We often provide information and advice related to estate planning in terms of establishing a will, trust or living will. However, every year millions of Americans are on the receiving end of those wills and trusts and must sort out what to do with inherited assets.

For these individuals, enlisting the assistance of an estate planning professional can help reduce confusion and avoid possible tax liabilities. In this two-part blog post we’ll examine some of the most common issues heirs must attend to and contend with when inheriting assets or property.

In the coming years, individuals considered to be part of the baby boomer generation stand to inherit assets worth an estimated $8 trillion. For individuals who are ill-prepared, a large inheritance can sometimes prove to be more of a burden than a blessing.

Upon inheriting assets, individuals are advised to take the time to meet with a financial planner and estate planning attorney. These financial professionals can provide sound advice and assistance in ensuring assets are transferred or distributed in a manner to avoid possible tax penalties.

The bulk of inherited assets are likely to be in the form of a traditional or Roth IRA. The rules related to transferring retirement assets are complex and, if not followed, can result in an individual paying hefty tax penalties or being forced to liquidate accounts prematurely.

For example, if an adult inherits assets from a parent’s IRA account, a new “inherited IRA” account should be established. There are also strict rules and guidelines that must be followed with regard to how the IRA is named and how the assets from the original IRA are transferred to the new account. There are also rules related to how and when assets from an inherited IRA must be taken.

In our next post we’ll continue to look at ways heirs and beneficiaries can protect and grow inherited assets.

Source: Kiplinger, “Heirs Should Treat Windfall With Special Care,” Susan B. Garland, Feb. 2014