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Make a substantial gift to Bryn Mawr College in the form of annual payments and pass assets to your family or other heirs at reduced gift and estate tax cost.

A charitable lead annuity trust may be right for you if:

  • You have substantial assets that you do not need currently for your own financial security.
  • You want to provide for your family or other heirs.
  • You want to save gift taxes, estate taxes, and probate costs.
  • You want your gift to make a difference at Bryn Mawr starting immediately.
  • You could consider a gift of $250,000 or more to benefit Bryn Mawr and your heirs.
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Separate Trust

A charitable lead annuity trust is a separate taxable trust governed by an irrevocable trust agreement.  You choose the trustee who is responsible for administering your lead trust and guiding the investment of its assets.

Irrevocable gift

A charitable lead annuity trust is an irrevocable arrangement. Once you transfer assets to create the trust, you cannot change your mind and get the assets back. This requirement assures that all of the payments promised in the trust agreement will go to support Bryn Mawr.

Make payments to Bryn Mawr each year

There are two types of charitable lead trusts:

  • A lead annuity trust makes payments to Bryn Mawr each year of a fixed amount for the duration of its term. A lead trust can make payments to more than one charity, if you wish.
  • A lead unitrust makes payments to Bryn Mawr College each year equal to a fixed percentage of its value, as revalued annually. If the value of your lead unitrust increases, its annual payments will increase. If the value of a lead unitrust decreases, its annual payments will also decrease. A lead trust can make payments to more than one charity, if you wish.

You choose the payment amount

You choose the amount that your lead annuity trust must distribute to Bryn Mawr College each year. Lead trust donors typically select a payment amount that is likely to preserve a substantial remainder for family or other heirs. Payments are usually made in annual installments, but semiannual or quarterly installments are possible. 

Remaining assets to heirs

When your charitable lead annuity trust ends, all remaining principal in the trust will be transferred to family members or other heirs you choose.

How long can my lead trust last?

While most lead annuity trusts last for a specified term of 10-20 years, other terms are possible. Your lead annuity trust can last for one or more lives or for a specific length of time, or for a combination of lives and years. The term length you choose will depend on when you want your heirs to receive their trust distribution and the size of the gift or estate tax charitable deduction you want the trust to generate, as well as other factors.

Tax benefits

  • Reduce or eliminate gift or estate tax on gift to heirs if your estate exceeds the then applicable estate tax credit. 
  • Avoid all gift and estate tax on asset growth.

When you transfer assets to your lead annuity trust, you make a taxable gift to the individuals who will receive your trusts principal when it ends. However, your gift of payments to Bryn Mawr earns you a gift or estate tax charitable deduction in the year of your gift that will reduce, and in some cases, eliminate, your taxable gift if your estate exceeds the then applicable estate tax credit.

Some lead annuity trust donors make a point of picking a term length and payout rate that reduces their taxable gift to zero. Doing so eliminates any possibility that they will have to pay gift tax on their gift.

In addition, the assets in your lead annuity trust are removed from your taxable estate.  This means that any growth in the value of your trusts assets during its term can be passed on to your heirs completely free of gift and estate taxes.

Taxation of the trust

A lead annuity trust is a taxable trust. However, a lead trust pays income tax only if its income exceeds the amount it pays to Bryn Mawr during the year. A careful trustee can balance your lead annuity trusts income against its charitable payments in order to minimize the income taxes paid by the trust.

Lead annuity trusts for grandchildren

Lead annuity trusts for the benefit of grandchildren present special tax planning challenges related to a tax called the generation skipping tax. For example, you may want to consider creating a charitable lead unitrust in this situation, as it is easier to plan for generation skipping tax issues when creating a lead unitrust than when creating a lead annuity trust. Please be sure to talk to your advisors or to us about these tax considerations.

Suitable funding assets

You can fund your lead annuity trust with many different kinds of assets.  All of the following assets can work well:

  • Cash
  • Securities
  • A closely-held business
  • Commercial property
  • A combination of these assets

Assets that are likely to increase substantially in value over time can be especially attractive candidates for transfer into a lead trust. Unlike with many other planned gifts, it can be problematic to fund a lead trust with highly appreciated property. Since a lead trust is fully taxable, selling a highly appreciated asset may cause the trust to owe taxes that will deplete its principal. You will want to work closely with your advisors to pick an asset or combination of assets that will best achieve your goals for your gift.


Dianna spent her career building a successful manufacturing business, which she sold a few years ago for $10,000,000. She and her husband, Peter, have three children who are in their 30s. Dianna has been reviewing her estate plan with an eye toward adding a major gift to Bryn Mawr. Funding a charitable lead annuity trust offers an excellent way for Dianna to provide generous support to Bryn Mawr and pass assets to her three children. Dianna chooses to create a $2,000,000 lead annuity trust that will pay $130,000 to Bryn Mawr each year for 20 years.


  • Dianna's three children will split approximately $2,409,955* when the trust ends.
  • Dianna will earn a gift tax charitable deduction of $1,515,604**.
  • The assets used to fund the trust will not be taxable in their estate.
  • Bryn Mawr will receive $2,600,000 from the trust over 20 years.

* Assumes the trust assets earn a 7% annual net return.
** Dianna's estate or gift tax charitable deduction may vary depending on the timing of the gift.