Inheritance: What you need to know

You may want to think carefully about passing your assets on to your heirs. Taxes can be costly, leaving little left for your loved ones. Read on, with frequently asked questions, to see why a charitable gift of retirement plan assets is an option worth investigating.


Q. My wife contends that she can inherit my retirement plan assets tax-free upon my death. I’m not so sure. Who’s right?
A. For the purposes of harmony in your home, let’s say you’re both right. Your wife is correct in that she has the ability to defer taxes on your retirement plan assets through, for example, a spousal rollover IRA. You are also right, however, in that whenever your wife makes a withdrawal from the spousal rollover, she will pay income tax on the amount withdrawn.

Q. I plan to leave my 401(k) to my children when I die. How much will they pay in taxes?
A. It depends. Because this type of inheritance is treated as ordinary income, the taxes your children owe will depend on the marginal tax rate in which they fall. One of the downsides of leaving a 401(k), IRA or other retirement plan asset to your children is that they may likely receive it during their peak wage-earning years—when they’ll lose the greatest percentage to taxes. If they don’t want it all in a lump sum, they can, in most cases, stretch out their distributions (and hence some taxation) over their lifetimes beginning the year after your death.

Q. I’d like to make a charitable donation from an IRA. What’s the next step?
A. You can designate Gonzaga University as the beneficiary of a percentage of your IRA assets. The full value of the funds given to us will then go to support our mission (income taxes will not erode their value). To make your gift, you simply need to complete a beneficiary designation form, naming GU as beneficiary and specifying the percentage to go to us. This designation is completely revocable during your lifetime, and your estate will receive an estate tax charitable deduction for our share. Read more about how to give retirement plan assets.


Learn more about making a gift from your IRA in our helpful eBrochure.


Have More Questions?
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The information on this website is not intended as legal or tax advice. For legal or tax advice, please consult an attorney. Figures cited in examples are for hypothetical purposes only and are subject to change. References to estate and income taxes apply to federal taxes only. State income/estate taxes or state law may impact your results.

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