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A charitable remainder unitrust can help you maintain or increase your income while making a significant gift to Carnegie Mellon University.

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

A charitable remainder unitrust 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 Carnegie Mellon.
  • You are considering a gift amount of $100,000 or more.


Features of a Charitable Remainder Unitrust

Separate Trust
A charitable remainder unitrust is a separate tax-exempt trust governed by an irrevocable trust agreement.  You choose the trustee who is responsible for administering the unitrust and guiding the investment of your gift assets.

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

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

You choose the payment percentage 
You choose the percentage of its value that your unitrust must pay each year to its income beneficiaries.  The payment percentage must be at least 5% and no more than 50% but the payout must generate an income tax charitable deduction of at least 10% of the gift principal.  If you choose a relatively low payment percentage, 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 
A unitrust may be a good way to transfer debt-free real estate or other assets that may take time to sell.  If you fund your unitrust with these types of assets, you can include special payment provisions that limit your unitrust's payments to its net income or its unitrust percentage, whichever is less.  This way, your trustee can take whatever time is necessary to sell your assets at a fair price.  If your unitrust's net income is less than its unitrust percentage during this time, then it will distribute its net income only.  This "net income" limitation can last for the entire term of your unitrust or just until a specific event occurs, such as the sale of your gift asset.

You choose the income beneficiaries 
You decide who will get the payments from your unitrust.  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.

Term flexibility 
While most unitrusts last for the lives of one or two named individuals, other terms are possible.  A unitrust can last for more than two lives, for a specific length of time not to exceed 20 years, or for a combination of lives and years.

Tax benefits 

  • Earn an immediate 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 that 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 unitrust, you will not pay any capital gains tax when you make your gift.

In addition, because a unitrust 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 and 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 unitrust payments depends on the past distributions and investment performance of the unitrust.  Your unitrust income will typically be taxed mostly or completely as ordinary income, but a portion could be taxed at lower capital gains tax rates, or even tax-free, in some years.

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 and 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 unitrust:

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

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


Linda Coleman is 76 years old and her husband Reid is 75. Many of the stocks in their portfolio have appreciated substantially in value over the many years the Colemans have owned them. They are enthusiastic about making a major gift to support Carnegie Mellon University, but they also would welcome a way to receive greater income from their investments without paying a substantial amount of capital gains tax.

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


  • The Colemans receive $25,000 in payments in the first year of their unitrust, 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 Colemans receive an immediate income tax charitable deduction of approximately $248,300**.
  • The Colemans' trustee will be able to sell their stock immediately in order to diversify their unitrust's investments without paying any capital gains tax.
  • Assuming the trust's investments earn a 7% net annual return for the duration of its term, the Colemans' unitrust will distribute over $686,393* to support Carnegie Mellon University when their unitrust terminates.

*The future payment amounts and principal amount remaining for Carnegie Mellon University will be lower if the Colemans' unitrust earns less than 7% annually.
**The Colemans' income tax charitable deduction will vary slightly depending on the timing of their gift.