Motley Fool Answers Mailbag: Can I Move Money Between Coverdell Accounts?

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In this segment of the Motley Fool Answers podcast, Alison Southwick, Robert Brokamp, and special guest Ross Anderson from Motley Fool Wealth Management help out a dad who's been doing the right thing: planning for his children's college by putting money into Coverdell education accounts.

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But their performances have varied, and he wants to give the same help to each child. Turns out it won't be that hard to do.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Nov. 7, 2017.

Alison Southwick: The next question comes from Jerry. "For many years I've been consistently contributing to Coverdell accounts for each of my kids. The good news is that all three accounts have made money; however, the fact that the holdings in the accounts are not identical has led to three accounts with wildly different values. I understand that money left over in a Coverdell can be reassigned to another family member. My question is can that transfer happen before one has finished or started withdrawing on it?"

Robert Brokamp: A good question, Jerry, and good for you for saving for college. Just so we all know, the Coverdell is an education account. If used for qualified higher education expenses or elementary and secondary school expenses, the money comes out tax free, so it's a great account to cover those expenses. Also, unlike the 529 account, you can buy individual stocks, so they tend to be more attractive to the typical Motley Fool listener or reader. That said, the contribution limits are pretty low [just $2,000], but certainly something to consider for some of that money.

The good news, Jerry, is you can move the money between the accounts of relatives, like siblings or spouses, at any point as long as the person receiving the money is not yet 30 years old. If you want to equal out the accounts now, you can do that.

There are technically two ways to do it: one is a rollover and one is a transfer. Go with the transfer because you can do unlimited transfers. You can only do one rollover a year, but you can start doing that now if you want to do that.

Southwick: But as a 529, though, there's no age limit on getting those benefits, right? But with a Coverdell, it has to be younger than 30. Is that correct? Am I understanding you correctly?

Brokamp: Yes, in fact you normally have to open and contribute to the account before you're 18, I think, and you have to use the money by age 30.

Ross Anderson: It sounds ageist.

Brokamp: Yes, but the transferring part you can do to someone who is not yet 30. The 529 doesn't have the age limits, it has much higher contribution limits, and the good news is you can do both, actually, if you can save that much for college.

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