Posts

September calendar

Recently my social media feeds were alight with friends and family member’s grinning kiddos holding signs announcing their first day of a new grade. It made me nostalgic! While I wouldn’t want to repeat law school all over again, I do think it’s never too late to head back to the classroom—proverbial or real. So, the GFLF is heading back to school with lessons in English (like legal words/phrases of the day), reading (GoFisch book club) history, finance and the like. Today’s lesson on planned giving crosses over between business and economics, and it’s super important for donors of all gift amounts and nonprofit pros alike.

Back to school

What is planned giving?

Planned giving is the process of charitably donating planned gifts. A planned gift is a charitable donation that is arranged in the present and allocated at a future date. A planned gift is often, but not always, donated through a will or trust. (I would say this is true 80-90% of the time; put another way, planned gifts are bequests 80-90% of the time). As such, planned gifts are very often granted after the donor’s death.

Besides charitable gifts made through wills and trusts after death, other planned gifts include charitable gift annuities; charitable remainder trusts (along with the entire alphabet soup of CRATS; CRUTS; NIMCRUTS; FLIPCRUTS; etc.); charitable lead trusts, and remainder interest/life estates in real property. All these gifting tools/techniques/vehicles I’ve discussed previously, sometimes numerous times.

What is a Nonprofit?

  • You give $20 to a person you meet on the street who lost his bus ticket home.
  • At your local gas station, there is a collection jar for a local child with leukemia. You donate your change.
  • You leave money in your will for your niece Jane, hoping she uses it to continue her collegiate studies in engineering.
  • You have a neighbor who suffers from dementia. You and your friends decide to have an informal walk to raise awareness about the disease and raise money for your neighbor’s health care needs.

While noble, these are not examples of “charitable giving,” as we use the term here. In this context, we are talking about charitable giving to an organization formed under 501c3 of the Internal Revenue Service Tax Code. A 501c3 agency can be known by several terms in general usage, including “nonprofit organization” and “public charity.” For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use the term nonprofit throughout.

Nonprofits cover an extremely broad swath of types of organizations, including schools, churches, hospitals, museums, social services organizations, animal welfare groups, and community foundations.

Nonprofits Must Embrace Planned Gifts

Sometimes nonprofits are overwhelmed at the thought of expansive planned giving because of the number and complexity of some of the planned giving vehicles. How does this match up when you want to donate a less obvious gift than cash, such as stocks and bonds or grain? Nonprofits need to expand their ability to accept gifts of many varieties for at least three reasons:

Craft Beer Factor

The first reason I call the “craft beer factor.” (Bear with me here for a moment). I’m old enough to remember when there were just two kinds of beer. Don’t believe me? You should, as it was immortalized in one of the most famous advertising campaigns of all time–“tastes great, less filling!” This ad campaign strongly implied there were really just two types of beers.

craft beer on table

Then came the craft beer movement. I’m not sure whether craft beers were a response to consumers, or whether craft beers created a demand; presumably both. In any case, now a place like Toppling Goliath Brewing Company in Decorah, Iowa, has about thirty varieties of beers (this is based on an informal count from their website).

Now any retail establishment which sells beer must offer lots and lots of different kinds of beer. Any retail establishment which isn’t able to offer its customers wide variety risks irrelevance, or worse.

This is true not just of beer, but of everything. Another quick example– McDonald’s has around 145 menu items, that’s up from about 85 items in 2007. Also, McDonald’s now offers breakfast items not just in the morning, but all day-long.

Consumers want what they want, when they want, how they want.

Donors expect and often demand the opportunity to use many different options to assist their favorite charities. No longer can nonprofits simply ask folks to pony up cash, or just accept credit cards. Donors want to be able to converse with their fave charity and discuss using their whole portfolio. Nonprofits need to be able to accept, and intelligently discuss, gifting of many different types of non-cash assets.

A nonprofit which doesn’t offer its supporters a wide variety of giving options risks irrelevance, or even worse fates! So, as a donor, if you’re interested in donating an asset that your favorite nonprofit doesn’t typically facilitate, connect them with an experienced nonprofit attorney to make the gift a reality.

Planned Gifts Consist Overwhelmingly of Bequests

Second, planned giving is still mostly about wills and trusts. As already stated, I estimate 80-90% of planned gifts are bequests. Simple! Nonprofits should put substantial efforts to encouraging increased, larger testamentary bequests. Donors who already have an estate plan, but didn’t realize they could designate their favorite organizations as beneficiaries should contact an estate planning attorney.

Everyone can Understand Planned Giving!

Be it strategies for a monthly giving program or facilitating complex planned giving vehicles like NIMCRUTs, the opportunities for continuous learning about different planned giving technique are seemingly endless! And, there are so many different options, that all donors should feel great about supporting their fave causes with tax-wise gifts that work best for them. I strive to offer free information that breaks down different aspects of planned giving in human terms, as well as promoting community opportunities/events for nonprofit professionals.

heart on blue wood

Still need help understanding planned giving or any particular tool or technique? Want assistance coordinating a complex gift? Reach out to me anytime. I offer a free one-hour consultation to anyone and everyone. You can contact at my email (gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com) or on my cell (515-371-6077). I’d truly love to hear from you.

We’re now well into the 25 Days of Giving Series and it’s my intent to provide different aspects and strategies of charitable giving. Given that it’s the season of joy, sharing, and love it’s a great time to be thinking about smart giving (the kind that doesn’t involve gift wrappings, stockings, or bows). Read on to learn how the charitable remainder trust could be a valuable giving tool. 

Charitable Remainder Trust, defined

A charitable remainder trust (CRT) is a split interest trust that pays out income to one or more non-charitable beneficiaries for life (or lives) or a term of years not to exceed twenty. The selected payout rate may not be less than 5%, and no more than 50%, of fair market value (FMV) of assets originally placed in trust. At the end of the trust term, the remaining trust assets (the remainder interest) is distributed to charity selected by the donor; the actuarial value of the charity’s remainder interest must be at least 10% at the time of the trust’s creation.

Benefits of a CRT

  1. Note that a useful attribute of a CRT is flexibility. Although Donor’s transfer of property to the trust is irrevocable, a CRT provides for Donor the right to change charitable beneficiaries.
  2. Note also the tax benefits of a CRT. Donor may receive a federal income tax charitable deduction for the value of the remainder interest in the year of the transfer, Donor may transfer assets without recognition of capital gain tax, and there is no estate tax on the property passing to Charity.

Two forms: CRAT and CRUT

CRTs take one of two forms: a charitable remainder annuity trust (CRAT) or a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT). There are important differences:

A CRAT pays an annuity to the income beneficiary at a selected payout rate that is a percentage of the assets valued at the time of the trust creation. Additional contributions to the trust are not permitted.

A CRUT pays a percentage of the annual value of the trust assets, a unitrust amount, to the income beneficiary. Additional contributions to the trust are permitted.

Variations of CRUTs

Several variations of the CRUT are permitted under the Internal Revenue Code:

  1. A Net-Income CRUT (NICRUT) permits the trustee to distribute an annual payment that is the lesser of the specified percentage of value in that year, or the net income actually earned by the trust in that year.
  2. A NIMCRUT is a CRUT with a net-income limitation subject to a make-up provision. Like a NICRUT, the terms of a NIMCRUT direct the Trustee to pay the lesser of the specified percentage of the value of the trust assets in that year or the net income actually earned by the trust in that year. However, if the payout is less than the specified percentage is paid out in one or more years, the accumulated “income deficits” will be made up in a subsequent year from the excess income above what is the specified percentage of the value of the trust assets in that year.
  3. A Flip CRUT permits the trust to begin its existence as a NICRUT or NIMCRUT, then “flip” into a standard CRUT on the occurrence of a specific triggering event, as provided in the trust document. The flip option is attractive when Donor wishes to donate to the CRUT illiquid or hard-to-market assets, such as real estate or closely held stock.

butterfly on finger

​Knowing if the CRT is a best choice for your charitable giving can be difficult, so I advise speaking with your trusted professional advisors to evaluate your situation. This concept can be confusing, so don’t hesitate to reach out for more information and explore how a charitable remainder trust could be beneficial to you. Feel free to contact me at any time at Gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com or by phone at 515-371-6077.

Money sign against black screen

Charitable remainder unitrusts (CRUTs) are an important charitable giving tool. CRUTs can provide both an income stream and income tax deduction to you as well as a contribution to your favorite charity. In certain situations, though, a traditional CRUT may be limited in effectiveness. Two other types of CRUTs: the NIMCRUT and the Flip CRUT, can be useful alternatives. I’ll explain more about those below and have also written on them in the past.

How CRUTs Work

In a simple CRUT, the donor contributes assets to a trust and may take a current income tax deduction equal to the present value of the gift that will eventually be distributed to a worthy charity. The CRUT pays the non-charity beneficiary (the annuitant can be the donor, or someone else) a percentage of the trust assets, valued each year either for the annuitant’s life or for a term of years (not more than 20 years). At the end of the trust term, the remaining assets go to the charity (or charities) the donor named as beneficiary.

 

Giving flowers in open hands

Simple Example of a CRUT

Let’s say Jill Donor starts a CRUT, funding it with $1 million. Assume that the CRUT terms require the trust to pay Donor seven percent of the value of the trust assets each year for 20 years. Donor will receive a distribution of $70,000 in the first year. If the trust assets grow to $1.1 million in the second year, Donor will receive $77,000. At the end of the trust term, Donor’s favorite charity will receive the balance of the trust assets.

CRUT Defers Taxes on Appreciated Assets

CRUTs can be ideal vehicles to defer tax liabilities on appreciated assets. Why? Because the trustee of a CRUT can sell the appreciated assets transferred to the trust without incurring capital gains tax, although the annuitant is responsible for income tax on the payment she receives each year.

Going back to our example, if Donor sells $1 million of stock, for which she had paid $100,000, she will pay $180,000 in tax, leaving her $820,000. To receive the $70,000 annual income stream she needs, she will have to earn a 9 percent return. If instead she funds a CRUT with the stock, and the CRUT sells it, the full $1 million will be available to invest because the CRUT will pay no immediate capital gains tax.

Stock market sheet

CRUTs and Currently Unproductive Assets

A traditional CRUT won’t work as well when funded with assets that produce no income, such as real estate. If the assets held by a CRUT do not produce enough income to meet the annual payment obligation, the trustee will be forced to use the trust corpus to transfer a portion of the assets back to the annuitant as a part of the payment. Of course, this will reduce the trust’s ability to produce income in the future and leave less for the charity at the end of the trust term.

NIMCRUT Can Hold Currently Unproductive Assets

If Jill Donor in the example were interested in funding a CRUT with assets that are currently unproductive, but likely to be productive at some point over the trust term, she should consider using the net income with make-up CRUT (NIMCRUT) instead.

Under a NIMCRUT, the annuitant receives the lesser of either the net income earned by the trust during the year or a fixed-percentage amount. A make-up account is established for years when the trust pays less than the percentage amount, and any shortfall is made up in years the trust earns more income than the percentage amount.

Using our previous example, if the NIMCRUT earns $60,000 in the first year, Donor will receive a payment in that year of $60,000, because this is less than the seven percent required amount. If the trust earns $90,000 in the following year, and assuming the value of the trust is still $1 million, Donor will receive a payment of $80,000—the $70,000 percentage amount, plus an additional $10,000 to make up for the prior year’s $10,000 shortfall.

By using a NIMCRUT, the trustee avoids having to distribute a portion of the trust corpus to an annuitant as part of the annual payment in years in which the trust does not produce enough income. Thus, a NIMCRUT preserves trust corpus while still, over time, paying the annuitant the percentage he or she is entitled to under the trust.

The trustee, however, may face another issue if the unproductive asset is sold. Generally, the terms of a NIMCRUT forbid the trustee to pay the fixed-percentage amount from capital gains or trust principal. Therefore, the trustee may feel pressured to invest for current yield, and produce additional income to make up prior shortfalls to the annuitant, rather than to invest for total return, which may better serve the long-term interest of the charitable beneficiary.

Money Rubix cube being twisted by haneds

Flip CRUT Can Benefit Annuity and Charity More Equally

To benefit the annuitant and the charitable beneficiary more “equally,” Donor, in our example, might be wise consider a Flip CRUT. The Flip CRUT begins as a NIMCRUT and can be funded with an unproductive asset. This allows the trustee to make small or even no payments to the annuitant in years the trust is earning little or no income. Once the asset is sold, however, the trust flips to a traditional CRUT, which then pays the annuitant the fixed-percentage amount, allowing the trustee to invest for total return.

For instance, using our prior example, if Donor funds a Flip CRUT with an unproductive asset valued at $1 million, the trust will earn no income and Donor will receive no annual payments. When the trust assets are sold and invested in income-producing assets, Donor will begin to receive fixed percentage payments of 7 percent of the trust assets as valued each year, but will receive no make-up for payments not received in prior years.

To qualify as a Flip CRUT, though, at least 90 percent of the fair market value of the trust assets must be unmarketable at the time of trust funding, and the trust’s governing instrument must provide that it will be a NIMCRUT until the unmarketable assets are sold. At that point, it will flip to a standard CRUT and the annuitant will forfeit any make-up payments.

CRUTs, NIMCRUTs and Flip CRUTs

If you want to make a charitable donation while retaining an income stream that can continue for the benefit of your spouse or children? CRUTs, NIMCRUTs and Flip CRUTs can all be effective estate planning techniques to reach these worthy goals.

Wealth is of the heart and mind

Let’s Talk

This concept can be confusing, so don’t hesitate to reach out for more information and explore how a charitable remainder unitrust could be beneficial to you. Feel free to contact me at any time at Gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com or by phone at 515-371-6077.