This update is courtesy of Barry C. Picker, CPA:
It looks as if Congress has passed, and sent to Pres. Bush, H.R. 7327; Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008, which among other things, suspends the excise tax on the failure to take a minimum distribution. In other words, it suspends the requirement to take a minimum distribution.
However, this provision is effective for 2009 RMDs; unfortunately for most retirees, the problem is that they have to take their 2008 minimum distribution that was computed on a higher asset value, and must take it now from a possibly depleted account. So retirees who have not taken their 2008 minimum distribution will have to sell potential loss assets to meet the 2008 distribution requirement. They could alternatively take a distribution in kind, but if asset values have decreased, they will have to take more shares in order to meet the distribution amount.
The Act states that it does not change the required beginning date for someone whose RBD would be in 2009, nor does it suspend (I think, someone can check me on this) the distribution requirement for someone whose RBD is 2008. So if someone dies, the after death determination of death before or after RBD is not changed. However, if someone is currently a beneficiary under the five year rule, 2009 does not exist, so if the fifth year is 2009, it’s now 2010. If the fifth year would be 2012 it’s now 2013.