Trusts to facilitate charitable giving

For many people, when they think about estate planning, they think about outlining their wishes for how their assets will be distributed to their surviving spouse, children, grandchildren or other beneficiaries. While this can be an essential part of an estate plan’s focus, it need not be the only part. A good estate plan may also allow a person the flexibility to provide for family members and to support charitable organizations and causes that they care about at the same time.

As explained by Forbes, the ability to donate to a charity can be limited while a person is still alive as they may need to ensure that they retain enough assets to take care of themselves for the remainder of their lifetime. Donating to a charity as part of a post-death estate plan gives them this ability and also lets them support charitable causes.

Fidelity Charitable explains that there are two different types of trusts designed to provide an income stream for a person or their heirs and to allocate assets to be donated to one or more charities. The two types of trusts are a charitable remainder unitrust and a charitable remainder annuity trust. Both trusts are irrevocable and allow a person to designate income to flow to themselves while they are alive or to another person for a certain length of time. At the end of the designated time, assets then flow to the identified charity or charities.

With a unitrust, a person may add contributions to the assets and the income represents a fixed percentage of the trust’s assets. An annuity trust does not allow additional contributions to be made and the income is a fixed dollar amount.