Charitable giving can play an important role in many estate plans. Philanthropy cannot only give you great personal satisfaction, it can also give you a current income tax deduction, let you avoid capital gains tax, and reduce the amount of taxes your estate may owe when you die.
There are many ways to give to charity. You can make gifts during your lifetime or at your death. You can make gifts outright or use a trust. You can name a charity as a beneficiary in your will, or designate a charity as a beneficiary of your retirement plan or life insurance policy. Or, if your gift is substantial, you can establish a private foundation, community foundation, or donor-advised fund.
Making outright gifts
An outright gift is one that benefits the charity immediately and exclusively. With an outright gift you get an immediate income and gift tax deduction.
Will or trust bequests and beneficiary designations
These gifts are made by including a provision in your will or trust document, or by using a beneficiary designation form. The charity receives the gift at your death, at which time your estate can take the income and estate tax deductions.
Another way for you to make charitable gifts is to create a charitable trust. You can name the charity as the sole beneficiary, or you can name a non-charitable beneficiary as well, splitting the beneficial interest (this is referred to as making a partial charitable gift). The most common types of trusts used to make partial gifts to charity are the charitable lead trust and the charitable remainder trust.
Charitable lead trust
A charitable lead trust pays income to a charity for a certain period of years, and then the trust principal passes back to you, your family members, or other heirs. The trust is known as a charitable lead trust because the charity gets the first, or lead, interest.
A charitable lead trust can be an excellent estate planning vehicle if you own assets that you expect will substantially appreciate in value. If created properly, a charitable lead trust allows you to keep an asset in the family and still enjoy some tax benefits.