Are contingent beneficiaries allowed to stretch inherited IRA and 403(b) distributions over their lifetimes once they inherit them upon the deaths of both the account holder and also the primary beneficiary? Or do they have to draw down the proceeds within a five year timeframe? Does the age of the decedents, or whether they were already drawing Required Minimum Distributions, matter? Are there differences between how inherited IRAs versus 403(b)s are treated?
— Confused beneficiary

A. How retirement assets are passed can be a complicated topic, and you may be smart to enlist the help of an estate planning attorney or certified financial planner to make sure you don’t make any costly errors. If assets remain in the account on the death of the primary beneficiary, then two questions must be answered, said Mary Scrupski, an estate planning attorney with Greenberg, Dauber, Epstein & Tucker in Newark. You must determine who is entitled to the assets in the account, and what are the rules for withdrawal.