Can You Benefit From a Charitable Remainder Trust?

Generosity and philanthropic motives are important factors behind most charitable giving. However, they are often not the only factors. Many investors also may be motivated by significant tax, investment and estate planning advantages associated with the making of charitable gifts through a charitable remainder trust.

If you are an investor in your 50's or older, or nearing (or already in) retirement, and if you currently own highly appreciated securities, you may wish to consider a charitable remainder trust in order to take advantage of the tax benefits provided by such a trust. Through a charitable remainder trust, you may receive:

  • Relief from immediate capital gains taxes on the sale of contributed assets.
  • An income stream for the rest of your (and your spouse's) life.
  • A current-year income tax deduction.
  • The potential to reduce estate tax liabilities.
  • The ability to diversify your investment portfolio.
  • The personal satisfaction that comes from supporting a favorite charity.

How a Charitable Remainder Trust Works

A charitable remainder trust is created to provide lifetime or term income payments to you (and/or your family members), while the remainder is eventually payable to a qualified charitable organization. Your payments, subject to income tax, may be an annual fixed dollar amount (an annuity trust) that is equal to a percentage of this trust's initial value, or they may be variable annual payments (a unitrust) equal to a percentage of the trust fund. In this case, the fund is revalued each year.

Because a charitable remainder trust is tax-exempt, appreciated assets transferred by you to the trust may be sold by the trustee free of immediate capital gains taxes. Assets in the trust may then be reinvested in a high-quality diversified portfolio, which can potentially generate increased income.

Another benefit a charitable remainder trust can provide you is a charitable income tax deduction in the year you fund your trust. Keep in mind that your deduction will be less than the total value of the trust assets if you or other beneficiaries are to receive payments from the trust.

An additional tax advantage provided by a charitable remainder trust is that assets transferred to the trust will not be counted as part of your estate. This helps to reduce the value of your estate, which could reduce potential future estate taxes. Federal and state estate taxes range between 38-50% on taxable estates valued at $1,000,000 or more for 2002 and 2003.

Wealth Replacement

Many individuals who are interested in establishing a charitable remainder trust ask about leaving assets to heirs. While assets in the charitable remainder trust must go to the charity upon the death of the surviving beneficiary, the increased cash flow and tax savings that result from the trust may be used to purchase life insurance in an irrevocable life insurance trust. With a properly structured life insurance trust, (1) premiums are paid with dollars that would have gone to taxes, (2) proceeds are outside the estate and are not subject to estate or inheritance taxes, and (3) proceeds are received by your beneficiaries income tax-free.

Please keep in mind that a charitable remainder trust is irrevocable. Assets in the trust will eventually go to your designated charity. Consult your tax and legal advisors to be sure a charitable remainder trust fits into your overall estate plan. If it does, you may enjoy significant tax, investment and financial benefits as well as leave a lasting legacy to your favorite charity.

Contributed by Kerry P. Felski, Senior Vice President
Morgan Stanley
2 Penn Plaza - 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10121
(800) 573-7362

This article does not constitute tax or legal advice. Consult your tax or legal advisors before making any tax or legally-related investment decisions. This article is published for general informational purposes and is not an offer or solicitation to sell or buy any securities or commodities. Any particular investment should be analyzed based on its terms and risks as they relate to your specific circumstances and objectives.