What Are Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts?

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

What is a Charitable Lead Annuity Trust (CLAT)?

A Charitable Lead Annuity Trust (CLAT) is a type of trust designed to provide financial support to one or more charitable organizations for a set period, after which the remaining assets are transferred to non-charitable beneficiaries, such as family members.

Charitable Lead Annuity Trust

How Does a CLAT Work?

  1. Creation of Trust: A donor establishes the trust by transferring assets into it.
  2. Annuity Payments: The trust makes fixed annuity payments to one or more charities for a specified term.
  3. Transfer of Assets: After the term ends, the remaining assets pass to the non-charitable beneficiaries.
Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts

Benefits of a CLAT

  • Tax Advantages: Provides immediate charitable deduction for the present value of the annuity payments to the charity.
  • Estate Planning: Helps in reducing the taxable estate, potentially lowering estate taxes.
  • Supporting Charity: Enables ongoing support to chosen charities.

Example of a CLAT in Action

Suppose a donor sets up a CLAT with $1 million, specifying a term of 10 years and an annuity rate of 5%. Each year, the charity receives $50,000. After 10 years, the remaining assets go to the donor’s heirs.

Charitable Lead Trust

CLAT Structure and Benefits

Initial FundingAssets (e.g., cash, stocks) transferred to the trust
Annuity TermPre-determined period (e.g., 10 years)
Annuity PaymentFixed annual payment to charity (e.g., 5% of initial asset value)
Remainder BeneficiariesNon-charitable beneficiaries (e.g., family members)
Tax BenefitsImmediate tax deduction, estate tax reduction
Charitable Lead Trusts


A Charitable Lead Annuity Trust is a strategic tool for those looking to support charitable causes while also managing estate and tax planning. It offers a structured way to make a significant impact over a set period.

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What are the tax benefits of a charitable lead annuity trust?

Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts (CLATs) offer the donor a range of tax benefits. The donor receives an immediate tax deduction for the present value of the trust’s payments to charity, and this deduction can be carried over into future years up to a specific limit. Additionally, any appreciation in the assets held by the CLAT is not subject to capital gains taxes. Finally, the donor can transfer wealth to their heirs with minimum taxation since the trust’s payments are not included in the donor’s estate for estate tax purposes. This can result in substantial savings compared to other trusts and gifts. Ultimately, CLATs effectively allow donors to provide tax-efficient support to their favorite charities while passing wealth on to their heirs.

What are the differences between a CLAT and CLT?

Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts (CLATs) and Charitable Lead Trusts (CLTs) provide a stream of income to charities for a set period. The critical difference is that CLATs pay out a fixed amount each year, whereas CLTs distribute fluctuating amounts depending on the performance of the trust’s investments. Donors can determine how much they want to donate each year with a CLAT. With a CLT, the donation amount may vary from year to year. Furthermore, while CLATs offer immediate tax benefits for the donor, CLTs do not provide any upfront deductions. Instead, donors are only entitled to tax deductions when assets are distributed from the trust. Both types of trusts offer an effective way for donors to support their favorite charities while transferring wealth to their heirs. Ultimately, the right choice depends on the donor’s circumstances and goals.

What are some other advantages of a CLAT?

In addition to the tax benefits, there are several other advantages of setting up a Charitable Lead Annuity Trust (CLAT). For example, CLATs give donors more significant control over their donation amounts since they can determine how much will be given each year. Furthermore, CLATs allow donors to lock in current interest rates. This means the trust will benefit from the same rates even if market interest rates decline. Finally, CLATs are highly flexible and can be structured to accommodate a variety of objectives.

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Shawn Plummer is a licensed financial professional, insurance agent, and annuity broker with over 14 years of first-hand experience with annuities and insurance. Since beginning his journey in 2009, he has been pivotal in selling and educating about annuities and insurance products. Still, he has also played an instrumental role in training financial advisors for a prestigious Fortune Global 500 insurance company, Allianz. His insights and expertise have made him a sought-after voice in the industry, leading to features in renowned publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, Women’s Health Magazine, and many more. Shawn’s driving ambition? To simplify retirement planning, he ensures his clients understand their choices and secure the best insurance coverage at unbeatable rates.

The Annuity Expert is an independent online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. The goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning and find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates

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