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Inheritance and 401(k) Contributions: How They Can Work Together for Your Tax Benefits


Content provided for general information. Talk to your advisor to learn about recent updates or other rules that may apply to your situation.

An inheritance can be a significant financial boost, and it's understandable that you would want to make the most of it. One idea you may have had is using the inheritance to contribute to your 401(k) and potentially reduce your taxable income. While this may seem like a smart move, it's important to understand the potential tax implications and whether or not this is an eligible way to contribute.

Consult with a Tax Advisor

Before making any decisions about how to use your inheritance, it's crucial to consult with a tax advisor. They will have the expertise and knowledge to guide you through the potential tax consequences of using your inheritance for 401(k) contributions. They can also help you determine if there are other, more tax-efficient ways to use your inheritance.

Understanding 401(k) Contributions

401(k) contributions are pre-tax, meaning they are deducted from your income before taxes are calculated. This reduces your taxable income, which can result in a lower tax bill. However, there are limits to how much you can contribute each year. For 2021, the limit is $19,500, with an additional $6,500 catch-up contribution for those over 50 years old.

So, in your scenario, if you have already contributed $6,000 to your 401(k) this year, you still have $13,500 left to contribute. If your inheritance is enough to cover this amount, you could use it to max out your 401(k) contributions for the year.

Using Inheritance for 401(k) Contributions

Now, the question remains, is using your inheritance for 401(k) contributions an eligible way to contribute? The short answer is yes, it is possible. However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind.

First, your employer's 401(k) plan must allow for additional contributions throughout the year. Some plans only allow contributions through payroll deductions, so you'll need to check with your plan administrator to see if this is an option.

Second, the IRS has limits on the total amount that can be contributed to a 401(k) in a year. For 2021, this limit is $58,000, including employer contributions. So, if you have already contributed to your 401(k) through payroll deductions, your inheritance contribution would need to stay within this overall limit.

Finally, keep in mind that your inheritance may have tax implications of its own. Depending on the type and amount of inheritance, it could be subject to estate or inheritance taxes. Again, this is where consulting with a tax advisor is crucial.

Potential Tax Benefits

Assuming your inheritance can be used for 401(k) contributions and stays within the IRS limits, there can be potential tax benefits to this approach. By reducing your taxable income, you could potentially lower your tax bill for the year. Additionally, if you have already paid income tax on the $6,000 you contributed through payroll deductions, you could potentially receive a refund on that amount when you file your taxes next year.

However, it's essential to keep in mind that everyone's tax situation is unique, and the potential benefits will vary. That's why it's essential to work with a tax advisor to fully understand the potential implications and benefits.


In summary, using an inheritance to max out your 401(k) contributions can be a smart move, but it's essential to consult with a tax advisor first. They can help you understand the potential tax implications and ensure that this is an eligible way to contribute to your 401(k). Additionally, they can guide you on the best way to use your inheritance for your overall financial plan. With their expertise, you can make the most of your inheritance while also maximizing any potential tax benefits.