# How the Spousal IRA Rules Work

 Author Seymour Goldberg Profession Senior partner in the law firm of Goldberg & Goldberg, P.C., Woodbury, New York Pages 68-100
68
HOW THE SPOUSAL
IRARULES WORK
Often, an IRA owner selects a spouse as the primary beneﬁciary of his /
her IRA. There are many rules that apply when the spouse is the bene-
ﬁciary of an IRA.
While an IRA owner is alive, then the IRA owner generally uses
the Uniform Lifetime Table in determining his / her required minimum
distributions from the IRA. The exception to the general rule applies
when the spouse is the sole beneﬁciary of the IRA account for the entire
year and the spouse is more than ten years younger than the IRA owner.
In that case, the IRS permits the IRA owner to use a special table found
in IRS Publication 590- B in order to determine the IRA owner’s required
minimum distributions. If the spouse dies or the parties are divorced in a
given year, then the spouse is still considered the sole beneﬁciary of the
IRA owner’s account for that year even though the spouse is no longer
the sole beneﬁciary for that given year.
The following are a few examples of how the lifetime distribution rules work
when the IRA owner has a spouse as the primary beneﬁciary of the IRA owner’s
account.
example 51
Todd, an IRA owner, is age 72 in the calendar year 2016. Mary, Todd’s
wife, is the sole primary beneﬁciary of Todd’s IRA for the entire calendar
year 2016. Mary is age 68 in the calendar year 2016.
Question: What period is used in determining Todd’s required
minimum distribution for the calendar year 2016?
Mary is not more than ten years younger than Todd.
The number that must be used by Todd, who is age 72
in 2016, is 25.6 under the IRS Uniform Lifetime Table
How the Spousal IRA Rules Work | 69
(Table II). Therefore, Todd’s IRA account balance as of
December 31, 2015, is divided by 25.6 in order to deter-
mine Todd’s required minimum distribution for 2016.
example 52
Assume the facts in Example 51 except that Todd is age 73 in the calendar
year 2017 and Mary is age 69 in the calendar year 2017.
Question: What period is used in determining Todd’s required
minimum distribution for the calendar year 2017?
since Mary is not more than ten years younger than
Todd. The number that must be used by Todd, who
is age 73 in 2017, is 24.7 under the Uniform Lifetime
Table. Todd’s IRA account balance as of December 31,
2016, is divided by 24.7 in order to determine Todd’s
required minimum distribution for 2017.
example 53
Harold, an IRA owner, is age 72 in the calendar year 2016. Carol, his
wife, is the sole primary beneﬁciary of Harold’s IRA for the entire cal-
endar year 2016. Carol is age 50 in the calendar year 2016.
Question: What period is used in determining Harold’s required
minimum distribution for the calendar year 2016?
Answer: A special IRS table may be used in order to determine
the number that can be used to ﬁnd Harold’s required
minimum distribution for the calendar year 2016. The
number is 34.9 and is based upon the following:
(a) Carol is the sole primary beneﬁciary of Harold’s IRA
for the entire calendar year 2016 and
(b) Carol is more than ten years younger than Harold.
According to the IRS, the joint life and last survivor expectancy table
found in IRS Publication 590- B can be used. The number under this
table for a 72 / 50 life expectancy combination is 34.9. Therefore, Har-
70 | Inherited IRAs
old’s IRA account balance as of December 31, 2015, is divided by 34.9
in order to determine Harold’s required minimum distribution for 2016.
example 54
Assume the facts in Example 53 except that Harold is age 73 in the cal-
endar year 2017 and Carol is age 51 in the calendar year 2017.
Question: What period is used in determining Harold’s required
minimum distribution for the calendar year 2017?
Answer: A special IRS table may be used to determine the num-
ber that can be used to ﬁnd Harold’s required minimum
distribution for the calendar year 2017. The number is
34.0 and is based upon the following:
(a) Carol is the sole beneﬁciary of Harold’s IRA for the
entire calendar year 2017, and
(b) Carol is more than ten years younger than Harold.
According to the IRS, the joint life and last survivor expectancy table
found in IRS Publication 590- B can be used. The number for a 73 / 51
life expectancy combination is 34.0. Therefore, Harold’s IRA account
balance as of December 31, 2016, is divided by 34.0 in order to deter-
mine Harold’s required minimum distribution for 2017.
The next series of examples involve an IRA owner who dies before his / her re-
quired beginning date and who is survived by a spouse beneﬁciary of his / her
IRA account. The IRS rules for a spouse beneﬁciary of an IRA owner’s account,
under these circumstances, are not the same as the IRS rules that apply when a
nonspouse beneﬁciary is involved.
example 55
Assume that Jack, an IRA owner, died at age 60 in the calendar year
2016. Jack’s date of birth was June 1, 1956, and his date of death was
October 15, 2016. The sole primary beneﬁciary of his IRA account was
his wife, Jane, who survived him. Jane’s date of birth is May 1, 1961.
Jane is age 55 in 2016. Jane survived Jack. The contingent beneﬁciary