First created in 1969, charitable remainder trusts have become a valuable part of estate planning for many families. However, you might be unclear exactly how a CRT works or in what situations it might be most useful.

On a basic level, a CRT is a revocable or irrevocable trust which allows a person to donate assets to a charitable organization or foundation - and receive the immediate tax benefits - but still receive some income from that asset, either for them or someone else.


There are two main types. The first - charitable remainder annuity trusts or CRATs - pay out a fixed dollar amount each period, much like a defined benefit pension plan where the payment is always guaranteed.

Meanwhile, charitable remainder unitrusts, otherwise known as CRUTs, pay a fixed percentage of the asset based on its value at the time, meaning the payments will vary over time.


The main advantage of a CRT is the immediate charitable deduction a person can claim for the asset. While income, gift or estate taxes may be applicable on the payments made from the trust, any capital gains will also remain in the trust and won't count as income.


CRTs are also flexible and can be set up to provide beneficiaries with income over either a set number of years or for life. After those distributions are complete, whatever remains of the asset belongs to the charitable organization.