Naming a Non-Spouse Beneficiary for Retirement Accounts

Subject to your spouse’s legal rights, you can name whomever you want to inherit retirement accounts.

Subject to your spouse’s legal rights, you can name whomever you want to inherit your qualified plan or IRA account.

Nonspouse beneficiaries (as the IRS calls them) who inherit an IRA or 401(k) account don’t have all the options that a surviving spouse does—they cannot roll the account over into their own accounts. But they can probably manage to keep the money in the account growing tax-deferred, if that’s their goal. Here’s how it works.

The Non-Spouse Beneficiary’s Options

Someone who inherits an IRA from someone other than his or her spouse has three choices.

Take Out the Money

It’s always possible for the beneficiary to simply withdraw the money from the account. This might make sense if the beneficiary really needs the money for buying a house, paying for college, or starting a business.  Even a beneficiary who is not yet age 59

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