Charitable Remainder Trust for Sale of Appreciated Assets

Using a Charitable Remainder Trust for the Sale of an Appreciated Asset file folder.

Presented by Gerard Longo, AIFA®, CPFA®:

A charitable remainder trust (CRT) is an irrevocable trust that allow donors (called grantors) to give money or property to charities while also retaining an income stream. The grantor, or someone of their choosing, can receive an income for a term of up to 20 years or for the life of one or more noncharitable beneficiaries. At the end of the income term, at least one charity will receive the remaining assets in the trust.

Provided that the CRT complies with all IRS requirements, the trust will be tax exempt, and the grantor is eligible for a charitable contribution deduction based on the present value of the remainder interest when the trust is funded.

Below, we’ll review the process for using a CRT to sell an appreciated asset.

How to Sell an Appreciated Asset Using a Charitable Remainder Trust

First, you must work with your attorney to draft a charitable remainder trust document and determine the appropriate structure, income timeline, and payout rate for the trust. Once your CRT has been established, you can begin the process of retitling your appreciated asset in the name of the trust.

To avoid immediate capital gains tax liability, the asset (or a portion of the asset) must be transferred before it is sold. Additionally, you cannot already have a binding agreement in place to sell the asset to a third party, or you may be forced to recognize the gain anyways.

Once the asset is retitled to the trust, it can be sold. Options for asset sales through a CRT include: 

  • Small businesses: Sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, C-corporations
  • Residential real estate: Secondary residences, rentals
  • Commercial real estate: Shopping centers, medical centers, offices, apartment complexes, warehouses, industrial buildings, farmland 

How Do Distributions Work?

Although tax exemption makes a trust an ideal vehicle for selling an appreciated asset and receiving an income stream, the distributions to the income beneficiary are not tax exempt. The trust tracks all taxable activity and builds up four buckets of income:

  • Ordinary income (e.g., dividends and interest)
  • Capital gains
  • Tax-free income (e.g., municipal bond income)
  • Return of principal

Distributions to the income beneficiary will first pull from ordinary income until that bucket is exhausted, then from capital gains, and so on. Because the taxation will often be spread out over multiple years of distributions, the income beneficiary will usually pay a lower overall effective rate on the sale of the appreciated asset.

A Pivotal Role

Using a charitable remainder trust to sell an appreciated asset can not only help you to manage the tax liability, but it can also be a pivotal part of your financial plan, ensuring that you or your beneficiaries receive an income stream while also meeting your charitable goals. The rules and procedures for transfers of these types of assets to a CRT are complex, so it is essential to work closely with your attorney and tax advisor.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.


Gerard Longo is a financial advisor located at Global Wealth Advisors 2400 Ansys Drive, Suite 102, Canonsburg, PA 15317. He offers advisory services through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA  / SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Financial planning services offered through Global Wealth Advisors, LLC are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth. Gerard can be reached at (412) 914-8292 or at

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