Q&A: Direct tuition payment pros, cons

Dear Liz: You recently answered a question from someone whose parents misused trust funds intended for their child’s education. I chose to pay the colleges directly each semester once my grandchildren enrolled rather than give money to the parents. I decided that was the only way I could be assured the money went for what grandma intended.

Answer: Your grandchildren are fortunate to have a generous grandmother, but your strategy has some drawbacks as well as advantages.

Direct tuition payments aren’t considered gifts to the child, which means no gift tax return is required. Your payments could, however, reduce any need-based financial aid the children could get. Also, your approach requires that you be ready and able to make the tuition payments when the children reached college age. Your death or a financial setback could have turned your good intentions into an empty promise.

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