In Clark v. Rameker, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of bankruptcy trustee William J. Rameker. The Rameker decision impacts a sizeable segment of the nation's wealth. Quite clearly, inherited retirement assets are no longer as "bulletproof" from creditors as they were before the decision.
A recent InsuranceNewsNet article, titled "Court Decision Has Implications For Estate Planning," explained that the Supreme Court was asked if federal bankruptcy law exempted an inherited IRA from a debtor’s estate in bankruptcy. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her decision that an inherited IRA account did not qualify as a retirement fund, so it would not be exempt. Inherited IRAs do not fall under the definition of a retirement fund, the Justices held, because the heir to the fund, other than a spouse, is not permitted to put money into the account. The accountholder (or heir) must also withdraw all of the funds from the account or set up annual distributions. It does not matter how close this inherited IRA accountholder is to retirement, and he or she must pay taxes on those distributions. Permitting an inherited IRA to be exempt from creditor claims would ultimately undermine the purpose of the Bankruptcy Code, Sotomayor explained.
What does this mean for your IRA? How will you handle it in your estate planning strategy?