Does My RMD Calculation Table Change Based on Who is Named My Primary Beneficiary?

By Sarah Brenner and Beverly DeVeny
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This week’s Slott Report Mailbag looks at required minimum distribution (RMD) calculations for primary beneficiaries (depending on who is named) and answers a complex question on RMD issues when inheriting an inherited IRA. As always, we stress the importance of working with a competent, educated financial advisor to keep your retirement nest egg safe and secure. Find one in your area at this link.


I would like to put my children as my primary beneficiaries on my IRA account. My wife is twenty years younger than me, so I am able to use a Table that allows me to take out a smaller required minimum distribution (RMD). Can I still use this table if my wife is not the primary beneficiary?

When your spouse is the sole beneficiary of your IRA, you can use the Joint Life Expectancy Table to calculate your RMDs because your spouse is more than 10 years younger than you. If you change your beneficiary to your children, you will have to use the Uniform Lifetime Table, which will increase the amount of your RMD each year.


Good afternoon,

I have a complicated (to me) question about an inherited IRA twice over. I hope someone can help me answer the question.

The original IRA owner passed away in 2014 at age 78. The IRA passed to her son who died in late 2015 at age 60. I am now one of the beneficiaries of the IRA. In other words, I have inherited an inherited IRA.

I individually was named as a percentage beneficiary. Will I need to take RMDs based on the original owner’s life expectancy? Or will I have the option to spread the distributions out over my life expectancy?

How important is the titling of these accounts? I am a little concerned about how the custodian titled the trust account, “IRA FBO of Son’s Trust,” with no reference to either of the prior account owners, Son or Mother. 

I am also the residuary beneficiary of a trust that was named as a percentage beneficiary. I know this can get complicated. If I am sole remaining beneficiary of the trust, is there any chance I can get this in my name “IRA FBO Me Beneficiary of Son” instead of “IRA FBO Son’s Trust?”  Obviously the trust pays a higher tax rate, plus I am hoping to file a first and final trust return and having this IRA in the trust’s name will prevent that. 

I have tried to do some internet research, but I am not finding a lot of information about inheriting inherited IRAs.  Any help or suggestions would be much appreciated!

Ryan Thomsen

There are many moving parts to your question. Let’s look at the simplest version. Let’s say “Jane” passed away in 2014. She named her son “John” as her beneficiary on the beneficiary form. John set up an inherited IRA and named “Lou” as his beneficiary on the beneficiary form. John has a life expectancy factor of 25.2. John dies in 2015. Lou can set up an inherited IRA and continue to take required distributions using John’s remaining life expectancy. The factor for 2016 is 24.2 (25.2 – 1 = 24.2).

The key item in this example is that the beneficiaries are named on the beneficiary form. They have not inherited through an estate.

Because of the complexity of the rest of your question, we recommend that you consult with an advisor with experience in the IRA distribution rules. You can find an advisor in your area on our website.


Dear Mr. Slott:

I believe I read somewhere in your book that we can name a designee in the will so that if the first person designated refuses to take the money (all of it or part of it), the money goes to the second person designated in the will.

Now, I am having difficulty finding it. Could please help me and let me know how I can accomplish this?



If you are asking about assets other than IRAs, then you have the basic concept of a disclaimer correct. If you wish to set up a disclaimer path for IRA assets, then you need to name both primary and contingent beneficiaries on the IRA beneficiary designation form. A disclaimer is a legal document, and we always recommend that you consult with an attorney before executing a disclaimer.

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