Financial & Estate Planning

A 529 college savings plan usually is owned by one person. There is one beneficiary: the college-bound or in-college student. However, you may not want the student-beneficiary to be the replacement owner if you die or become disabled.

Most 529 plans permit the account holder to designate a successor, who’ll take over in case of death or incapacity. If you die without a named successor, your 529 accounts probably will pass to your estate. Then they will be distributed according to your will, which might not be the result you’d like.


Suppose your will calls for your assets to be divided between your two children, one who has children of his own and one without children. The childless heir might get one-half of your 529 accounts and spend the money on things other than higher education.

You avoid such an outcome by naming a successor owner and a secondary backup on the 529 plan form. If there is no space for a backup, write down you choice on a separate sheet and attach it to the 529 form.