Choose the Right Kind of Self Directed IRA

Are you looking to open a IRA LLC? Find out how it differs from a Custodial IRA and whether it’s a good fit for your assets.

Self Directed IRAs – Two Models 

A Self Directed IRA is a specialized investment account. It allows you to diversify more freely and use retirement funds to invest in almost any asset. Like many financial instruments, a Self Directed IRA has a number of variations. Although every Self Directed IRA must be held by a Custodian, the processing of the IRA and its investing mechanics can vary. Your choice of platforms will depend on the assets you wish to acquire. In this article, we’ll look at the two most popular models: a Custodial version and a Checkbook IRA.

Custodial Self Directed IRA

The Custodial model is more popular for simple investments, i.e. those with minimal transactions. Examples of simple investments include: 

  • investing in a real estate fund 
  • purchasing private stock 
  • lending funds to a 3rd party 

These kinds of investments can be performed directly through the Custodian in an easy 2-step process. 

  1. Provide Madison Trust the instructions of where to send the funds. 
  1. Provide a copy of the Investment Documents (Subscription Agreement, Stock Purchase Agreement, Promissory Note, etc.) to Madison Trust so we can make sure the investor is titled as your IRA. 

The Custodial model is popular because it is economic to set up and relatively easy to use. For one-time investments that are relatively transaction free, it’s a great choice. 


For investments that are transaction heavy (like rental properties), the IRA LLC (also known as a Checkbook IRA) is the preferred vehicle. This is because an IRA LLC gives you the ability to manage the cash on your own and not have to go through the Custodian for each transaction. Each rent payment, repair, or administrative task can be handled by you directly without having to pay any fees. 

How an IRA LLC Works

In the IRA LLC Model, a LLC is created which lists your IRA as the Sole Member and you as the manager. Madison then helps you setup a dedicated checking account for the LLC at your local bank. Once the account is up and running, Madison sends the funds from your IRA to the LLC.  

Your IRA owns the LLC, but you are the manager of the LLC. This means that you can go ahead and purchase a property (it will be titled to the LLC), as well as manage all cash flow right out of the LLC Checking Account. For example, when your tenant pays rent, the funds will be deposited into the LLC Checking Account. If you need to pay a plumber, you would write a check from the LLC Checking Account. 

Advantages of and IRA LLC 

IRA LLCs provide a number of great benefits that are essential for specific assets. 

  • Timing – For investments where speed is of the essence, the real time capability of an IRA LLC is very important. It enables investors to jump on short-lived deals without having to wait for the processing of a middleman. 
  • Pricing – Although an IRA LLC costs more to set up, it will usually recoup those costs by avoiding transaction fees. In the Custodial version, investors have to pay a transaction fee for every action that the Custodian executes on their behalf. In the IRA LLC there are no transaction fees as the account holder is independently performing the transactions.  

Choosing the Best Self Directed IRA Model 

Unless you’re an experienced Self Directed investor, it’s best to discuss your choice of platform with a CISP-trained Madison Specialist. They will be able to evaluate your goals with Self Direction and then recommend the most appropriate platform. Self Direction is a powerful tool and you can harness Madison’s expertise to make it work for you. 

For more information about Self Directed IRAs call us at 800-721-4900 or schedule an appointment with an IRA Account Specialist.

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