-advertisement -
Retirement-plan distribution land mines
Page | 1 | 2 | 3 |

Let's imagine that the cost of the shares of company stock was only $100,000, and that the stock has appreciated nicely over the years.

"You only pay tax on the cost," says Slott. What about the other $900,000? "That's NUA, and you don't pay tax on any of those shares until those shares are sold."

Furthermore, says Slott, you only pay capital gains tax on the shares you sell at the favorable 15 percent rate. Because there's no minimum holding rule on NUA shares, you don't even have to wait a year after you transfer the shares to be eligible for the long-term rate. In fact, you can pay tax at the long-term rate the day after the transfer.

If you instead move all the money into an IRA, "the NUA tax break is lost forever," says Slott. That mistake can cause you to pay double the tax rate.

"We're seeing a whole new wave of employees -- the baby boomers mainly, and older people -- who are coming out of a job after 30 years, that this benefit applies to," says Slott.

A good time to do this is when you separate from service, since generally lump-sum distribution opportunities are triggered by major life events (death, disability, retirement, etc.). If you happen to be under age 55 when you leave your employer, you can still get the NUA benefit, but you'll have to pay a 10-percent penalty on the cost of the shares. Also, beneficiaries qualify for this tax break "if the plan participant would have qualified had he lived," says Slott.

Update the beneficiary form
Make sure your beneficiary form is up-to-date, including primary and contingent beneficiaries, so that your assets end up where you intend them to go. Did one of your primary beneficiaries predecease you? It happens.

"You know what I see on those beneficiary forms?" says Slott. "I see dead people! I see dead beneficiaries. ... What's the life expectancy of a dead beneficiary?"

It's a legitimate question. Review the form annually, and update it if necessary.

Also, don't bequeath your retirement money to your estate. "If you leave it to the estate, you blow the stretch," says Slott. Plus you turn a nonprobate asset into a probate asset -- a bad move.

The so-called "stretch" enables your beneficiaries to extend distributions over their life expectancies. But the beneficiaries have to be people, not estates. "Anybody with a pulse and a birthday" qualifies, quips Slott. "Can you fog a mirror? That counts."

Sometimes it makes sense to leave retirement-plan money in a trust, for example, if your children are minors, if you're providing for a disabled person, if your descendant is unsophisticated, vulnerable to con artists or irresponsible with money. Properly set up, a trust can disburse money on the same schedule as the stretch that doles out required minimum distributions over a beneficiary's life expectancy.

Next: "Some basic questions a professional should ask."
Page | 1 | 2 | 3 |
10 tips to a prosperous retirement
What to know about retirement accounts
Reporting 401(k) and IRA rollovers
IRA penalty has multiple exceptions
Best times to shop for bargains
Remarriage saps Social Security benefit

Compare Rates
IRA MMA 0.49%
1 yr IRA CD 0.87%
5 yr IRA CD 1.81%
Mortgage calculator
See your FICO Score Range -- Free
How much money can you save in your 401(k) plan?
Which is better -- a rebate or special dealer financing?
Rev up your portfolio
with these tips and tricks.
- advertisement -