Future of Charitable Planning

Key Takeaways

  • Studies show that one in four affluent people (23%) consulted with at least one advisor about charitable donations last year.

  • A confused donor is an unhappy donor.

  • Always review your goals and check with your advisors before whipping out your checkbook


Generally planned giving CRTs (charitable remainder trusts) and CLTs (charitable lead trusts) immediately come to mind. We seldom think about charitable giving in the context of non-charitable trusts, but according to Al W. King III, co-founder and co-CEO of South Dakota Trust Company, the amount of wealth that high-net-worth individuals own in trusts is surprising.

  • “The top 1 percent currently have 38 percent of their assets in trusts, and

  • The next 9 percent have 43 percent of their assets in trust,” observed King.

Some families intentionally incorporate charitable planning and provisions into trusts they create. You can too by:

  • Setting a target value for the trust that will be available for family members with any growth and appreciation above that amount being directed to charity

  • Supplementing distributions to family members who work for a charitable organization

  • Matching beneficiaries’ personal charitable contributions

Families are also discovering strategies to incorporate charitable goals and objectives into trusts that were initially created with no charitable intentions. This is often achieved by changing the trust’s situs (legal jurisdiction), reforming or modifying the trust, or “decanting” in states with flexible decanting statutes that allow trustees to change the terms of an otherwise irrevocable trust, which may include adding discretionary charitable beneficiaries.

Common trusts and trust strategies that are increasingly incorporating charitable goals, objectives and planning include:

  • Dynasty trusts—Because of the long-term nature of these trusts, families often desire to make provisions and provide flexibility for both family and charitable goals and objectives.

  • Existing non-charitable trusts—Irrevocable trusts can sometimes be reformed or modified to allow for distributions to charitable organizations. Depending on the applicable state law governing the trusts, it may be necessary or helpful to change the situs of a trust to a state that has more flexible trust decanting laws.

  • Purpose trusts—Some trusts are created for a specific purpose, often to care for “something” rather than for “someone.” For example, a trust may be created to care for a pet; to maintain family property such as antiques, cars, jewelry or memorabilia; or to maintain a family residence or vacation home. Once the pet dies or the property is sold or otherwise disposed of, the remaining assets might pass to charity.

  • Health and education exclusion trusts—These trusts provide support to beneficiaries over multiple generations for certain education and health-related costs. As long as distributions to cover such costs are made directly to an educational or health care institution, then gift taxes and generation-skipping transfer taxes can be avoided indefinitely. However, in order for the vehicle to qualify as a health and education exclusion trust, one or more charitable beneficiaries must have a substantial present economic interest.

Laura Peebles, former tax director of the national office of Deloitte and a consultant to Charitable Solutions, shared these nuggets of wisdom gained from nearly four decades in the charitable planning arena:

  • The donor’s charitable intent determines whether a gift is made. However, the tax benefits can influence the fulfillment of the giver’s charitable intent in terms of the asset that is ultimately given, when the asset is given, and the manner and structure through which the asset is given.

  • A confused donor is not a happy donor.

  • Some tax aspects of charitable giving don’t have good answers, some don’t have inexpensive answers and some don’t have any answers at all.

Charitable giving with retirement benefits

According to author and attorney Natalie Choate, an estate planning and retirement benefits consultant, advisors and many charitably inclined people are well-aware of the substantial tax advantages of giving retirement benefits to charity, particularly in a testamentary capacity. In addition to avoiding any estate tax liability that might otherwise apply, the charity also avoids tax on “income in respect of a decedent” that would otherwise result in the imposition of income tax on retirement benefits received by the owner’s children or other heirs.

In some cases planning charitably with retirement benefits can be quite simple; for example, if a charity is named as the sole retirement plan beneficiary. However, other planning scenarios can involve complex issues and obstacles that must be carefully navigated. For instance:

  • When there are charitable and non-charitable beneficiaries of the same plan

  • When using formula bequests in beneficiary designations

  • When leaving retirement benefits to charity through a trust or estate

  • When using disclaimer-activated gifts to charity.



A recent study by U.S. Trust and the Philanthropic Initiative found that one in four wealthy individuals (23%) consulted with at least one advisor about charitable donations in the past year. In addition, nearly 70 percent of charitable remainder trust donors reported learning about the planning vehicle from their advisors.

These trends indicate a growing opportunity for investors and their advisors to have a regular dialogue about charitable methods that meet personal planning goals. Call us at 303-440-2906 if you or someone close to you would like to incorporate a strategic and regular giving strategy into your overall financial plan.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.


The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.