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3 Smart Ways to Pass Wealth to Your Kids

March 3, 2017 2:24 am

Leaving money to your kids can cause unwelcome tax burdens unless you plan ahead and do so wisely. Financial experts at The Motley Fool, recommend three smart ways to pass your hard-earned wealth to your children:

Pass the cash – The IRS lets you give up to $14,000 tax-free per year to each child. You may be able to give them additional sums if they have tuition or medical bills. If you pay those bills -- by sending the money directly to the school or healthcare provider(s), not to your child -- then those sums can be tax-free gifts as well.

Spend it on education - You can help your child avoid student loan debt. One way to do this is with a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA.) As opposed to a 529 plan, a Coverdell allows you to make investment decisions. While that may not matter to a novice investor, it means that a seasoned market participant can maximize stock opportunities as they arise. Distributions from a Coverdell ESA are not taxed if they are spent on qualified education expenses. Caution: you are only allowed to contribute $2,000 per year per child. Furthermore, if the money isn't used for qualifying education expenses, it can be taxed -- which defeats the purpose of the Coverdell. But given that the contribution limits are low, while college costs are historically high, it’s unlikely to be an issue.

Use a Roth IRA - From an estate-planning standpoint, a Roth IRA has useful features. You can contribute to it as long as you have earned income, and you're not obligated to withdraw any money for as long as you live, so you can leave your investments to grow for the rest of your life. Your heirs won't have to pay tax on withdrawals so long as the account has been open for at least five years. After your death, your kids can take the proceeds as a tax-free lump sum, or allow the money to grow and compound for years. (They will, however, have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from the account beginning in the year you die.)

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