July 8, 2014

Supreme Court Decisions Impacting Retirement Plans

The Supreme Court recently issued two noteworthy opinions relevant to retirement plans: 

  • In Clark v. Rameker [No. 13-299 (S. Ct. June 12, 2014)], the Supreme Court opined that an inherited IRA is not protected under federal bankruptcy law.  There are certain assets, usually known as assets necessary for the preservation and maintenance of life, which are protected from bankruptcy.  As a general rule, retirement plan assets fall into this category.  The Supreme Court, though, unanimously opined that an inherited IRA, one that is passed by inheritance, is not entitled to this protection.  Their reasoning, in part, lies in the fact that the inherited IRA is immediately consumable by the individual who inherited the IRA and is not subject to restrictions such as early withdrawal penalties; and therefore, cannot be deemed to be assets held for the specific purpose of retirement.  It is important to note that a state law might afford certain protection to these inherited IRAs.
  • In the matter of Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer [No. 12-751 (U.S. June 25, 2014)], the Supreme Court opined that an ESOP fiduciary is not automatically afforded a presumption of fiduciary protection.



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