UGMA stands for Uniform Gifts to Minors Act, which is a code that was adopted in all states to allow the transfer of financial assets to minor children. Except for Vermont and South Carolina, states have now adopted the UTMA (Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) account setup. Generally speaking, the custodian has control of UGMA accounts until such time as the minor reaches the age of distribution. Under UGMA rules, this means the minor has reached age 18 or 21 depending on the state. What happens if a custodian wants to cancel UMGA accounts? First, there are certain criteria that must be met including:
Following the rules of the brokerage - each brokerage will have their own requirements regarding when an UGMA account may be closed. In some cases, they may require that a letter of intent is provided to them. Some may require the custodian to state that the funds are to be used for the benefit of the minor;
Minor has reached distribution age - in the event that the minor has reached the age of distribution (varies by state) the minor is then allowed under UGMA rules to cancel an UGMA account. The minor would be required to submit a letter of intent requesting that the account be closed;
Minor is deceased - in the event that the minor dies before they reach the age of distribution it is possible to cancel UGMA account. In this instance, additional documents may be required depending on the status of the account. If the minor reached the age of distribution before their death, the funds would be required to be transferred to the estate of the beneficiary (not the custodian);
Minor is working [funding Roth IRA] - because there are no specific regulations that have dealt with the legalities of funding a Roth IRA with UGMA funds, it is possible that once the minor is working they can cancel UGMA account to fund a Roth IRA. When doing this it is important to speak to a financial advisor to make sure that these funds will be allowed to be used, based on the income of the minor.
Cancel UGMA - Benefits and Drawbacks
One of the little known facts about UGMA accounts is that there may be legal ramifications if the custodian liquidates the account and does not use it for the minor’s benefit. UGMA accounts represent a gift that is considered fully funded when they are deposited to the minor’s account. This type of legal issue, while not common, is certainly possible. The minor, their guardian or their parent may take legal action against the custodian (if they are a grandparent, or other custodian). This is important, especially as the minor becomes a teenager. Once a gift is made to an UGMA the custodian has taken a tax deduction (gift) and may have received other benefits from these accounts. Anyone who is acting as a custodian on an UGMA or UTMA account should seek legal and financial advice before they cancel UGMA accounts.
- Oppenheimer UGMA/UTMA: An Overview https://www.oppenheimerfunds.com/articles/article_09-23-10-122137.jsp
- Kipplinger: UTMA/UGMA & 529 https://forums.kiplinger.com/showthread.php?2472-UGMA-UTMA-amp-529
- Broken Piggy Bank purchased via istockphoto.com/Captainflash