How to Use an Inheritance to Fund an IRA

By: D. Laverne O'Neal

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about the tax advantages of the IRA. Both the traditional and Roth IRAs are intended to benefit working Americans. Thus, the Internal Revenue Service requires that IRAs be funded with earned income. Though inheritance money is not earned, you can put it in an IRA as long as the amount contributed does not exceed your earnings for the year.

Step 1

Find out your maximum yearly IRA contribution. As of 2012, if you are under 50 years of age, you can put no more than $5,000 in an IRA. IRA owners who are 50 or older can contribute up to $6,000 per year. No matter how many IRA accounts you own, the sum of your yearly contributions cannot exceed the limit.

Step 2

Find out your earnings for the year. You cannot contribute more than you earn, no matter how large your inheritance. So if you inherit $50,000 but earn only $1,000, you can only put $1,000 in your IRA. The IRS considers wages, salary, commissions, tips, taxable military pay and alimony as earned income.

Step 3

Make your contribution by check or by electronic funds transfer. If you are funding a traditional IRA, report the contribution amount on your April 15 tax return to take advantage of the deduction. Roth IRA contributions are not tax-deductible.


  • You have until the April 15 tax deadline to contribute to an IRA. If you did not keep careful income records and cannot recall how much you earned, wait until you receive your W-2 and 1099 forms, which report income data, by mail in late January or February, before you contribute.

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About the Author

D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.

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