Stretching Your IRA & Designating Beneficiaries

Multi-Generational Distribution Option

Stretching Your IRA: A simple way to make your money mean more to future generations

You've planned carefully for your retirement. And, the rewards for that wise planning can surface as IRA or annuity assets that you may not need. Taking only the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your IRA, or owning a non-qualified annuity contract, may protect you from a sizeable tax liability and leave funds for your beneficiaries. However, receiving an inheritance in a lump sum can cause the ones you love significant tax burdens. 

Your beneficiary can choose to stretch out payments and reduce the tax burden.  All you have to do is name your beneficiaries. At Amerity Financial we call this stretching your IRA. 

Stretching your IRA allows beneficiaries to receive distributions over the course of their lifetime (even if you have previously started taking distributions from your IRA based on your own life expectancy). This can provide both you and your heirs with significant benefits.


It's easy to stretch your IRA or non-qualified annuity for future generations. But, it's important to plan ahead. Here are some steps that you can take if you're interested in this option: 

  1. Choose your beneficiaries and the percentages you'd like to allocate for them. These decisions are revocable and can be changed at any time during the owner's lifetime.
  2. Contact your Amerity Financial professional to help stretch your IRA or non- qualified plan for future generations. 

To stretch your IRA, your estate should not be named as beneficiary. While some trusts allow for stretching an IRA, many do not. You should consult with an attorney who understands the Required Minimum Distribution rules if you want to name a trust as beneficiary, while retaining the ability to stretch your IRA. While the concept of stretching your IRA or annuity seems somewhat simple, we recommend consulting your Amerity Financial Professional to learn more details about stretching your IRA and your opportunities to leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

A Hypothetical Example

An annuity contract is purchased with $100,000 when the owner is a 65-year-old male. We'll assume that the IRA earns interest at a 4% rate. At 701⁄2, the owner begins withdrawing only the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD), based on his RMD Life Expectancy. This owner passes away at age 73, leaving the annuity contract to his spouse who is then age 63. She also withdraws only the RMD, which she must begin receiving at age 701⁄2. When the spouse passes away at age 72, the account value of the annuity contract is $155,945. This same scenario can be used to describe a non-qualified annuity contract, except that the owner and his spouse are not required to take out the RMD.

If the beneficiary designated in the annuity contract wishes to stretch the IRA, the withdrawals are stretched out according to his or her RMD Life Expectancy, until the account value is depleted. According to our example, the beneficiary inherits the annuity contract at age 39 and begins receiving RMD withdrawals the following year. In this hypothetical situation, the beneficiary can stretch annuity payments across 44 years.

Other Common Mistakes:

There are plenty of other beneficiary form mistakes. Here are just a few of them:

  • Triggering probate on life insurance proceeds: Similarly, naming your estate and not an individual or a trust as the beneficiary of your life insurance subjects it to probate.
  • Disinheriting kids from a first marriage: Houses, bank accounts, and other assets held jointly go right to the co-owner, no matter what your will states, leaving children from a previous marriage no rights to contest. You can prevent them from being cut out with beneficiary designations on other assets that carry no spousal or joint ownership constraints.
  • Overlooking others whom you'd like to remember: Estate laws favor spouses. Payable- or transferable-on-death accounts automatically go to the closest living relative (not a charity or life partner), unless designated otherwise.
  • Failing to get permission to bequeath your qualified retirement plans: By law, spouses are first in line to inherit retirement funds and assets subject to right of survivorship laws. If you wish to leave the money to someone else, your betrothed must sign a written waiver, or else the deal is off at death.
  • Assuming your wishes are on file: Don't take it on faith that a beneficiary form you filed 30 years ago is still in some bank's file or that when you switch plans your form follows suit. Get copies from every bank, fund, and insurance company.
  • Keeping your plans a secret:  While alive, Anne Friedman insisted that she had updated her million-dollar pension beneficiary form. But no one could locate it after her death. Make copies and tell your executor and loved ones where they're kept.