Inherited an IRA? Four Things Every Beneficiary Should Know

Inherited IRA distribution rules have changed in ways that can significantly impact your taxes and tax strategy.

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Inherited IRA beneficiaries should be aware of several important tax considerations — especially considering recent rule changes and delays involving required minimum distributions (RMDs). 

Here are a few tax things every IRA beneficiary should know.

New Legislation

1. Inherited IRA tax rules have changed

If you have inherited an IRA or have any other retirement plan account, it's important to be aware of the SECURE 2.0 Act. SECURE 2.0 is legislation that significantly changed U.S. retirement account rules. These changes directly impact retirement savings plans, including 401(k), 403(b), IRA, Roth accounts, and, in some cases, associated tax benefits.

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Additionally, the SECURE Act of 2019 (which served as a basis for SECURE 2.0) has resulted in many beneficiaries being unable to extend inherited IRA distributions throughout their lifetimes. (More on that below.)  

IRS 10-Year Rule

2. No more ‘stretch IRA’ strategy for many beneficiaries 

Before SECURE 2.0, beneficiaries could use a "stretch" strategy with inherited IRA distributions, potentially allowing for tax-deferred growth over a more extended period. However, a "10-year rule" now applies to many beneficiaries of inherited IRAs. 

  • Due to the SECURE Act of 2019, most beneficiaries can no longer “stretch” distributions over their lifetimes. Instead, many non-spouse beneficiaries who inherited IRAs on or after Jan. 1, 2020, must empty the account within 10 years of the account owner’s death. 
  • The inherited IRA “10-year rule” has raised concerns about annual RMDs for unsuspecting beneficiaries.

But remember that individual circumstances vary, so consult with a trusted tax advisor to determine how to time your distributions strategically while complying with the 10-year rule if it applies to you. And keep in mind that the IRS has delayed some rules and penalties for certain inherited IRAs.


3. Inherited IRA RMD rules are delayed 

Understanding the tax treatment of distributions and inherited IRA RMD rules is crucial for IRA beneficiaries.

  • Inherited IRAs are generally subject to required minimum distributions. Rules vary when the beneficiary qualifies as an “eligible designated beneficiary” (e.g., surviving spouses, minor children, disabled individuals, and individuals who are chronically ill). 
  • RMD rules, including timing and amounts, for inherited IRAs are largely tied to the date of the original account holder’s death.

It’s important to note that the IRS has delayed the final rules governing inherited IRA RMDs — until 2025. This means some beneficiaries of inherited IRAs have had more time to adapt to distribution requirements. 

The IRS will waive penalties for RMDs missed in 2024 from IRAs inherited in 2023, where the deceased owner was already subject to RMDs. (With previous IRS relief, penalties are waived for missed RMDs from specific IRAs inherited in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023.)

However, given all the changes and confusion, it’s a good idea for inherited IRA beneficiaries to consult a tax advisor to determine the correct RMD schedule.

Bottom Line

4. Inherited IRA rules: Individual details matter 

With inherited IRAs, the type of account and specifics involving the account holder and the beneficiary matter when determining tax liability and strategy. Knowing these details if you inherited an IRA can help you plan for distributions' tax consequences and choose the best strategy for your situation.

  • Consult a qualified tax advisor or financial planner to navigate the specific inherited IRA rules and tax implications. 

Inheritance and tax laws can be complex, and individual circumstances vary, so seeking professional guidance can help beneficiaries make informed decisions.

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Kelley R. Taylor
Senior Tax Editor,

As the senior tax editor at, Kelley R. Taylor simplifies federal and state tax information, news, and developments to help empower readers. Kelley has over two decades of experience advising on and covering education, law, finance, and tax as a corporate attorney and business journalist.