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I'm not sure an IRA can be subject to the provisions of a life estate

It can't. Since it appears his current spouse is the 100% beneficiary with the daughters as contingent 50/50 beneficiaries, the spouse can simply move the entire thing into her name upon his death, and the daughters get squat upon her death (unless she names them herself).

It appears there's a gigantic can of family worms lurking here, so I'll not offer any advice other than, as others have suggested, Pops needs to go over this thoroughly with his estate lawyer to make sure that what he wants to happen happens. I'm no lawyer, but I think having a trust named 100% beneficiary, then handling things through the trust would work. As for OP's specific concerns about the grandson, nothing says Pops couldn't name the grandson instead of his daughter.

Rule Your Retirement Home Fool
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