Most couples pursuing a divorce know that they’ll have to divide property and assets, and may have to consider child support or alimony payments. One thing that most couples fail to consider, though, is their investment in a 529 plan. If you’re going through a divorce, protecting your 529 plan is important. An attorney can help you to understand your rights regarding 529 plans and divorce.
Understanding 529 Plans
Simply put, a 529 plan is a way to save for your child’s future college education. There are two primary types of 529 plans: a college savings plan and a prepaid tuition plan.
One of the main differences between a college savings plan and a prepaid tuition plan is that the latter locks in tuition prices at eligible colleges and universities. So if you purchase tuition credits now, then the child can use those credits at a later date even if the price of tuition has since increased.
A college savings plan, on the other hand, is a savings account where the money will be invested on behalf f the account holder, and the savings can be used at a later date for any college or university.
Washington has the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) plan that allows parents to purchase units where 100 units is worth a year’s worth of resident, undergraduate tuition at a state public university.
Will divorce affect a 529 plan?
Many couples who are facing a divorce have questions about how their assets and savings will be assessed and divided. This also includes 529 plans and divorce.
While it might be assumed that the money in a 529 account belongs to the couple’s child, a 529 plan is actually a marital asset, not an asset of the child’s. Because a 529 plan can only be opened under a single name, the person whose name is on the account can take out money at will. Whoever purchased the plan has complete control of the plan. As such, taking the appropriate measures to protect a 529 plan in the event of a divorce is important.
In short, while the act of getting divorced won’t affect the value of your 529 plan, access to the account may change.
Protecting Your Child’s Interests in 529 Plans and Divorce
Because money from a 529 plan may be removed at any time and for any reason by the account holder (a penalty for withdrawing the money for a non-educational reason may be assessed), having a plan for your 529 if you’re facing a divorce is important.
In order to protect the funds in your 529 plan, as well as your child’s future, there are a few things you may consider doing if getting divorced. One of the most common things that couples do in the event of a divorce is to split the 529 plan between the two partners into two separate accounts, allowing each partner to have autonomy over his or her share of the funds.
Another option you have for protecting your 529 plan is to make sure that use of the funds is specified on your divorce decree. For example, if the decree stipulates that the funds can only be used for education, then an unauthorized withdrawal will result in a penalty. Another option is to include a stipulation in the divorce decree that states that both parties must sign off on a withdrawal.
Finally, you can ask for interested party statements. Interested party statements are statements about the 529 that allow you to view contributions and withdrawals to the account. Even if your name is not on the account, you can still request interested party statements.
Seek the Counsel of an Attorney Regarding 529 Plans and Divorce
If you’re going through a divorce, get help from a divorce attorney. A divorce attorney can provide the following.
- Information regarding your options
- Assistance during the mediation process
- Help to establish clear and fair solutions to the division of property and assets, including what to do with a 529 plan
At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, our attorneys know how challenging going through a divorce can be. To provide you with the legal support that you need, we’re ready to help. Call us today at 425-460-0550 to get started. You can also fill out our contact form.