I'm trying to determine who would owe the taxes. Here's a simplified situation.
My mother passed away in January 2018. She left an IRA (pre-tax) of $100,000. Her wishes were to liquidate the IRA and distribute the money equally to four children. Her intent was for the estate to absorb the income tax hit, so that the children wouldn't have to deal with the taxes. Let's assume there was no gain or loss on the investment, only that taxes would be due.
My question is, who would be liable for reporting and paying the taxes? Would it be my deceased mother at her individual tax rate or each heir at their individual tax rate or the estate at the higher estate tax rate?
Who was named beneficiary of the IRA?
If the children were named beneficiaries, they should be able to maintain the IRAs intact, and perhaps only have to take required minimum distributions and pay the tax on the RMDs and/or other distributions taken.
If the estate (or if no beneficiary was named, it would probably be presumed the estate becomes the beneficiary, it might depend on state law) was named the beneficiary. The estate would then have the choice to either liquidate the IRA and pay whatever taxes might be due. The remaining proceeds would be distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate (controlled by the will or state law). Or, the estate might elect to continue RMDs if they had been started, if not, then it would have to be liquidated within 5 years. See the following link:
I had this situation personally. The deceased had several IRAs. For some, the beneficiaries were named, and the IRA was split into beneficiary IRAs, (one for each beneficiary). Because the deceased was taking RMDs, the beneficiaries had to take RMDS.
For the IRAs that did not have a named beneficiary, the IRA was liquidated and the funds went into the estate. The estate paid the income taxes (and any state/federal inheritance taxes) and then the remaining proceeds were distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate. The estate beneficiaries are controlled by the will or state law.