Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario: Calculating the Required Minimum Distribution

Question: I turned 70 last year and am trying to calculate my required minimum distribution or “RMD” on my individual retirement account. There are a number of tables I could use and I would like to know the differences among them.

Answer: There are currently three tables in use for purposes of computing RMDs. All three tables are “unisex” (life expectancy for men and women is the same), namely, the Uniform Lifetime Table, the Single Life Expectancy Table and the Joint Life Expectancy Table.

The Uniform Lifetime Table will be used for calculating the RMDs of plan participants who have reached the age of 70 ½. Mostly likely this is the table you will use. However, if your spouse is the sole beneficiary of your plan and is more than 10 years younger, then you have the option to use a more favorable table – the Joint Life Expectancy Table.

The Joint Life Expectancy Table is used only for lifetime distributions when the spouse is sole beneficiary for the entire year and is more than 10 years younger than the plan owner. Marital status is determined on January 1 of each distribution year for purposes of computing that year’s RMD.

The Single Life Expectancy Table is only used by beneficiaries to compute the RMD on inherited retirement accounts.

Comment: Annual RMDs are basically determined by dividing the prior year-end account balance by the life expectancy factor (from the IRS table). This is referred to as the divisor. It is certainly advisable to check with a professional on the RMD as the IRS penalties for erroneous distributions tend to be quite harsh.

As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please let me know.


Steven E. Shane

Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.

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