Who Can Be The Trustee Of An IRA?

Monday, March 4th 2024

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) play an invaluable role in building secure financial futures for retirees. In managing an IRA, it’s key to understand its trustee and his or her duties – so with that objective in mind this article explores possibilities to answer the question: “Who Can Be the Trustee of an IRA?”.

What Is an IRA?

Let’s quickly introduce what an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is: it is a tax-advantaged account designed to assist individuals save for retirement by tax-deferral. IRAs come in several varieties including Traditional, Roth, SEP, and SIMPLE accounts with each having specific features and tax implications; account holders are ultimately responsible for selecting an institution or person as their trustee of choice when opening one of these IRA accounts.

Who Is an IRA Trustee?

An IRA trustee, also referred to as custodian, is either a financial institution or individual that holds your IRA assets safely for storage and administers your account according to IRS (Internal Revenue Service) rules and your agreement terms. Trustees play an essential part in the successful functioning of any IRA by ensuring transactions adhere to legal and regulatory compliance and rules set out within it.

Who can be an IRA Trustee?

There are certain requirements a person or entity must satisfy to act as an IRA trustee, according to IRS Publication 590. IRA trustees must either be banks or IRS-approved non-bank entities.

According to IRS definition, banks include entities such as:

Nonbank trustees or custodians, on the other hand, require prior IRS approval to serve as IRA trustees – this often includes brokerage firms, mutual fund companies and trust companies.

Approval from the IRS depends on evidence provided to demonstrate compliance with Sections 408(a)(2) and 408(a)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code pertaining to financial soundness, record keeping and reporting requirements.

Notably, individuals may serve as trustees for certain types of trusts; however, individuals cannot typically act as the IRA trustee themselves. An approved bank or nonbank entity is typically selected instead to ensure the IRA trustee possesses both resources and expertise required to properly administer an IRA in accordance with all tax laws and regulations.

Responsibilities of an IRA Trustee

An IRA trustee plays many essential functions, such as:

A trustee is also accountable for making sure all transactions in an IRA comply with IRS regulations, such as monitoring contributions that exceed maximum allowable limits or overseeing distributions so they meet IRS rules.

Picking an IRA Trustee

Finding an appropriate trustee for an IRA should be approached carefully. Factors to consider include investment options, fees, customer service levels, and reputation – each potential trustee could offer different services and charge different rates; so be sure to research before making your choice!

How Can You Change an IRA Trustee?

At times, an IRA owner may wish to switch trustees of their account due to dissatisfaction with current services, searching for better investment options at reduced fees or enhanced customer support services.

If you are thinking about changing the trustee of your IRA, it is vital that you realize it’s within your rights. Changing trustee usually involves a trustee-to-trustee transfer in which funds move directly from one trustee to the next without distribution to you as this should avoid tax consequences for this move.

However, when changing trustees, it’s essential that any nominee you select be approved by the IRS to prevent legal or financial complications from arising. It would also be prudent to verify whether any fees apply when moving your account – some trustees charge transfer-out fees when moving an IRA between institutions.

The Role of Trusts in IRA Planning

Although individuals cannot normally serve as trustees for Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), trusts can still provide you with some control of the assets beyond an IRA owner’s lifetime and should be used as part of estate planning strategies. A trust can serve as the beneficiary and its trustee would have access to them upon his or her passing away – thus adding another level of control over assets beyond what can be controlled directly through individual account ownership. This strategy could prove integral for effective estate planning strategies.

Trusts that are named as beneficiaries for an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) essentially take over as successor beneficiaries when an IRA owner dies and transfers his or her IRA assets into it for management under its terms by an appointed trustee.

It is important to keep in mind when establishing trust beneficiary rules is their complexity, so that you can avoid negative tax consequences. The trust should be compliant with the law of the state, be irrevocable after death, and include distinct beneficiaries. Further evidence must be submitted as necessary to the IRA custodian.


An IRA trustee plays an invaluable role, managing and overseeing your savings to meet IRS guidelines while fulfilling your long-term financial plan. They play a critical part in making sure they flourish according to plan – their selection can have significant bearing on its success! Choosing wisely when picking an IRA trustee could have profound ramifications on its outcome and success of long-term financial planning strategies.

As IRS regulations restrict trustee selection mainly to banks and IRS-approved non-bank entities, their selection pool remains expansive enough for satisfying investors with different investment needs. When selecting your trustee, remember the responsibilities they shoulder as an investor while understanding your rights as an investor – this way you’ll maximize all the advantages an Individual Retirement Account brings and ensure financial security for yourself and future generations.

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