To combat rising college costs, parents with young children often have to start early by saving the college funds and by taking advantage of programs like 529 Plans as part of their overall estate and financial plan.
A 529 plan is not just a plan to pay for college tuition. The plan offers a broad list of “qualified expenses” including, room and board (if enrolled at least half-time), books, supplies and equipment, computer and technologies, special needs, and of course, tuition and fees. It covers the gap that a scholarship or grant may not allow. It cannot, however, be used to pay for transportation, health insurance, and personal expenses.
Section 529 plans could be used to pay for many types of colleges. Unlike free tuition programs for two-year colleges, 529 Plan funds could be applied to tuitions for out-of-state public college, private colleges, four-year, two-year, as well as in-state public college. It could also be used for professional schools, graduate programs, or any education with or without a certificate. One caveat is that a 529 plan cannot be used to pay off a student loan.
Up to $10,000 of the 529 plan funds could be applied to K-12 tuition each year.
A 529 plan can be a useful estate planning tool for its versatility. There is no annual contribution limit other than the maximum annual gift tax exclusion. Superfunding could spread the contribution evenly over a five-year period. This amount is immediately deducted from the contributor’s estate as a lifetime gift tax exclusion. Each state has its aggregate contribution limit for the maximum amount to the account. It could also be rolled into an ABLE account for a disabled beneficiary or converted to benefit the account owner for his or her own education.
There is no limit on accumulated earnings. If used on qualified expenses, the earnings are tax-free. In addition, many states offer tax breaks on contributions to the state’s 529 plans. It can be important to know that unqualified distribution of 529 earnings is subject to income tax plus a 10% penalty, and a possible recapture of the state tax break.
To learn more about utilizing a 529 savings plan in your estate plan, please feel free to contact our office to schedule an appointment.