Q&A: 529 college savings rollovers

Dear Liz: The beneficiary on the 529 college savings account I manage has no education plans so they cannot use the 529 funds without tax penalty. They also do not work, so I cannot roll the money over into a Roth IRA for them because there is no earned income to qualify for the rollover contribution.

However, I understand that 529 beneficiaries can be changed to a qualified relative. If the 529 beneficiary were changed to a relative, could funds be rolled over to the new beneficiary’s Roth account? Does the 15-year clock reset on the 529 account when changed to a different beneficiary, effectively delaying such a rollover?

Answer: 2024 is the first year that unused money can be rolled penalty- and tax-free from a 529 college savings account into a Roth IRA for the same beneficiary. The law that created these rollovers specified that money can’t be rolled over until the account has been in existence at least 15 years. The IRS has yet to say if the clock restarts when the beneficiary changes, but many tax experts believe that will be the case.