In addition to direct giving during their lifetimes, many people look at how they can incorporate charitable giving in their estate plans. There are various methods available such as direct gifts to charities, creation and funding of private foundations, giving to pooled income funds and charitable remainder and lead trusts. This article will provide a brief overview and explore some of the basics concerning the charitable lead annuity trust and how it facilitates a taxpayer's charitable goals while preserving and growing assets for beneficiaries.
Fixed Payments to Charity
When you set up a charitable lead annuity trust (sometimes referred to as a CLAT, the intention is for the assets of the trust, and the income they generate, to ultimately one day pass to one or more non-charitable beneficiaries, for example, your children.
Before then, however, you may want one or more charities to receive some of the funds. Under a typical CLAT, the charity receives a fixed payout for a pre-determined number of years or, in some cases, for the lives of specified persons. The payments to the charity remain the same regardless of how the trust performs and no minimum payment is required. In most cases, the rules do not allow your beneficiaries to receive anything from the trust until the trust ends.
Individuals who can be used as the measuring lives for annual payouts would be restricted to the donor's life, the life of the donor's spouse, or a lineal ancestor of the beneficiaries. Some people have tried to artificially inflate the tax benefits of CLATs by using unrelated individuals, such as those who were seriously ill and were expected to die prematurely, as the measuring lives. But the IRS does not allow this and limits measuring lives to such spouse or lineal ancestors.
Understand that the estate or gift tax is based on the actuarial value of the remainder interest to the non-charitable beneficiaries when the CLAT is created and not when the assets pass to your beneficiaries. So when the trust ends, the assets of the trust and the income earned by the trust pass to your beneficiaries tax-free. That is a potentially huge savings of federal estate and gift taxes.
In contrast, if the original trust assets were passed directly to your heirs, taxes could reduce significantly your bequest. Placing the assets in a CLAT helps to preserve - and more importantly - grow them.
Generally, income paid to the charity is subject to tax at the trust level. However, careful planning, such as funding the trust with tax-exempt bonds, can reduce or eliminate any tax liability on the part of the owner. Even with this limitation, the benefits are usually enough to justify this strategy. This is especially the case in our current 2012 low interest environment
Timing the Creation of a CLAT
CLATS need not be set-up after you die. You can fund a CLAT today and see the benefit of your gift as a charity makes good use of it. However, if you want to create a CLAT during your life, keep in mind that you will not be able to use assets in the trust as this trust is irrevocable.
A CLAT -- created either before or after your death -- can continue your legacy of giving to your favorite charities, while yielding overall tax savings for you and your family.
The IRS has some very detailed rules concerning the drafting of these documents. In addition, state rules concerning trust provisions need to be ascertained and complied with when drafting charitable trusts. Obviously these documents require experience and knowledge of these operative rules.
Please contact the office if you have any questions on how a CLAT, or another variety of charitable trust, might work for you.
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