Skip to main content
Shield iconArrow cta iconClose iconPencil icon

Planned Gifts

Charitable Flip Unitrust

A flip unitrust can be an excellent way for you to give an asset that may take time to sell and receive substantial payments for life once the flip unitrust sells your asset. You might also be interested in using a flip unitrust to make a gift now that will supplement your income in the future, such as when you retire.

A charitable flip unitrust could be right for you if:

  • You want to give an asset that is hard to sell (such as real estate or closely-held stock).
  • You want to supplement your retirement income.
  • You want to save capital gains taxes.
  • You itemize your deductions and want to save income tax.
  • You want to choose the person who administers your gift and guides its investments.
  • You want to make a generous gift to St. Lawrence.
  • You are considering a gift amount of $75,000 or more.




How Your Gift Helps
Your gifts to the University help to make it possible for current and future Laurentians to have the St. Lawrence experience through financial aid, as well as critical resources for new academic initiatives such as...


Support Our MissionHow Your Gift HelpsBenefits of Giving

Providing the best possible education for today’s world...

Learning that occurs both inside and outside the classroom...

and improved infrastructure and learning technologies.



Because everyone’s situation is different, we encourage you to seek professional legal, estate planning, and financial advice before deciding on a course of action. This information does not constitute legal or financial advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice.

Show More Details

Hide Details

Separate trust
A charitable remainder unitrust with a flip provision, or "flip unitrust," is a separate tax-exempt trust governed by a trust agreement. You choose the trustee who is responsible for administering your flip unitrust and guiding the investment of its assets.

Irrevocable gift 
A flip unitrust 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 whatever value remains in your flip unitrust when it ends will go to support St. Lawrence.

Payments made for duration of trust
A flip unitrust will make payments to individuals, such as you, or you and your spouse, for the duration of its term. The amount of its payments will depend on several factors, including whether or not the trust has "flipped" how it determines payment amounts.

Remaining assets to St. Lawrence University
When your flip unitrust ends, all of its remaining principal will become available to support St. Lawrence.

Determination of payment amount before and after "flip"
Initially, a flip unitrust makes payments each year equal to a percentage of its value, as revalued annually, or its net income, whichever is less. If the flip unitrust earns no net income during this period, for example, it makes no payments. After the unitrust "flips," it makes payments equal to a percentage of its value, as revalued annually, regardless of its net income. If it earns 3% net income one year during this period, for example, but has a stated payment percentage of 5%, it will pay 5% of its value from income and realized capital gain for the year.

Designated event causes flip
You designate the event that will cause your flip unitrust to change how it determines payment amounts. The event must be an occurrence that is not within the control of you, the beneficiary, the trustee, or any other person. Popular flip triggering events include a specific date, such as the date you plan to retire, and the sale of an “unmarketable” asset with which the unitrust was funded, such as real estate or a block of closely-held stock. The change in payment method takes effect on January 1 of the year following the triggering event.  

You choose the payment %
You choose the percentage of its value, as revalued annually, that your flip unitrust must distribute to its income beneficiaries each year, once it flips payment methods. This payment percentage must be at least 5% but no more than 50%. It may be to your advantage to choose a relatively low payment percentage so that your flip unitrust’s assets have the best chance to grow. If the value of your unitrust grows, so will its payments. A payment rate of 5% to 6% is typical. Payments are usually made in annual, semiannual, or quarterly installments. 

Who can receive payments?
You decide who will get the payments from your flip unitrust.  Usually, this will be you, or you and your spouse. You can, however, select any other people to receive the payments. For example, you may wish to provide income for parents, a sibling, or children.

How long do payments last?
While most flip unitrusts last for the lives of one or two payment recipients, other terms are possible. A unitrust can last for more than two lives, for a specific length of time of up to 20 years, or for a combination of lives and a fixed term years.

Tax benefits

  • Enjoy immediate tax savings from an income tax charitable deduction, if you itemize.
  • Avoid capital gains tax.
  • May reduce estate taxes if your estate exceeds the then applicable estate tax credit.
  • You may reduce probate costs.

You will receive an income tax charitable deduction in the year of your gift. If you cannot use the entire deduction that year, you may carry forward your unused deduction for up to five additional years.   

If you give appreciated assets to fund your flip unitrust, you will not pay any capital gains tax when you make your gift. In addition, because a flip unitrust is a tax-exempt trust, it will not pay any capital gains tax when it sells these assets. This means that your trustee will be able to reinvest the full value of the assets you donate. By removing the gift assets from your estate, you may also reduce estate taxes if your estate exceeds the then applicable estate tax credit. You may also reduce probate costs when your estate is settled.

Taxation of payments
The taxation of flip unitrust payments depends on the trust’s past distributions and investment performance. Payments from a unitrust are typically taxed as ordinary income. If the trust is funded with appreciated assets, a portion of the payments could be taxed at lower capital gains tax rates in some years. It is even possible for a portion of the payments to be tax-free in years when there is not enough ordinary income and capital gain income to make the payments.

Add funds anytime
You can add to your flip unitrust anytime. Additions to your unitrust will generate an additional income tax charitable deduction that could save you income taxes if you itemize. You will also increase your future payments without the hassle or expense of creating and administering a new flip unitrust.

Assets to consider giving
The following assets make excellent sources for funding your flip unitrust:

  • Cash that you currently have in a savings account, bank CD, money-market fund, or other safe but low-yielding investment.
  • Securities, especially highly-appreciated securities.
  • Real estate that is debt-free, closely-held stock, and other assets that may take time to sell.

Flip unitrust as retirement supplement
A flip unitrust can work nicely as a supplemental retirement plan that also supports St. Lawrence. The trustee of your flip unitrust can focus on asset growth during its pre-flip years, causing the unitrust to make little or no payments to you during its early years when you don't need the income. If you set up your unitrust to flip payment methods in the year you expect to retire, then it will make payments to you equal to its full percentage amount, such as 5% or 6% of its value, starting when you need the income.

Flip unitrust as way to increase income from asset that may take time to sell
A flip unitrust also can work nicely as a way to make a gift of an asset that may take time to sell, such as real estate or closely-held stock, and increase your income at low tax-cost. During your unitrust's pre-flip period, the trustee can focus on selling your asset at a fair price without worrying about making payments to you when there isn't enough income available to make them. The sale of your asset can trigger your unitrust to flip payment methods so that from then on your unitrust will pay you its full percentage amount, such as 5% or 6% of its value, every year. Since your flip unitrust is tax-exempt, your trustee will be able to reinvest all of the proceeds from the sale of your asset.

The St. Lawrence Fund is the Cornerstone of Laurentian Giving.  It is a way every Laurentian can participate and make their gift count during this campaign.