Tax Planning with IRA Distributions for Surviving Spouses under age 59 1/2

If you are fairly certain you won't need to draw on your spouse's IRAs until you reach age 59-1/2, then the best strategy will be to roll over these IRAs into one or more new IRAs bearing your name as the owner. If you are younger than your spouse was, this approach gives you longer income tax deferral. It also gives you the chance to name your own beneficiaries for the new IRAs.

If you foresee the need to tap your spouse's IRAs before you reach age 59-1/2, you should not roll over your spouse's IRAs into your own IRAs right now because that could expose you to a 10% penalty tax (on top of regular income tax) on withdrawals from the IRAs before you reach 59-1/2 unless one of several exceptions applies.