Self-Directed IRA Custodians

Federal law requires you to have a custodian for every IRA… but are custodians really vital for self-directed IRA’s, or just a necessary evil?  For better or worse, your choice of custodian is one of the most vital choices you’ll make as a self-directed IRA investor.  Below you’ll find answers to the most important questions about self-directed IRA custodians, and you can download a free copy of our Comprehensive List of Self-Directed IRA Custodians and Administrators:

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What is a Self-Directed IRA Custodian?

When Congress created the IRA back in 1974, they decided that you and I weren't sufficiently competent to handle these accounts on our own.  (Yes, I know it's a harsh viewpoint… but it's still true!)

So they decided that if you want to have an IRA, you'd need to go to a special type of financial company to set it up.

This type of company is called a “custodian”.  Custodians meet specific requirements established by the IRS.

To understand what a self-directed IRA custodian does, the easiest comparison is a stock brokerage like eTrade or Charles Schwab.

What do stock brokers – and IRA custodians – do?

  • They execute transactions on behalf of their clients
  • They keep some financial and accounting records for the account
  • They report to the IRS about how the account holder is using the account.

Your self-directed IRA custodian does exactly the same things… but it's sometime a bit more complicated.

For example, consider a real estate investment.  Somebody – that's you – will have to find a great deal and get a contract for the purchase of that property.  But you can't sign the contract yourself.  You've got to forward it on to the custodian for their signature, because…

the assets in your IRA are technically owned by your custodian, for your benefit.  So everything must have the custodian's name on it, not yours.

Similarly, real estate in your IRA will need to do things like get hazard insurance and pay property taxes.  It's your IRA custodian who will – at your direction – handle these tasks.

Picking the right self-directed IRA custodian is one of the most important choices you'll make.  Please study the information I'm providing to you so you get it right the first time.

Why Do Some Self-Directed IRA Providers Call Themselves “Administrators” Rather than “Custodians”?

If you have an IRA of any type, you’ve got to have a custodian… the law requires it.

But some custodians don’t deal with the public directly.  Instead, they just do the work of holding IRA accounts, but they don’t do any marketing or customer service themselves.

So if some custodians do no marketing, how do they find clients like you and me?

They partner with IRA administrators.  IRA administrators are usually independent companies that serve as the marketing and customer service departments of custodians.

So while you’re evaluating IRA custodians, you’ll likely end up evaluating several IRA administrators, too, because sometimes the difference isn’t entirely obvious.

It really doesn't matter very much, ultimately.

At the end of the day, you will use an IRA custodian one way or the other.  The law requires it…

…The only question is whether that custodian does their own marketing and customer service, or whether there’s an Administrator on the front end that handles that for them.

But remember this:  If you do use an IRA administrator instead of using a custodian directly, you still must evaluate the financial health of the custodian that serves that administrator, because it’s the custodian who actually holds your money and assets.

Comprehensive Listing of Self-Directed IRA Companies

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Accuplan Benefits Services406 S Jordan Pkwy #640South JordanUT84095(801) 266-9900
Advanta IRA3525 Piedmont Rd NE
Building 8, #101
AtlantaGA30305(678) 513-8913
American Estate & Trust6900 Westcliff Dr
# 603
Las VegasNV89145(702) 489-6403
American IRA137 Broad StreetAshevilleNC28801(828) 257-4949
American Pension Services (In Receivership)N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Bank of Utah2605 Washington BlvdOgdenUT84401(801) 409-5000
Bitcoin IRA15303 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1060
Sherman OaksCA91403(877) 936-7175
CAMAplan122 East Butler Ave
Suite 100
AmblerPA19002(215) 283-2868
Central Bank of Utah75 North University AvenueProvoUT84601(801) 655-2126
Community National Bank225 Main StSenecaKS66538(785) 336-6111
Entrust Group555 12th Street
Suite 1250
OaklandCA94607(510) 587-0950
First Midwest Bank1 East Erie StreetChicagoIL60611(312) 440-3022
Goldstar Trust Company1401 4th AveCanyonTX79015(806) 354-3540
Horizon TrustP.O. Box 30007AlbuquerqueNM87190(888) 205-6036
IRA Express74 N Main StCedar CityUT84720(435) 867-8008
IRA Innovations100 Concourse Pkwy
BirminghamAL35244(205) 985-0860
IRA Resources825 La Jolla BlvdLa JollaCA92037(858) 459-1212
IRA Services Trust1160 Industrial Rd
San CarlosCA94070(800) 248-8447
Kingdom Trust Company1105 KY-121 bMurrayKY42071(270) 226-1000
Liberty Trust Company101 S. Reid Street
Suite 307
Sioux FallsSD57103(800) 473-1977
Madison Trust Company401 E 8th St
Sioux FallsSD57103(800) 721-4900
Mainstar Trust Company214 W 9th StOnagaKS66521(785) 889-4213
MidAtlantic IRA125 South Carroll Street
Suite 250
FrederickMD21701(240) 575-3880
Midland IRA1520 Royal Palm Sq. Blvd
Fort MyersFL33919(239) 333-1032
Millennium Trust Company2001 Spring Rd
Oak BrookIL60523(630) 368-5600
Mountain West IRA10096 W Fairview Ave
# 160
BoiseID83704(208) 377-3311
Nevada Trust Company9130 W Russell Rd
Suite 310
Las VegasNV89148(702) 696-0000
New Direction IRA1070 W Century Dr
LouisvilleCO80027(303) 546-7930
Next Generation Trust Company401 East 8th St., Suite 200HSioux FallsSD57103(888) 857-8058
NuView IRA280 S Ronald Reagan Blvd
LongwoodFL32750(407) 367-3472
1560 Broadway
Suite 400
DenverCO80202(866) 818-4472
Polycomp Administrative Services3000 Lava Ridge Court
Suite 130
RosevilleCA95661(800) 952-8800
Preferred Trust Company2471 W Horizon Ridge Pkwy
HendersonNV89052(702) 990-7892
Premier Trust4465 S. Jones BlvdLas VegasNV89103(702) 507-0750
Provident Trust Group8880 W Sunset Rd
Las VegasNV89148(888) 855-9856
Quest IRA17171 Park Row Dr
HoustonTX77084(281) 492-3434
Real Trust IRA Alternatives312 East Trow Avenue
Suite 201
ChelanWA98816(509) 888-8100
Self-Directed IRA Services LogoPO Box 23149WacoTX76702(512) 637-5739
Sovereign International Pension1314 Alt 19Palm HarborFL34683(727) 286-6237
Specialized IRA Services6100 Indian School Rd NE
AlbuquerqueNM87110(505) 514-0539
STC Inc. (Security Trust Company)223 N Prospect StHagerstownMD21740(301) 665-2830
Summit Trust (In Receivership)8861 West Sahara Ave
Suite 215
Las VegasNV89117(877) 268-9115
Sunwest Trust10600 Menaul Blvd NEAlbuquerqueNM87112(505) 237-2225
uDirect IRA8 Corporate Park
IrvineCA92606(714) 831-1866
Vantage IRA20860 N Tatum Blvd
PhoenixAZ85050(480) 306-8404

Which Kind of Self-Directed IRA Provider Should I Use:  Custodian or Administrator?

My friends who run IRA custodial companies won't like my saying so, but the truth is:  It doesn't matter whether you use a custodian or an administrator.

Some custodians try to make the argument that it's better for you to go “direct” to the custodian, but so far, I've never seen any evidence that it makes any difference.

You should choose the IRA company – whether custodian or administrator – that you feel meets your needs.

Which Custodian or Administrator Is Best For Setting Up Self-Directed IRA's?

This is actually a pretty complicated issue, but I’ll make it simple for you.

To choose the best custodian for you, I believe you should consider these things:

  • Type of Assets You’ll Purchase: If you only want to buy stocks and mutual funds, then go with a custodian like eTrade or Charles Schwab who specializes in those.  But if you want to invest in real estate or other non-Wall Street assets, you’ll need a truly self-directed IRA custodian.
  • Customer Service Standards: How quickly will your custodian fund your investments?  Will you have a dedicated account representative?  Does your custodian have experience in the specific type of asset you’d like to purchase?
  • Fees: Most IRA custodians charge an annual fee plus a flat fee for specific services or they charge on the basis of the size of your account.  Usually, flat fee arrangements are less expensive.
  • Financial Stability: Is your custodian financially strong?  While it is very rare, sometimes custodians go out of business and cause huge problems.  Note that merely having a large number of accounts or a lot of assets under management is not the same as being financially strong.

For your convenience, there's a listing on the page you're now viewing of every self-directed IRA custodian and/or administrator known to us at this time.

Will My Custodian (or Administrator) Find Investments For Me?

No.  In fact, providing investment opportunities is expressly against the policy of every self-directed IRA custodian I’ve ever encountered.

Providing third-party investment advice is an entirely different business and requires entirely different licensing than is required to be an IRA custodian or IRA administrator.

Remember:  Self-Directed IRA’s are self-directed, not custodian-directed, and that’s to your benefit.  You get to – and must – call the shots yourself.

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About The Author

Bryan Ellis

I am host of Self Directed Investor Talk, which I'm told is America's #1 podcast and for affluent self-directed investors. I'm also something of an expert in self-directed IRA's, solo 401k's and 1031 exchanges. You can find more of my writing in some cool places like TheStreet.com, Entrepreneur.com, ThinkRealty and even Forbes (that was always one of my goals!). I live in metro Atlanta, Georgia with my wife and business partner Carole Ellis(she's a real business partner... not just because she's my wife... I'd want to work with her if I wasn't married to her... and I'd want to marry her, too). I also have 4 children ranging in age from 2 to 20 (yes, you read that correctly). It's my goal to be the name everybody thinks of when they think of Self-Directed IRA's and Solo 401(k)'s.