Charitable Trusts

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Description Charitable Unitrust

In a charitable lead trust, a donor transfers property to the lead trust, which pays a percentage of the value of the trust assets, usually for a term of years, to the charity. At the end of the trust term, the remaining assets in the trust and any growth it has realized are passed to donor's heirs. Although there is no income tax deduction when the donor creates a charitable lead trust, his/her gift or estate tax is greatly discounted and any growth is passed to his/her heirs gift and estate tax free.

In a charitable lead unitrust, a donor irrevocably transfers cash, closely held securities or other valuable property to a trustee who, during the unitrusts term, invests the unitrust's assets. Each year, the trustee distributes a fixed percentage of the unitrust's net asset value, as calculated annually, to a named charity. These payments are made out of trust income (or trust principal if the trust income is not adequate) and are tax deductible as a charitable contribution for the year in which they are made. If, however, trust income exceeds the charitable payment for a given year, the trust pays income tax on the excess.

When the lead unitrust term ends, the unitrust distributes the remainder of its accumulated assets to a non-charitable remainderman, usually family members or other beneficiaries named by the donor. That amount is subject to federal gift tax based on the current fair market value of the gift at the time the trust is established. Gift tax is paid on the remainder interest as calculated from the current fair market value of the asset at the time the trust is established; generally this amount is much less than the estate tax would be on the asset as calculated at the time it is inherited.

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Charitable Trusts