National Association of Estate Planners and Councils

January, 2020 Newsletter
Provided by Leimberg Information Services

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Natalie Choate: The SECURE Act

“Signed into law December 20, 2019, SECURE has radically changed the estate planning landscape for clients’ retirement benefits. Except for a few types of beneficiaries, the life expectancy payout is gone with the wind, replaced by a maximum 10-year post-death payout period for most retirement benefits. Here is what estate planners need to know about the new RMD regime, including what we don’t yet know, and what to do about it all.”

Natalie Choate provides members with her analysis of the SECURE Act.

Members will find her commentary most helpful as it contains a “Practitioner to Do List” as well as commentary that examines what advisors need to do now given the radically new landscape we now operate in.

Natalie B. Choate is a lawyer with Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP in Boston, and is the author of the estate planner’s “bible” on estate and distribution planning for our clients’ IRAs and other retirement plans, Life and Death Planning for Retirement Benefits. The 8th edition (2019) can be ordered at, where a downloadable supplement updating the book for the SECURE Act changes will be posted free as soon as feasible. Or subscribe right now to the electronic edition at

Here is Natalie’s commentary:


For over 30 years, the go-to estate plan for the owners of tax-favored retirement plans has been the “stretch IRA”: Make your IRA or other retirement plan payable to a “designated beneficiary” (or see-through trust) and the designated beneficiary (or trust) could leave the plan in its tax-deferred status for years or decades after your death, withdrawing the benefits only gradually by taking annual distributions over his or her life expectancy. With the life expectancy of a 50-year-old son or daughter being 34.2 years, or that of a grandchild or great-grandchild being potentially as long as 80 years, this estate plan was understandably popular.

SECURE has swept that option away for most people. The definition of designated beneficiary hasn’t changed. The definition of see-through trust hasn’t changed. What has changed is the payout period for those beneficiaries: With the exception of five particular types of beneficiaries (“eligible designated beneficiaries”) (EDB), the life expectancy payout has been replaced by a 10-year payout rule. So, the 50-year old son or daughter who inherits Mom’s IRA will now have to withdraw the entire account within 10 years after Mom’s death instead of over the 34.2-year life expectancy payout period that would have applied if Mom had died before 2020.

But even pre-2020 deaths are not totally spared by SECURE; they get only a  partial exemption from the 10-year payout rule. See “SECURE Effective Date; Pre-2020 Deaths,” below. The rest of this newsletter will examine the new SECURE regime, how it works, who it applies to, which beneficiaries are exempt, what we still don’t know, and what estate planners need to do about all this.

Read the complete commentary.

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