The main reason is that the Grantor, the person setting up the trust, gets income tax, estate and gift tax benefits, while also allowing for the property to be invested in the trust for some period time before the trust terminates and everything is given to charity. While the trust is in existence, that Grantor or the Grantor’s family could benefit by getting distributions from the trust.
With regard to those distributions, there are two accepted methods for calculating them: they can be unitrust amounts or be handled as an annuity, and which of these methods will be followed is determined at the outset and drafted into the trust agreement. A unitrust amount would be a fixed percentage of the total value of the trust, as determined each year, and an annuity would be calculated based on the duration of the trust, which could be a term of years or the Grantor’s life expectancy. Strict rules for these calculations are laid out in Treasury Regulations to the tax code.
For these trusts to be successful, it is critical that the Trustee understands how to administer the trust while complying with these regulations. I would highly recommend an estate planning attorney, an appraiser, and an accountant be involved. The attorney would not only draft the trust agreement, but also advise during the administration, the appraiser would determine the value of the property at the time it is transferred to the trust, which is important since the calculation of distributions hinges on that initial value, and an accountant can calculate the tax deduction and prepare appropriate returns every year.
Charitable Remainder Trusts take a special place in the family of trusts we use for estate planning. They are tax exempt entities! That means that income generated in the trust, is not subject to income tax. That is why these trusts are attractive for Grantors who own appreciated assets or assets that may significantly appreciate in the future, since the sale within the trust would not be subject to capital gains taxes.
The annual distributions to beneficiaries, however, are subject to income tax. Do CRTs provide any other tax benefits? Yes, estate and gift tax benefits. If the person who receives distributions from the trust is the Grantor or the Grantor’s spouse, the initial transfer to the trust will not reduce the available estate tax exemption. When the Grantor dies, no estate tax is due, because the estate gets a charitable deduction for the remaining assets in the trust, as they all go to charity.
If the persons who receive distributions are others, such as the children, then a portion of the value of the property transferred to the trust will reduce the available estate tax exemption. However, the property would be forever removed from the Grantor’s estate, and neither the value of the property nor any further growth would add to the Grantor’s estate at death. While setting up a CRT may sound complicated, the right team of professionals can help smooth the process and help administer the trust year in and year out.