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Charitable Remainder Trusts

A charitable remainder trust can help you maintain or increase your income while making a significant gift to Amherst College.

If your trust grows, your payments will grow too, providing a hedge against inflation. A trust provides more flexibility than other life income plans.

A charitable remainder trust could be right for you if:

  • You want to provide income for yourself or others.
  • You want the possibility of income growth.
  • You want to save income taxes or capital gains taxes.
  • You want to choose the person who administers your gift and guides its investments.
  • You want to make a generous gift to Amherst.
  • You are considering a gift amount of $100,000 or more.




Please note: All life income gifts to Amherst must have a 25% remainder gift to the College per our gift acceptance policy.

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Separate trust 
A charitable remainder trust is a separate tax-exempt trust governed by a trust agreement. You choose the trustee who is responsible for administering the trust and guiding the investment of your gift assets. Amherst will serve as trustee, and will prepare the trust agreement for you and your attorney to review, at no cost to you, as long as the College is at least a 51% beneficiary of the remainder of the trust.

Irrevocable gift 
A charitable remainder trust is an irrevocable arrangement. Once you transfer assets to the trust, you cannot change your mind and get the assets back. This requirement assures that whatever value remains in your trust when it ends will go to support Amherst.

Payments vary with value of trust 
Each year, your trust will distribute a fixed percentage of its current value, as revalued annually. If your trust's value goes up from one year to the next, the payments will increase proportionally. Likewise, if your trust's value goes down, the payment amount will also go down.

Remaining assets to Amherst College
When your unitrust ends, all of its remaining principal will become available to support Amherst.

Payment percentage 
You choose the percentage of your unitrust’s value that it must pay each year to its income beneficiaries. The payment percentage must be at least 5%. It may be to your advantage to choose a relatively low payment percentage so that your unitrust’s assets have the best chance to grow. If the value of your unitrust grows, so will its payments. A payment rate of 5% to 6% is typical. Payments are usually made in annual, semiannual, or quarterly installments. 

Payment flexibility 
You can include special payment provisions in your trust that make it a good way to give debt-free real estate or other assets that may take time to sell. In this situation, you can limit your trust's payments to its net income or its trust percentage, whichever is less. This way, your trustee can take whatever time is necessary to sell your assets at a fair price. If your trust's net income is less than its trust percentage during this time, then it will distribute its net income only. This "net income" limitation can last for the entire term of your trust or just until a specific event occurs, such as the sale of your gift asset.

Who can receive payments? 
You decide who will get the payments from your trust. Usually, this will be you, or you and your spouse. You can, however, select any other people to receive the payments. For example, you may wish to provide income for parents, a sibling, or children.

How long do payments last?
While most unitrusts last for one or two lives, other terms are possible. A unitrust can last for more than two lives, for a specific length of time of up to 20 years, or for a combination of lives and years.

Tax benefits 

  • Earn income tax charitable deduction.
  • Avoid capital gains tax.
  • May reduce estate taxes and probate costs.

You will receive an income tax charitable deduction in the year of your gift. If you cannot use the entire deduction in the year of the gift, you may carry forward your unused deduction for up to five additional years. If you give appreciated securities to fund your trust, you will not pay any capital gains tax when you make your gift.

In addition, because a trust is a tax-exempt trust, it will not pay any capital gains tax when it sells these assets. This means that your trustee will be able to reinvest the full value of the assets you donate. By removing the gift assets from your estate, you may also reduce estate taxes if your estate exceeds the then applicable estate tax credit. You may also reduce probate costs when your estate is settled. The amount of these savings will depend on the size of your estate and on estate tax law in force at the time your estate is settled.

Taxation of payments 
The taxation of trust payments depends on the trust’s past distributions and investment performance. Payments from a trust are typically taxed as ordinary income. If the trust is funded with appreciated assets, a portion of the payments could be taxed at lower capital gains tax rates in some years. It is even possible for a portion of the payments to be tax-free in years when there is not enough ordinary income and capital gain income to make the payments.

Add funds anytime
You can make additional gifts to your unitrust anytime. Additions earn an additional income tax charitable deduction that may save you income taxes if you itemize your deductions.  You will also increase future payments without the effort and expense of creating a new unitrust.

Assets to consider giving
The following assets make excellent sources for funding your charitable remainder trust:

  • Cash that you currently have in a savings account, bank CD, money-market fund, or other safe but low-yielding investment.
  • Securities, especially highly-appreciated securities.

It is also possible to create a trust using real estate that is debt-free or other assets that may take time to sell.


Audrey Chen is 76 years old and her husband John is 75. Many of the stocks in their portfolio have appreciated substantially in value over the many years the Chens have owned them. They are enthusiastic about making a major gift to support Amherst College, but they also would welcome a way to receive greater income from their investments without paying a big capital gains tax.

After consulting with their advisor, the Chens find that a 5% charitable remainder trust funded with $500,000 in assets will meet their needs perfectly. They fund their trust with $400,000 in stocks plus $100,000 from a money market fund. They paid a total of $75,000 for the stocks, which currently produce about 2% in dividends each year. Their money market fund has been earning about 2% interest annually.


  • The Chens will receive $25,000 in payments in the first year of their trust, significantly increasing the income they had been receiving from these assets. If the income and appreciation of the trust's investments, net of costs and fees, total 7% annually, their payments will grow to over $33,647/year* in 16 years.
  • The Chens will receive an immediate income tax charitable deduction of about $251,165**.
  • The Chens' trustee will be able to sell their stock immediately in order to diversify their trust's investments without paying any capital gains tax.
  • Assuming its investments earn a 7% net annual return on the trust's investments, over $686,393* will be left in the Chens' trust to support Amherst College when their trust terminates.

*The future payment amounts and principal amount remaining for Amherst College will be lower if the Chens' trust earns less than 7% annually.

**The Chens' income tax charitable deduction will vary slightly depending on the timing of their gift.