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None of this applies to retirement accounts with named beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can access the accounts as soon as they can obtain an official Death Certificate.


IRA balances are included in the estate, and can be subject to estate taxes. It appears to get messy when the beneficiaries of an IRA are different than the heirs stated in the will.

Correct. While the testator (the decedent) is free to make other arrangements though the terms of the will, the Estate Tax is usually paid out of the residual estate after non-probate assets and specific bequests are distributed. The problems arise when there isn't enough left in the residual estate to cover the tax liability. The govenment (state or federal) will then seek to recover the tax from the recipients of the non-probate and specific bequest assets. And the government usually wins.

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