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IRA Contributions After Death

The general rule for making IRA contributions after an individual dies is that you can’t.

IRA contributions after deathFor instance, let’s say that Michael, age 55, earned $50,000 before he died in 2013. If he has not already made an IRA contribution for the year, his spouse, or the representative of his estate, cannot make a contribution for him after his death. IRS has a very logical explanation for this rule - there is no need for a deceased person to save for their retirement. It is hard to argue with that logic.

However, as is the case with many of the IRA rules, there is an exception. Let’s say that Michael is married to Kelly. Kelly lost her job during the recession and has not been able to find another job. Michael has been making spousal IRA contributions to Kelly’s IRA for the last couple of years. We know that there can be no contribution to Michael’s IRA now, but can a spousal contribution still be made to Kelly’s IRA?

Generally speaking, the answer is yes. As long as Kelly files her tax return as married filing jointly, she will be able to make an IRA contribution to her IRA based on Michael’s earned income. There is still a need for Kelly to save for her retirement.

For expert advice on these and other IRA questions after the death of an IRA owner, you can find an Ed Slott trained advisor on our website, www.irahelp.com.

- By Beverly DeVeny and Jared Trexler


well, this was not on my radar at all. Thanks for the heads up and I'll be keeping this in mind for when I have a surviving spouse in the office.

Rick Loek
Member of the Ed Slott Master Elite IRA Advisor Group
Guest author in the August 2013 issue of Ed Slott's IRA Advisor Newsletter.

Thank you for this informative post. I've only just started looking into my own IRA, and as such I've found myself doing a lot of online research about what the best ways to save for retirement are. Do you happen to have any posts about self directed ira rules? I've been looking for different opinions on this method. Thanks again!

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Thursday's Slott Report Mailbag

Consumers: Send in Your Questions to [email protected]

You recently said that a 401(k) distribution would add to your MAGI (modified adjusted gross income) for the purpose of determining if you are subject to the 3.8% healthcare surtax. What about Roth IRA distributions? Would they also count towards your total MAGI income for surtax purposes?


IRA distributions are exempt from the 3.8% surtax, but taxable distributions from IRAs can push income over the threshold amount, causing other investment income to be subject to the surtax. Because Roth IRA distributions are generally tax-free, they don’t count towards your total MAGI.