Do Self-Directed IRAs Need a Custodian?

When choosing a custodian, it’s essential to ask pertinent questions and compare fee structures across companies offering self-directed IRAs.

Traditional brokerage firms and banks typically limit IRA investments to conventional assets like stocks and mutual funds. With a self-directed IRA, however, you have greater freedom in choosing your investments including real estate and precious metals – something traditional brokerage firms and banks don’t provide access to.


Self-directed Individual Retirement Accounts (SDIRAs) offer more investment choices than traditional stocks and bonds; however, the IRS imposes strict restrictions regarding what can and can’t be invested into an SDIRA.

One of these rules requires you to report the fair market value of real estate and alternative investments annually to help the IRS ensure your IRA funds are being spent appropriately, according to Merryman.

As self-directed IRAs are unregulated, they present more opportunities for fraud. Because the custodian doesn’t verify or confirm each investment’s legitimacy, fraudulent sellers can exploit this loophole by selling fraudulent investments through legitimate custodians. Therefore, it is crucial that investors conduct in-depth research before investing in any nontraditional asset and consult professional tax advice when opening self-directed IRAs.


Many self-directed IRA custodians charge fees when disbursing funds, which may delay your investing process. Thankfully, companies like uDirect and Rocket Dollar offer lower fees for an easier investing experience.

Keep in mind that self-directed IRA custodians do not provide investment advice or conduct due diligence on investments, so selecting one who specializes in self-directed IRAs is key.

If you are investing in alternative assets, look for custodians that specialize in these investments. For example, IRAR provides recordkeeping and audit support for self-directed IRAs that invest in real estate, private equity, cryptocurrency as well as various other alternative assets.

Be mindful to adhere to IRS rules regarding prohibited transactions. For instance, using your SDIRA to purchase property from or rent it out to disqualified people is prohibited and you cannot pay yourself maintenance services from an asset owned by your IRA; doing so would constitute self-dealing which could incur substantial penalties and taxes.


Custodians for Individual Retirement Accounts are banks, trust companies and other entities authorized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). While most custodians are secure and reliable, some do not disclose all fees openly or have been compromised through hacking attacks that compromised customer accounts.

Self-directed IRAs also enable you to invest in more risky alternative assets than stocks, bonds and ETFs – such as real estate, private placements and startup equity investments – which may be harder to sell off or may offer less financial information available about them.

Some custodians do not verify the accuracy of financial data regarding alternative assets, creating problems if you want to sell or withdraw RMDs. Furthermore, certain investments may lack liquidity due to extended holding periods, redemption restrictions and limited markets; it is wise to consult an expert when investing in alternative assets.


Due to their illiquid nature, alternative investments require careful research. Be wary of companies without track records or promising unreasonable levels of return; check for red flags such as new companies with no track record claiming unreasonable levels of returns according to SEC advice; also, confirm information found on custodian statements such as prices or asset values before investing your IRA funds.

Self-directed IRA custodians may include banks, trust companies and other approved entities by the IRS. Check online reviews about each custodian as well as filings against them with federal agencies to learn their reputation and any complaints filed against it.

Merryman emphasizes the need to remember that custodians do not provide financial advice or conduct due diligence on investments placed into an account, something often ignored by fraudsters who target SDIRA investors with scam schemes. Therefore, it is advisable to work with an adviser who can assist in finding legitimate investments that will meet all required minimum distributions when required minimum distributions become due.

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