I recently became aware of a situation that was pretty upsetting, even though it happened to someone I don’t know and never met. A friend of a friend passed away and left her brother a sum of money in a trust. The brother, disabled, and not working, panicked, and took the money out. Now, when I first heard this, I thought that since it was in a trust, he may have some capital gains due, but that should be minimal. What happened was that the trust held the deceased woman’s IRA, so every last cent was taxed as ordinary income. Even though he had no other income, his tax bill was well over $40,000. A peek at Fairmark tells me that in 2008, one can have $8950 income not be taxed at all (this figure is the sum of the single exemption and standard deduction). The next $8025 is taxed at 10%. So this poor soul could have withdrawn $16,975, rising a few hundred each year, and paid about $800 in tax. The interest alone on the $40,000 would pay his taxes each year. It’s unfortunate that he started asking for advice well after the withdrawal was made, as he could have rolled this money into a beneficiary IRA within 60 days of the withdrawal.
The lesson here, when a loved one passes away, take a breath, don’t panic. Mourn, and take some time. Ask questions and understand where the money, stock, real estate is, before making any decisions you are likely to regret. I hope you can learn from this person’s mistake.