Grandparents and 529 Plans
3 important 529 Plan questions to ask
For generations, one of many ways grandparents have chosen to support their offspring is to help fund their grandkids’ education. They may have done so via designated savings accounts, trusts or simply by writing a check. Introduced in the mid-1990s were 529 Plans, an education savings plan offering tax benefits to the plan funder as an incentive to help them save for their grandchildren’s college or post-secondary education expenses.
The unique tax advantages of 529 Plans have made them an increasingly popular way for grandparents to help cover tuition, room and board, computer software or other equipment needed for the student. And thanks to the 2017 Tax Laws, savings from a 529 account may now also be used to pay for tuition at K-12 private or religious schools (with certain caveats regarding annual withdrawals for students of pre-college-age). We would be happy to discuss such details with you at your convenience.
Whether you already have a 529 Plan for a grandchild or are considering opening one, here are three questions you should ask.
Who should own the 529 plan?
Anyone can own a 529 Plan –– grandparents or parents –- and the owner can select (and change) the beneficiary of the plan, as well as direct the plan’s investments or trust their financial advisor to do so. However, while the grandparents may be the ones funding the 529 Plan, it might make more sense for the parents to officially own it.
Here’s why. It’s a matter of putting the student in the best possible position for obtaining financial aid, if needed. When applying for financial aid, the family must complete a form called FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Part of the FAFSA form is something called the EFC (Expected Family Contribution). The EFC takes into account the student’s income and assets and the parent’s income and assets.
If grandparents own the 529 Plan, the savings that come out of the plan are considered part of the student’s income on the FAFSA form for two years after the funds are received. By FAFSA calculations, income for the student is weighted significantly higher than if it were income for the parents, which means the funds can work against the student in terms of financial aid eligibility.
Can grandparents gift the plan to their adult kids?
A better idea might be for the grandparents to gift the plan to their adult son or daughter (parent of the student) and let them, in turn, make the 529 contribution. However, making this switch in ownership of the 529 Plan is not permitted in all states, so you will want to explore your options.
Can grandparents continue to deduct the contribution?
If the 529 Plan is gifted to their adult kids, can grandparents continue to deduct the contribution? In Ohio, you can, but again this rule changes by state so you will want to do your due diligence.
Let us know if we can help. Our Lenox professionals are experts in education funding.
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