what is a charitable trust

What is a Charitable Trust?

A charitable trust is a legal arrangement in which assets are placed under the control of a trustee for the purposes of donating to one or more charitable organizations. 

There are two primary types: a charitable lead trust, which provides a stream of income to the charity for a specified term, after which the remainder goes to the donor’s beneficiaries, and a charitable remainder trust, which does the opposite, giving the income to the beneficiaries first and the remainder to the charity. 

This form of trust offers potential tax benefits to the donor, such as income tax deductions and reduction in estate taxes, while supporting philanthropic goals by contributing to the public good. It’s a way for individuals to ensure a lasting impact on causes they care about, while also involving financial planning strategies that can benefit their estate.

The pros and cons of charitable trusts:


  • Tax Benefits: Donors can receive immediate income tax deductions for the value of their gift to a charitable trust. Additionally, assets placed in the trust may be exempt from estate and gift taxes.
  • Income Stream: A charitable remainder trust can provide an income stream to the donor or other named beneficiaries for a term of years or for life.
  • Estate Planning: By removing assets from the estate, a charitable trust can reduce the size of the donor’s taxable estate, potentially leading to estate tax savings.
  • Supporting Charity: A charitable trust allows donors to support charitable causes that are important to them in a significant and lasting way.
  • Flexibility: Donors can sometimes retain a degree of control over the investment and management of the assets in the trust, as well as the choice of charity.


  • Irrevocability: Once established, charitable trusts are typically irrevocable, meaning the donor cannot take back the assets or change the terms of the original agreement.
  • Complexity and Costs: Establishing and administering a charitable trust can be complex and may involve legal, accounting, and administrative costs.
  • Minimum Contributions: There might be a minimum contribution level required to establish a charitable trust, which could be substantial.
  • Limited Access to Funds: The donor relinquishes access to the assets given to the trust, which could affect their financial security if their circumstances change.
  • Investment Risk: The assets within the trust are subject to investment risk, and poor performance can affect the income stream to beneficiaries and the ultimate value to the charity.

Is a charitable trust right for me?

Deciding if a charitable trust is right for you involves assessing your financial situation, philanthropic goals, and tax planning needs:

  • Philanthropic Intent: A charitable trust should align with your desire to make a significant and lasting charitable impact. Consider whether the causes you care about can benefit from the trust you establish.

  • Financial Position: Evaluate your financial security to ensure that you can afford to part with the assets you would transfer into the trust, as this is an irrevocable commitment.

  • Income Needs: If you require a steady income stream and wish to support charity, a charitable remainder trust might be appropriate as it can provide you or other beneficiaries with income for a period of time before the charity receives the remainder.

  • Tax Considerations: Charitable trusts can offer various tax benefits, including income, gift, and estate tax deductions. If these tax advantages align with your financial planning, a charitable trust might be suitable.

  • Estate Planning: If you’re looking for ways to reduce the size of your taxable estate and provide for a charitable contribution upon your death, a charitable trust can be an effective tool.

  • Control Over Assets: If you want to retain some control over how your charitable contributions are used, setting up a charitable lead trust could allow you to specify how the funds are used by the charity.

  • Legacy Planning: Consider if you want your philanthropy to be part of your legacy, as a charitable trust can be a testament to your values and can continue to make an impact after your passing.

  • Professional Advice: Consult with financial advisors, tax professionals, and estate planners to understand the implications of establishing a charitable trust and to tailor it to your specific situation.


What is a charitable trust?
A charitable trust is a legal entity set up to donate assets to one or more charitable organizations, with potential tax benefits for the donor.

What are the types of charitable trusts?
The two main types are charitable lead trusts, which provide income to a charity for a set period before leaving the remainder to non-charitable beneficiaries, and charitable remainder trusts, which do the opposite.

What are the tax benefits of a charitable trust?
Donors may receive income, gift, and estate tax deductions. Additionally, charitable remainder trusts can sell donated assets without incurring capital gains tax.

How is income from a charitable trust taxed?
Income distributions to non-charitable beneficiaries are usually taxed as ordinary income, capital gains, or possibly other types of income depending on the trust’s investments.

Can I change the beneficiary charity?
This can depend on how the trust is set up; some trusts may allow changes to the charitable beneficiary, while others may not.

What assets can be placed in a charitable trust?
Cash, stocks, real estate, and other valuable assets can be placed in a charitable trust.

How do I set up a charitable trust?
Setting up a charitable trust requires drafting a trust document, transferring assets, and registering the trust as required by law, typically with the assistance of an attorney.

Can a charitable trust be revoked?
Charitable trusts are generally irrevocable, which means once established, they cannot be dissolved, and assets cannot be taken back.

Who manages the assets in a charitable trust?
A trustee, which can be an individual, a group of individuals, or an institution, is responsible for managing the trust’s assets.

What happens if the charity I choose goes out of business?
The trust document should have provisions for such a situation, often allowing the trustee to select another charity with a similar charitable purpose.

Contact Battlefront Legal

Christopher R. Harrison, Esq is a registered attorney in the state of Nevada who stands out as a highly creative trust attorney who is dedicated to tailoring a trust that perfectly aligns with your unique requirements. His approach to estate planning is both innovative and client-focused, ensuring that your trust is crafted to serve your needs effectively. 

If you’re looking to establish a trust that is as unique as your estate, reach out to Christopher Harrison. Call him today at (775) 539-0000 or click here to start the conversation about securing your legacy.