Ordinarily, people over 70½ are required to receive a minimum distribution from their retirement plan each year. But this minimum payout won’t be required in 2009, thanks to a law passed by Congress.
However, this law is creating widespread confusion, and if you’re concerned, you might want to ask for advice quickly on how to handle your particular situation.
Under the law:
► If you turned 70½ before 2009, you would ordinarily have to take money out of your IRA, 401(k), 403(b) or similar retirement plan by December 31, 2009. But now, you won’t have to do so.
► If you turn 70½ during 2009, you would ordinarily have to start taking money out of your retirement plan before April 1, 2010. But now, you won’t have to do so.
If you don’t need to take money out of your account for living expenses, this is good news. It means you can leave more money in your account, where it will hopefully grow tax-deferred. If you plan to leave your retirement account to your heirs, it may result in a larger bequest.
But here are some of the problems people are running into:
- Some IRA custodians and 401(k) administrators are automatically mailing checks to owners this year unless the owners specifically ask them not to. If you get an unwanted check, you have a limited time to roll it back into your account tax-free.
- Some custodians and administrators are not mailing checks unless the owner specifically asks for the money. So you if want a check this year, you might have to ask for it.
- If you don’t take a required distribution this year, some custodians and administrators will require you to submit a written request to get automatic distributions started up again the following year.
- If you’re the beneficiary of a trust that holds an inherited IRA, and the trust is supposed to pay you only the “required” distribution, it’s not clear if you’ll get paid anything in 2009.