Articles Posted in Charitable Remainder Trust

Trusts can be used as a useful tool in your estate plan to accomplish a variety of goals. One example is establishing a split-interest charitable trust. These charitable trusts are an irrevocable trust established for a charitable purpose of your choosing, while at the same time featuring a benefit to a non-charitable trust beneficiary. In addition to tax benefits received under federal law, charitable trusts offer the person establishing the trust, also known as the “settlor,” a controlled process to effectuate their gift to a selected charity. Examples of charitable trusts include a charitable remainder annuity trust (CRAT), charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT), and a charitable lead trust (CLT).

CRATs, CRUTs, AND CLTs

Establishing a charitable remainder annuity trust includes the transfer of property to a trust that first distributes a fixed annuitized portion of the trust property to non-charitable trust beneficiaries, followed by a distribution of the remainder to the tax-exempt charity selected by the settlor. Similar to the charitable remainder annuity trust, a charitable remainder unitrust also includes the transfer of property to a trust that first distributes an annuitized portion of the trust property to non-charitable trust beneficiaries, followed by a distribution of the remainder to the tax-exempt trust beneficiary; however, the amount of the annuity fluctuates with the value of the trust assets. A charitable lead trust differs from the charitable remainder annuity trust and charitable remainder unitrust in that the settlor will designate that the charitable beneficiary will first received a distribution of trust assets at least annually for a set period of time, after which the non-charitable trust beneficiary will receive the remainder of trust property. Each of these three split-interest charitable trusts offer dual benefit to a designated charitable purpose and the settlor’s non-charitable trust beneficiary.

The holiday season is a popular time for charitable giving. It is helpful for those considering gifts–particular sizeable donations–to properly think through all of the tax and legal implications. There are smart ways to make contributions and clumsy ways. As always, an estate planning lawyer or similar professional can explain how any such decision is best carried out.

For example, the Wall Street Journal reported recently on the rise of “donor-advised” funds. The use of these tools is likely spurred by two tax uncertainties in the upcoming year. Will charitable deductions on taxes be limited in the future, counseling toward a large gift this year? Will income tax rates increase next year, counseling toward using the deduction next year instead of this year? It is a somewhat tricky problem, as no one knows for sure what lawmakers might decide.

That is where these donor-advised funds come into play. They are accounts managed by national charities and foundations. The basic idea is that a donor can give the gift this year–locking in a tax deduction–while waiting to actual disperse the funds to the charities as they see fit over time. The funds grow tax-free throughout this period.

Charitable giving is a critical part of many estate plans and not just for the super-wealthy. Many New Yorkers have worked hard their entire lives to ensure the financial well-being of their families. Besides passing on assets to loved ones, many local residents consider it an incredibly important testament to their values to share some wealth with charitable organziations that they hold dear. That does not have to mean donating enough money to have your name placed on the side of a new building. Instead, it often simply means providing a concrete indication of one’s commitment to having a goal beyond oneself and the merit of giving back to others.

However, it is important to be educated about some pitfalls in charitable giving and the ways to make the donations prudently. For example, a brief article from The Hill this month provided a helpful “Do and Don’t” list with regard to charitable donations. The issues shared in the story are worthwhile for donations made at any point in the year as well as long-term gifts like those crafted into estate plans. The underlying theme of the article is a basic checklist of tips to ensure the money you give actually acts to help the individuals that you hope it will and will be used in the manner you desire.

The story points to a list of “charity watchdog” groups that offer comprehensive analysis and recommendations to ensure that your donation is used as efficiently as possible. Those websites include: Charity Navigator, GuideStar, CharityWatch and The American Institute of Philanthropy.

On Tuesday we discussed a few ways that our New York estate planning lawyers incorporate charitable giving into strategies to reduce taxes during inheritance planning. Of course, for most local families who want to give some of their wealth away, the motivation is not just to save tax money for themselves or their heirs in the process. Instead, as an interesting new article discussing the matter in Financial Planning noted, there are many emotional connections behind giving back. A mix of empathy, gratitude, and the desire to make an impact for others are often behind philanthropic efforts included in New York estate plans.

One sociologist suggests that empathy is at the root of most charitable giving–the ability to actually experience the struggles faced by others. Many donors providing support to certain charitable causes see much of themselves, their children, parents, or other family members in those that they are helping. The ability to care for others as an extension of ourselves is one of the most valued human abilities, and many of our clients share that attribute, wanting to incorporate it as part of their long-term planning.

The time that many are conducting estate planning is usually a time when they are winding down their efforts to collect more wealth. As a result it is a natural opportunity to consider other objectives, goals, and wishes. A sociologist familiar with this time in life explained how residents “then face the question of how to live next and impart to their children a moral biography. Most will want to give back because giving is a natural source of happiness.” When reflecting on how far one has come in life, many consider that they themselves were helped along the way. Giving aid to others (financial and otherwise) is a way of returning the help one personally received at a time when it was needed most.

Historically, charitable giving rises about one-third as fast as the stock market. While the stock market gains of 2010 remain slight (Dow is up 1.13% at the time of this writing), New York residents may still want to consider using the charitable remainder trust (CRT) in their estate planning.

This trust works well for those who:

• hold highly appreciated assets • desire an income stream off of the assets • want to donate to charity; and • achieve tax benefits.

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