U.S. Supreme Court: Inherited IRA's not exempt under federal exemptions

Posted on Jun 12, 2014

IRA's or Individual Retirement Arrangements, are usually set up by people to provide for their retirement. If someone passes away and has named someone else as a beneficiary on their IRA, it is called an "inherited IRA." Regular IRA's can be claimed as exempt by people in bankruptcy.

But the Supreme Court of the United States ("SCOTUS") ruled on June 12, 2014 that funds held in inherited IRA's are not "retirement funds" within the meaning of the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. Sec. 522(b)(3)(C). This case overrules a previous case, Matter of Chilton, 5th Circuit 2012, that had been the law in this part of the United States.

This means that if you file chapter 7 bankruptcy and claim the "federal" exemptions, you cannot keep an IRA that you have inherited from someone else. It has to be turned over to a bankruptcy trustee to be liquidated and used to repay your creditors. That is now the "law of the land" and cannot be appealed any further.

But if you live here in the Great State of Texas, and you can claim Texas exemptions in a bankruptcy case, your inherited IRA is likely still safe from creditors. Texas law, specifically Sec. 42.0021 of the Texas Property Code, provides that inherited IRA's can be claimed as exempt.

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