The mother is currently in at least the 25% marginal tax bracket based on her annual $60,000 pension income plus the required minimum distributions from her IRA. If she is also receiving social security benefits and taxable income from the $300,000 in non-retirement accounts then she may be just barely in the 28% bracket. If she converts the IRA to a Roth IRA, then she will pay federal income tax on the conversion amount at approximately a 28% rate. However, she will no longer have to take required minimum distributions and her children will inherit the Roth IRA income tax-free. If she doesn't convert then the children will inherit the traditional IRA and be forced to pay income taxes on withdrawals at their tax rates of 35% or higher (depending on tax rates in future years). If her gross estate is about $400,000, then federal estate and CO (if she is a resident there) estate taxes will not be an incurred so gifting is not a consideration for purposes of avoiding estate taxes. If the non-retirement assets consist of financial assets (such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc) then any gifts of those assets will transfer the mother's cost basis on those assets to the children thereby losing the benefit of stepped-up date of death cost basis that would be available to heirs if instead they inherited those assets. However, one advantage of making gifts now would be that if the mother enters a nursing home more than 5 years after the date of the gifts (the look-back period) then those assets would be exempt from being considered resources in an application for medicaid eligibility.