Whether a surviving spouse should keep the spouse’s IRA separate or roll it over and treat it as her own depends on the circumstances.
- Keeping the IRA separate (changing the title of the IRA to “[add name of deceased spouse], deceased on [add date], for the benefit of [add spouse's name]). A surviving spouse who is under the age of 59û and who keeps the IRA separate can take penalty-free distributions from it. For required minimum distribution (RMD) purposes, you follow beneficiary rules, meaning you usually must start to take RMDs by the end of the year after the year of death and base the RMDs on the single life expectancy table.
- Rolling over the IRA. Once the IRA is rolled over to a surviving spouse, then the account cannot be tapped penalty free until the surviving spouse reaches age 59û. The account belongs to the surviving spouse, so she can name new beneficiaries and does not have to start RMDs until attaining age 70û. RMDs are based on the joint and survivor table.
Making a rollover of an IRA inherited from a spouse isn’t an all-or-nothing decision. Part of the IRA can be rolled over and part retitled to gain the best of both worlds where appropriate. Talk with your own financial advisor to decide what to do.