Prospero Society

Planned Giving

Named after the wise and benevolent magician in William Shakespeare's The Tempest, The Prospero Society recognizes those who have provided for A.C.T. in their estate plans. Lifetime membership is extended to individuals who support A.C.T. through a bequest by will or living trust, or through other planned gifts that provide income for life and tax benefits to the donor.

Your planned gift will have a profound effect on A.C.T.'s future. It may be used to:

  • Support productions at the American Conservatory Theater
  • Encourage innovative productions and new translations of classical work
  • Support the creation of new plays and musicals
  • Enhance the A.C.T. Conservatory by providing first-class professional actor training through student scholarships and endowed chairs
  • Build younger and more diverse audiences for A.C.T. by providing subsidized tickets to schools and community groups.

For information about supporting A.C.T. through a bequest or other planned gift, and to learn more about joining the Prospero Society, please contact Tiffany Redmon at or 415.439.2482.


Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Planned Giving


Why does A.C.T. need planned gifts?

Maintaining A.C.T.'s long-term financial stability and leadership demands that a substantial portion of A.C.T's annual budget come from endowment income. Planned gifts build endowments. Large endowments are essential for the success of any large arts organization, and A.C.T. particularly needs a strong endowment to support its artistic mission: "to conserve, renew, and reinvent the rich theatrical literature and traditions that are our collective legacy, while exploring new artistic forms and communities." Bequests, charitable trusts, and other planned gifts allow donors to provide generous future gifts from their estate to support A.C.T.'s core mission without disturbing their financial situation during their lifetime.


How do I include A.C.T. in my will or living trust?

The most common way people remember A.C.T. in a will or living trust is with a charitable bequest. You do not have to rewrite your current documents. You simply add an amendment, called a codicil, to your will or living trust. Here is some suggested language you can have your attorney review:

"I give and bequeath to American Conservatory Theater Foundation, tax identification number 94-6135772, located in San Francisco, California, $_________" (or state a percentage of your estate, or describe real or personal property, including exact location).

Your bequest is entirely under your control during life and becomes irrevocable only at death.


What should I do if I have remembered A.C.T. in my estate plan?

We would be honored to enroll you in A.C.T.'s Prospero Society. Prospero Society membership includes invitations to special A.C.T. events and, if you will allow us, the listing of your name on the Prospero Society membership roster. Contact Tiffany Redmon at or 415.439.2482 for more information.


I need to write a will. Can A.C.T. help me?

Yes. Just contact Tiffany Redmon at or 415.439.2482 and ask for our free estate planning kit. The kit includes: a readable but authoritative introduction to wills, living trusts, and basic estate planning; an estate planning inventory form to help you get a clearer notion on the worth of your estate; and information about how to remember A.C.T. in your estate plan.


What is the advantage of making A.C.T. a beneficiary of my retirement plan?

A designation in your IRA or other retirement plan may be a very cost-effective way of making a gift to A.C.T. If you leave your retirement plan to your children, they will have to pay income tax on either a lump sum distribution or the income stream from the plan. A.C.T. does not pay this tax. Here is an example of what this can mean to your heirs:

A widower died a few years ago. He left his $300,000 house to charity and his $300,000 retirement plan to his relatives. He should have done just the opposite. The relatives had to pay income tax on the $300,000 in the retirement plan, an $80,000 cost to them. If they had received the home, and the charity had received the retirement plan payment, no one would have paid income tax.


What kind of donors should consider a charitable remainder trust?

Donors who need a device that will pay them for life and allow them to bypass capital gains tax on stock or real estate, who want to reduce estate tax, and who find satisfaction in providing for a good cause like A.C.T.

Anything you place in a charitable trust—cash, stock, or real estate—is invested by the trustee to pay you income for the rest of your life and, if you wish, pay your heirs for life or for a term of years. After the death of all income beneficiaries, what remains in the trust passes to A.C.T.

Your trust may also provide you with some important tax benefits:

  • An immediate income tax deduction for a percentage of your gift. We will be happy to give you an idea of the size of your deduction. We simply need to know the ages of the income beneficiary(ies) and the payout rate of the trust.
  • No tax on the sale of appreciated property. From the donor's point of view, this is often the most important tax benefit. Sometimes thousands of dollars that would have gone to pay capital gains taxes remain in the trust generating income to the income beneficiaries.
  • The trust principal is not subject to estate tax. Property that might otherwise be subject to federal estate tax, which can be as high as 50%, is preserved from estate tax entirely.

Appreciated real estate is often an excellent asset to place in a charitable trust. Mature investment properties are frequently earning only 2%, 3%, or 4% of their fair market value per year. When these properties are sold and the proceeds reinvested by the trust, earnings often increase significantly.

Under ordinary circumstances, owners face substantial capital gains taxes when they sell rental properties or commercial real estate. In some cases, personal residences are also subject to capital gains taxes even after the $500,000 exemption has been used. In any case, because your charitable trust will be selling the property, there will be no capital gains taxes due when the real estate is sold. Thus, the entire net proceeds from the sale can be reinvested to produce more income for you.

Gifts of appreciated stock are ideal for funding a charitable remainder trust, because the stock can be reinvested by the trust for greater income while bypassing capital gains taxes at the time of the sale.

Some people find it useful to give an undivided percentage interest of real estate to a charitable trust rather than all of it. For example, a donor contributed 75% of a vacant lot to a charitable trust. When the lot was sold, about $70,000 came directly to her from the sale, while $210,000 remained in the trust. Some of her $70,000 was taxable, but she used the income tax deduction generated by her gift to the trust to offset the tax due on the gain built into the $70,000 she received.

There are two basic types of charitable remainder trusts. An annuity trust will pay you a fixed dollar amount for the rest of your life. A unitrust will pay you a fixed percentage of the trust principal each year, so if the value of the trust principal increases over time, your income increases with it. By law, your trust must pay you at least 5% of principal. You may choose a higher payout rate if you wish, but the higher the payout rate the lower your charitable contribution income tax deduction. Also, selecting the highest rate possible may not work in your best interests for another reason. If trust principal declines under the strain of meeting the higher rate, your income will decline with it. On the other hand, a lower payout rate may allow the principal to grow, and your income will grow with it. Additions can be made to a unitrust at any time, but you can contribute to an annuity trust only once.

Finally, your trust must have a trustee. If you have an individual trust tailored to your circumstances, the trustee can be a commercial institution such as a bank or trust company, an individual with professional experience in trust management, a relative, or yourself. There are some complications in acting as trustee yourself, but it can be done if you understand and comply with IRS regulations. A.C.T. will be happy to supply you with a list of possible trustees or information about being your own trustee.

The basic advantages of charitable trusts are not difficult to understand: diversification of your assets without incurring capital gains taxes, lifetime income, immediate income tax benefits, reduction of estate tax, and the satisfaction of providing for a good cause.

There are even ways these trusts can benefit your heirs that we have not covered, but the first thing you should do is find out if a charitable trust makes sense for you.

A.C.T. will provide you with tax and income calculations tailored to your particular situation. This will give you and your advisors the information needed to make an informed decision as to whether a charitable trust meets your financial and philanthropic objectives. All information is provided confidentially and without cost or obligation.


How can I give my home and keep it, too?

A charitable life tenancy agreement allows you to give a personal residence or farm to A.C.T. while retaining the right to live there for life. Donors who enter a life tenancy agreement receive an immediate income tax deduction. The deduction is based on the present value of the home discounted by the estimated length of time the charity must wait to receive the home. To put it simply, a person age 70 will receive a larger deduction than will a person age 50.

The IRS grants the deduction even though the donor continues to enjoy full use of the home. But the IRS also expects the owner to have full responsibility for the care and maintenance of the home. That's why life tenancy agreements simply continue things as they are, with the donor dealing with maintenance, property taxes, insurance, and the like.
The major benefits to the donor, then, are continued use of the home, an immediate charitable income tax deduction, the avoidance of probate, the avoidance of estate tax on the property, and the satisfaction of making a substantial gift to A.C.T. during one's lifetime.

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