The acronym IRA stands for "individual retirement account." As the name suggests, IRAs are individual accounts and can only be in one name. Unlike a bank account, which you can open in joint name, your IRA must be in your name only. In certain situations, such as your death, the name on your IRA may change, but no IRA can ever have two owners.
You can only fund an IRA with taxable compensation you have earned. If you don't earn any money, you can't make an IRA contribution. One exception to this rule is if you have a non-working spouse. You can make a contribution of your own money to the IRA of your non-working spouse, but you still can't attach your name to it. Your spouse's IRA must remain in her name, even if she didn't contribute to it with her own earned compensation.
If you die and your spouse inherits your IRA, she has the right to treat the IRA as her own. This means he can put his name on it and take yours off. The assets in the IRA will remain the same. The spouse may want to keep your name on it for sentimental reasons, but the IRS won't allow that.
Your IRA will get a title closest to a joint account if you die and leave it to anyone besides your spouse. Non-spousal beneficiaries can't put their own name on the IRA. Its title must reference both you as the deceased account owner and the name of your beneficiary. For example, the account might read, "Jake Jones IRA, deceased, for the benefit of Johnny Jones." While there are two names on the IRA, only one is the true account owner. Your beneficiary is obviously the only one who can still maintain control over the account.
Even in a business retirement plan, in which numerous IRAs are attached to a single master plan, each IRA must be in one name only. A simplified employee pension IRA, or SEP-IRA, is a perfect example of this. Under a SEP program, each employee has his own IRA account into which the company can make contributions. For a large company, there can be hundreds or even thousands of individual SEP accounts established under a single SEP plan. However, each employee's SEP account is still a single-name, individual retirement account.
After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English from UCLA, John Csiszar earned a Certified Financial Planner designation and served 18 years as an investment adviser. Csiszar has served as a technical writer for various financial firms and has extensive experience writing for online publications.