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Publication 970

Rollovers and Other Transfers(p52)

Assets can be rolled over from one Coverdell ESA to another or the designated beneficiary can be changed. The beneficiary's interest can be transferred to a spouse or former spouse because of divorce.


Any amount distributed from a Coverdell ESA isn't taxable if it is rolled over to another Coverdell ESA for the benefit of the same beneficiary or a member of the beneficiary's family (including the beneficiary's spouse) who is under age 30. This age limitation doesn't apply if the new beneficiary is a special needs beneficiary.
An amount is rolled over if it is paid to another Coverdell ESA within 60 days after the date of the distribution.
Don't report qualifying rollovers (those that meet the above criteria) anywhere on Form 1040 or 1040NR. These aren't taxable distributions.

Members of the beneficiary's family.(p52)

For these purposes, the beneficiary's family includes the beneficiary's spouse and the following other relatives of the beneficiary.
  1. Son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, adopted child, or a descendant of any of them.
  2. Brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister.
  3. Father or mother or ancestor of either.
  4. Stepfather or stepmother.
  5. Son or daughter of a brother or sister.
  6. Brother or sister of father or mother.
  7. Son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law.
  8. The spouse of any individual listed above.
  9. First cousin.


When Aaron graduated from college last year, he had $5,000 left in his Coverdell ESA. He wanted to give this money to his younger sister, who was still in high school. In order to avoid paying tax on the distribution of the amount remaining in his account, Aaron contributed the same amount to his sister's Coverdell ESA within 60 days of the distribution.
You can make only one rollover from a Coverdell ESA to another Coverdell ESA in any 12-month period regardless of the number of Coverdell ESAs you own. However, you can make unlimited transfers from one Coverdell ESA trustee directly to another Coverdell ESA trustee because such transfers aren't considered to be distributions or rollovers. The limit of one rollover during any 12-month period doesn't apply to the rollover of a military death gratuity or Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) payment.

Military death gratuity.(p52)

If you received a military death gratuity or a payment from Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI), you may roll over all or part of the amount received to one or more Coverdell ESAs for the benefit of members of the beneficiary's family (see Members of the beneficiary's family, earlier). Such payments are made to an eligible survivor upon the death of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. The contribution to a Coverdell ESA from survivor benefits received can't be made later than 1 year after the date on which you receive the gratuity or SGLI payment.
This rollover contribution isn't subject to (but is in addition to) the contribution limits discussed earlier under Contribution Limits. The amount you roll over can't exceed the total survivor benefits you received, reduced by contributions from these benefits to a Roth IRA or other Coverdell ESAs.
The amount contributed from the survivor benefits is treated as part of your basis (cost) in the Coverdell ESA, and won't be taxed when distributed. See Distributions, later.
The limit of one rollover during any 12-month period doesn't apply to the rollover of a military death gratuity or SGLI payment.

Changing the Designated Beneficiary(p53)

The designated beneficiary can be changed. See Members of the beneficiary's family, earlier. There aren't any tax consequences if, at the time of the change, the new beneficiary is under age 30 or is a special needs beneficiary.


Assume the same situation for Aaron as in the last example (see Rollovers, earlier). Instead of closing his Coverdell ESA and paying the distribution into his sister's Coverdell ESA, Aaron could have instructed the trustee of his account to simply change the name of the beneficiary on his account to that of his sister.

Transfer Because of Divorce(p53)

If a spouse or former spouse receives a Coverdell ESA under a divorce or separation instrument, it isn't a taxable transfer. After the transfer, the spouse or former spouse treats the Coverdell ESA as his or her own.


In their divorce settlement, Peg received her ex-husband's Coverdell ESA. In this process, the account was transferred into her name. Peg now treats the funds in this Coverdell ESA as if she were the original owner.