529 Plans Benefit Grandparents and Grandchildren

As a recent article explains, a majority of wealthier investors prefer to transfer money to their grandchildren through 529 college savings plans. In part, 529 college savings plans are popular because they allow the grandparents to reduce the value of their taxable estate, while also maintaining control of the funds removed from the estate.

A person can open a 529 College Savings Plan for each of his or her grandchildren. The grandparents can then transfer up to the current annual gift tax exemption amount to each account, tax-free. Not only will the 529 account grow tax-free, but any withdrawals made by the grandchildren will be tax-free, as well.

English: A grandfather teaching his little gra...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Importantly, the donors to the account are the ones who determine how the assets will be distributed. For example, if a grandparent unexpectedly has a stay in an emergency room and requires the money, he or she can take the assets back. If this happens, however, any investment gains would be taxed to the grandparents when the assets are withdrawn. This penalty tax, however, is only ten percent. Many donors attempt to “frontload” the 529 account so that they can make a lump sum gift of $65,000, tax free.

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