What You Should Know About the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act

Dec 23, 2019 3:33:20 PM

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On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act). The SECURE Act, which is effective January 1, 2020, is the most impactful retirement legislation of the past decade.

Here are a few major provisions of the SECURE Act:

  • Increases the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs) from retirement accounts from 70 ½ to 72 years of age
  • Eliminates the age limit for contributions to traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
  • Expands the allowable uses of 529 accounts
  • Increases annuity options in retirement plans
  • Added a new exemption allowing penalty-free withdrawals—up to $5k— from retirement accounts for the birth or adoption of a child
  • Eliminates the “stretch” IRA for most non-spouse beneficiaries: Certain beneficiaries are now required to withdraw inherited account balances within 10 years of the account owner’s death  

Estate planning attorneys and their clients will be most impacted by this last point because most non-spouse designated beneficiaries will no longer be able to “stretch” the RMDs of inherited retirement accounts over their life expectancy. The SECURE Act does provide a few exceptions to this new mandatory 10 year withdrawal rule: Spouses, beneficiaries who are not more than ten years younger than the account owner, the account owner’s children who have not yet reached the “age of majority,” disabled individuals, and chronically ill individuals may still benefit from the pre-Act withdrawal rules to stretch the RMDs over their life expectancy. (Note: If a beneficiary is not considered a “designated beneficiary”, i.e. charities or an estate, a mandatory five-year payout will still apply.)

We believe this new law creates a huge practice development opportunity for existing and new clients, as well as an opportunity to educate advisors and the public about the importance of proper estate planning. Individuals who have“conduit” trust provisions in their estate planning documents may want to reconsider this strategy. If a beneficiary is not exempt under the new law, conduit trust provisions will likely result in the distribution of the entire balance of an inherited retirement account within ten years of the account owner’s death. Trusts with “accumulation” provisions may be a more appropriate strategy if a client wishes to ensure that retirement account funds have protection from a beneficiary’s creditors, future lawsuits, or divorcing spouse.

Charitable remainder trusts may be a helpful tax-savings tool for clients who are charitably inclined. Clients may also want to consider using life insurance (and life insurance trusts) to offset any adverse consequences caused by the accelerated tax payment on inherited retirement accounts and to further protect assets for a beneficiary. Roth conversions are another planning option that clients should consider under the right circumstances.


Join us for an informative webinar on January 7, 2020 at 1 PM EST that will leave you with the practical knowledge and confidence you need to help clients impacted by the SECURE Act. Click here to register.

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