). In Clark, the Wisconsin district court had previously reversed the bankruptcy court’s decision and allowed an inherited IRA to be exempt from the bankruptcy estate. The debtors, Mr. and Mrs. Clark, filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2010. Mrs. Clark had inherited an IRA from her mother in 2001. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Clark was retired. The debtors claimed the inherited IRA was exempt under Wisconsin law and 11 U.S.C. Sec. 522(b)(3)(C). The Court of Appeals (cases Nos. 12-1241 & 12-1255) stated that by the time the Clarks filed for bankruptcy, the money in the inherited IRA did not represent anyone’s retirement funds and that to treat this account as exempt would be to shelter from creditors assets that can be freely used for current consumption. The Court further stated that an inherited IRA does not have the economic attributes of a retirement vehicle, because the money cannot be held in the account until the current owner’s retirement.
Given this recent decision and the diversity of decisions on this topic, caution suggests having an IRA payable to a trust rather than to a beneficiary outright to strengthen creditor protection.
Keebler & Associates, LLP assisted the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis in obtaining PLR 200537044, approving the IRA Inheritance Trust®, the use of a standalone trust as beneficiary of IRA assets for the purpose of ensuring the stretchout of RMDs and providing added protection of IRA assets. For more information about the IRA Inheritance Trust®, click here.