The charitable trust that’s best in a low-interest rate environment

Now is a great time to create a charitable lead trust, assuming it would further your client’s estate planning goals.

That’s according to Nadia Yassa, Director of Estate and Gift Planning for the Boston Foundation. She spoke on “Tax Benefits of Charitable Trusts” to the Boston Security Analysts Society on May 13.

Why now? Because when interest rates are low, the IRS will value the non-charitable remainder interest at a lower value, using the IRS discount rate in effect when the trust is established. That’s regardless of what the actual value is when the transfer occurs. The bottom line: Ultimately, more of your assets will reach your beneficiaries because any growth in the trust above the discount rate passes free of gift tax to heirs. As Yassa explained, “A low Section 7520 discount rate allows donors to ‘freeze’ estate and gift values to minimize overall transfer tax liability.”

A non-grantor charitable lead trust provides income to one or more qualified charities for a preset period. At the end of that period, the assets of the trust transfer to non-charitable beneficiaries. People often use this kind of trust to contribute to charity, while ensuring that their assets end up with family members at a lower cost in taxes.

On the flip side, low interest rates mean this is the least favorable time for creating a charitable remainder trust. However, in any case, taxes should not be your only consideration when establishing a charitable trust.

Want to learn more about planned giving, including charitable trusts? Check out the Planned Giving Design Center, suggested Yassa. “It’s a free on-line resource sponsored by the Boston Foundation. Go to and click on the Professional Advisors section/Planned Giving Design Center. Advisors can register and have access to technical outlines, articles, rulings, news reports, and receive periodic emails with legislative updates, as well as the Section 7520 rate as it is announced each month by the IRS.”