Here are some issues grandparents should consider before making gifts to grandchildren or other family members.Read more
Gifts to Grandchildren: 529 Accounts
- March 16th, 2016
This type of account, named for Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, enables you to reduce your taxable estate while earmarking funds for the higher education of a grandchild (or any other family member). Funds contributed to such accounts are invested to pay for a grandchild's college tuition, room and board, or other expenses. The account funds are usually invested in mutual funds, and earnings from these accounts are tax-free. (Prepaid 529 plans are an alternative to traditional investment 529 accounts; for more on these, click here.)
You can contribute up to $14,000 (in 2016) per year ($28,000 for a couple) to 529 accounts without incurring a gift tax. Or, if you prefer, you can contribute up to $70,000 ($140,000 for a married couple) in the first year of a five-year period, as long as there are no additional gifts to that same beneficiary over the five years. In other words, 529 accounts can be a quick way of getting a sizable amount of money out of your taxable estate (although if you die within the five-year period, the portion of the contribution allocated to the years following your death would be included in your estate). An added benefit is that donors to these accounts can take the money back later if needed, although they pay a penalty of 10 percent of earnings. However, this power to control the assets means that the savings in a 529 account will be counted as an available asset under Medicaid rules in the event the account holder requires long-term care.
Local Elder Law Attorneys in Ashburn, VA
Ron M. Landsman, P.A.
Ron M. Landsman has been practicing elder law since 1983, before it was known as elder law, originally with Landsman and Laster, Washington, D.C., then Landsman, Eakes and Laster, also in Arlington, VA, and since 1990 in his own practice in Montgomery County, Maryland. He has been among the most active members of the...
Margaret A. O'Reilly, PC
Margaret A. O’Reilly is an estate planning and elder law attorney with over thirty-five years of legal experience. Attorney O’Reilly graduated from Duke University with a degree in psychology, and received her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts. For over 15 y...
Needham Mitnick & Pollack, PLC
Susan Pollack served as Chairperson of the Falls Church Senior Citizens Commission from 1997 to 2011 and was on the Executive Board of the Falls Church Education Foundation. She has also served on the Board of Directors of the Alzheimer’s Association of the National Capital Area and is a member of the Arlington B...
If the grandchild uses the funds for any purpose other than higher education, the earnings are taxed as ordinary income to the account owner (you) and a 10 percent penalty is assessed on investment gains. Since you are the account owner, such accounts generally do not affect a child's eligibility for financial aid. This change may increase a student's chances for financial aid since qualified withdrawals will no longer be considered income to the student. Moreover, you can change beneficiaries at any time, as long as the new beneficiary is a member of the original beneficiary's family. (The tax law enacted in 2001 expanded the list of family members to include the first cousin of the original beneficiary.) Most states now permit or are planning to permit 529 account plans, and many investment firms now offer them as tax- and estate-planning vehicles for their clients.
The Web site www.savingforcollege.com can help you compare the many state plans. In addition, Wisconsin elder law attorney Timothy P. Crawford has prepared excellent materials on 529 accounts that can be found in ElderLawAnswers' State Content area under Wisconsin. In addition, click here for a good guide to choosing a 529 plan.
Last Modified: 03/16/2016