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Make a Will Month – What gifts can I give?

Make a Will Month – What gifts can I give?

November is Make a Will month in Canada – and this is my sixth and final blog post here for the Alzheimer Society. I would like to thank them so much for this incredible opportunity.  The work being done by the Alzheimer Society is incredible and so needed. Hopefully one day there will be a cure for this horrible disease. Now on to my post.

The law in Ontario is pretty wide open with regards to giving gifts of property in a Will.  You have almost complete discretion.  The vast majority of my married clients leave all of their property to their spouse with a gift over to their children with a further gift over to their grandchildren.  They often will pick out specific gifts to give to specific people.  This is not a required way to do things, it is just the most common.

In addition, my clients will often choose to give charitable gifts to registered charitable organizations like the Alzheimer Society, in order to take advantage of very favourable tax breaks the Canadian government provides.

When you speak to a lawyer or the planned giving departments of charitable organizations like the Alzheimer Society they can talk you through the various ways and the many benefits of including charitable giving in your Will.

When you have decided who is going to get what property, there are certain things you should keep in mind.

First, you are required to provide for your dependents. If you do not, the dependant has the right to bring a court action to essentially rewrite the Will. The court will look at the overall regime set up in the estate, and will only uphold a Will if it is of the opinion that it has sufficiently provided for the dependents.

Second, if a spouse is not satisfied with a Will, he or she can decide to ask for an equalization of property instead of taking under your Will.  This will likely thwart any plan to leave a spouse out of your inheritance.  It is therefore important to ensure that your spouse is reasonably provided for in your Will.

Third, there are ways to minimize your taxes, by structuring certain trusts, and appointing on your Life Insurance Policies and Designating Beneficiaries under certain registered plans like RRSPs and RRIFs.

Fourth – if your beneficiary might qualify for Disability Benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program, there are certain trust options that are available, that can allow the beneficiary to continue receiving government assistance after receiving an inheritance.  Often people give gifts to disabled beneficiaries without taking into account the impact it will have on their government benefits.

Certain religions have specific requirements for gifts given in a Will. In most cases, those requirements can be met as long as dependents are looked after and the spouse does not elect equalization. Some religions have specific workarounds that are accepted by the religious authorities. Those items I defer to the religious leaders, but it is important for you to ask the question if that is important to you.

Other than that, there is pretty wide freedom for you to decide who gets what after your death. This freedom only exists if you take the time to make a Will. The alternative is for a government formula to decide who gets your property. It might work out the way you wish. It might not.

You do not need a lawyer to make your Will. There are online forms that you can fill out. That said, a lawyer can help guide you through the process in simple and easy to understand way.  A lawyer can make suggestions as to the most tax effective way to structure things. A lawyer will keep up with changes in the law as they occur to assist in making sure that your documents are up to date. A lawyer will make sure that you have not forgotten important things.

The process is NOT as expensive or time consuming as you may be imagining. The time and money invested in these documents such as your Will and Powers of Attorney is well spent; clients gain clarity and peace of mind.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about making your Will and Powers of Attorney. Finally, I would like to thank Sadie Etemad for her assistance in putting together these blog posts.


Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

Stephen Offenheim,
The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim
(416) 863-1300

It’s easier than you think to be a superhero! Make your Will today.

It’s easier than you think to be a superhero! Make your Will today.

Make Your Will Today!


At the Alzheimer Society, we believe completing your Will and Powers of Attorney for Personal Care and Property makes you a Super Hero. Why? You are putting the needs of others before yourself and protecting what’s important.

Death and taxes – two certainties?

While working at Royal Trust as a Will and estate planner, many clients would sit in a chair across from me and blurt out … there are two certainties in life:  death and taxes.  For years, even centuries, such statements were met with resignation.

However, most Canadians may be surprised to learn there is a way to avoid taxes. It all depends on the wording of your Will.  Did you know that you can help your favourite charity and help your estate save taxes?  How?

The Rules

When you donate to your favourite charity, like the Alzheimer Society of Ontario in your Will, the donation is considered to be made immediately before your death.  Similar rules apply when you name charitable organizations as the beneficiary of your RRSP, RRIF or TFSA, or of a life insurance policy.  On your final tax return, your Executor can claim all charitable donations made in the year of your death.  These include donations in the Will and those directly transferred to charities from RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs, or life insurance policies, and any carried forward donations from the previous five years that were not claimed, to a maximum of 100% of your net income.  Any excess can be claimed on the tax return for the previous year, again to a maximum of 100% of your net income for that year.

Depending upon your net income in the year of death and the previous year, and the total donation amount, taxes paid in the year before your death may be rebated and taxes owed in the year of death may be eliminated.

What?  Taxes eliminated and rebated?

So let’s see how that works!

The Government Rewards YOU!


Mr. Generous gives a charitable Will bequest in his Will  totaling =                        $50,000
Tax payable—Final year:

Mr. Generous’ net income in year of his death =



Minus: Tax credit for donation (100% x $40,000 net income) =

$10,000 to be used against previous years taxes

Tax payable =             $  0,000.00
Previous year:

Mr. Generous’ net income in year before death =


$  36,000

Tax paid in previous year = (assuming 35% rate x $36,000) = 12,600
Donation carried back to previous year

($50,000 bequest – $40,000 tax credit used in final year) =


$  10,000

Taxable income = $36,000 – $10,000 donation = $  26,000
Tax payable (assuming 35% rate x $26,000) = $   9,100
Taxes rebated to estate ($12,600 – $9,100) =            $  3,500

The tax for the year of death has been eliminated. The tax for the previous year, which had already been paid, is reduced and rebated.


Imagine the social impact – if all Canadians did their Wills (only 50% of us do) and included a charitable bequest in their Wills! Giving to a charity like the Alzheimer Society in your Will would benefit our world significantly while ensuring that your estate eliminates unnecessary tax burdens – a win – win!

November is Make a Will Month.  And this month YOU could be our Super Hero!   By doing your Will and including a charitable gift you can save taxes, protect those you care about and help save the world from dementia!    Act now!  Click here to request your free Estate Planner and Guide or call Kristy Cutten at 416-847-8915.


Written by:

Colleen Bradley

Colleen Bradley
Chief Development Officer, Planned Giving
Alzheimer Society of Ontario


Make a Will Month – This is personal for me

Make a Will Month – This is personal for me

A few months ago, my cousin posted a wonderful video of my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. The year was 1994. My grandfather gave a wonderful, heartfelt speech about what his wife meant to him. The family did skits making fun of the onion sandwich he ordered on their first date. There was even Karaoke. Good times.

Alex & Clara dancing at their wedding.
Pictured above: Alex & Clara Offenheim at their 50th wedding anniversary.

While the first 50 years of marriage were wonderful for my grandparents, the years that followed for them and for our family were extremely challenging. Shortly after this celebration, my grandfather Alexander was diagnosed with a form of dementia. With his loyal wife Clara by his side, he slowly deteriorated over a 10-year period. It was absolutely heartbreaking watching a man with such wit, and intellect slowly become someone else.

Then shortly after my grandfather passed away, my grandmother was diagnosed with a form of dementia. She is now well into her 90s, and has maintained all of her class and dignity. It has been so difficult for our family to go through this more than one time.

That said we are so lucky that my grandparents had the foresight to prepare. While they had the capacity to do so, they both had prepared their Will and powers of attorney. Everything was set up in accordance with their wishes. The Will appointed executors and beneficiaries for their property. A power of attorney appointed family members to act as their substitute decision maker for matters of property and for matters of personal care.

By taking the time to do so, our family avoided the expensive court procedures associated with guardianship applications. There was no need to purchase expensive insurance or bonds that would have been required had the documents not been in place. We have saved money on lawyers, and saved so much of the aggravation and heartache that goes along with unplanned estates.

This is why I was so thrilled when the Alzheimer Society asked me to guest blog for Make a Will month. I am so passionate about making sure that people have the proper documentation in place. I know firsthand how important this is.

Over the course of this month, I will be providing you with information about what goes into making a Will. What are the things you need to consider? What are some of the traps you can fall into? If there is one message I would like send out to everyone, is that doing these documents CANNOT WAIT. It is way too important.

You may be thinking that doing a Will is expensive and time-consuming. Fees can vary greatly depending on the complexity of your Will and where you live. For example, for a straight forward Will, my law firm charges $399 for a Will and two powers of attorney, with a full consultation with a lawyer. ($699 for a couple). And it does not take very long. Most of my clients take about 3-5 hours in total to complete everything that needs to be done.

Completing these documents is so necessary. Please don’t delay; if you need information right away, there are a number of ways to reach me.
Call me now at (416) 863-1300.
Or send me an e-mail now at
Or follow this link to set up a free 15 minute phone consultation or a 2 hour Will instruction session.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you come back during the month of November to read important information for doing your estate plans. Your reward? Getting into action to protect your family, your assets, and gain peace of mind.


Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

Stephen Offenheim,
The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim
(416) 863-1300

“Back up” leading research and make double the impact

“Back up” leading research and make double the impact


Our minds are like our body’s computer – storing precious memories we’ve collected throughout our lifetime. Sadly, when you have Alzheimer’s disease, every memory, thought and feeling you’ve ever experienced is at risk of being lost.

Your support of research will help “back up” these memories at risk.

Currently, Alzheimer’s disease has no known cure, but great strides are being made into discovering what causes this disease, what types of medication or actions we can take to reduce our risk and how best to approach finding a cure.

Make a donation in support of research today and your gift will be matched 2X its value, thanks to a special match offer from the Decker family. For every dollar you donate, the Decker family will match your gift – up to $25,000.

Alzheimer Society of Ontario has led the way to some fascinating research projects across the province. Research like that being done by Eva Vico Varela.

Eva Vico Varela (pictured above), neuroscience research student at McGill University

Eva, a neuroscience doctoral student at McGill University, is investigating deep brain stimulation in mice models. She aims to understand how electrical pulses could be applied to help people with Alzheimer’s disease in clinical trials.

If successful, this new treatment could help slow the decline of Alzheimer’s disease and improve the quality of life for people living with dementia. And this is just one of many promising research projects underway right now!

Don’t let dementia erase memories of those you love. Donate now to “back up” leading researchers, caregivers, and people living with dementia.


Sharing a cup of support

Sharing a cup of support


Holly Kotowich and Penny Leclair, employees at Pullan Kammerloch Frohlinger Lawyers, have hosted Coffee Break® events at their workplace since 2007. “We host a Coffee Break event every year because we have staff and employers who deal with Alzheimer’s disease. Every year, it seems we learn somebody close to us has dealt with Alzheimer’s,” says Holly.

Coffee Break events can be hosted at your workplace, home, school or anywhere you can serve coffee. Holly says hosting a Coffee Break increases awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in her workplace. And better yet, it’s so easy to do!

Holly and Penny take over the office’s lunch room table on their event day, and set up coffee, dainties and donation boxes. “We ask a couple people for assistance and a lot of them help with baking. We have everything set up all day, and the event just runs itself,” says Holly.

The Alzheimer Society sets you up with a Coffee Break® kit that includes posters, coasters, a donation box, event tips, coffee cup cut-outs and more. “People here love the coffee cup cut-outs that recognize their donation,” says Holly. “We stick them up on the wall, and they love to write their names on them. Kids aren’t the only ones who like that stuff!”

This fall, make your coffee count by hosting an Alzheimer Coffee Break! Visit

Coffee Break® brings the community together

Coffee Break® brings the community together

Verna Mowat

For the past few years, Verna Mowat has been hosting a Coffee Break® event on her family farm in the Westman region of Manitoba. Despite wind and rain, people in the community venture down the gravel road to Verna’s farm, where a smile and a warm cup of coffee are waiting for each Coffee Break guest.

“Lots of people from the community all come out – from Cypress, Glenboro, even neighbours down the road. I think we had 35 people last year,” says Verna.

Running with the mantra that a Coffee Break event can be as big or as small as you like, Verna goes all out in getting everyone involved. She makes the most out of the Coffee Break event kit (supplied by the Alzheimer Society) by encouraging people to autograph her Coffee Break poster. Many of her guests love this gesture as it gives them an opportunity to write a personal message about who they’re supporting.

Verna’s dedication is born out of her desire to help make a difference in the fight against dementia. Her mother lived with it for 19 years and her sister is currently going through the mid-stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Verna has seen the effects first hand and is concerned about the toll it takes on families.

In addition to raising money through hosting a Coffee Break event, Verna sells home-made pottery pins at craft markets in her community. Contributors like her are integral to ensuring the Alzheimer Society is able to support those affected by dementia. We thank her sincerely for everything she has done.

This fall, make your coffee count by hosting an Alzheimer Coffee Break! Visit

What do you want your legacy to be?

What do you want your legacy to be?

What is it about human beings that we all want to be remembered, be known as more than merely ordinary,  be seen as someone who truly made a difference, leave a mark and maybe even make the future a little brighter?

I have been working in the area of estate planning for many years, and I have asked the question – “What do you want your legacy to be” to thousands of people. But I had never been asked that question…until recently.  Our CEO, Chris Dennis asked me that very question in our second face-to-face meeting. I was taken aback and had to tell Chris that I would have to think about it and get back to him the following week!

I am also a life coach so I promptly took myself through an Identify What Matters process.  I asked myself the following questions and pondered them.  Some of the questions I already knew the answer to others not so much.

  • What’s important to me?
  • What are my core needs and values?
  • How do I want my life to touch others? Now and in the future
  • What would make me proud?
  • If I could to do one thing to improve the world, what would my contribution be?
  • How can I increase the well-being of those around me?
  • How can I leave my mark on whatever I do?


Over the week, I jotted down the answers to these introspective questions. My words became the building blocks of my legacy philosophy. Knowing what’s important to me, what drives me and how I would like to be remembered creates tremendous clarity…and passion.  I found that considering my legacy gave me an internal compass to help me move with purpose and determination even in uncertain times. It also offers a concrete sense of purpose in choosing what I am giving my energy to on a daily basis.

The whole concept of leaving a legacy can also be a deeply powerful way of connecting with others. I explored the connections I have with those who had gone before me (my dad and my brother), to those whose lives I touch in the present (family, friends, colleagues), and those who I may never meet (the families we serve).

And I believe that leaving a legacy isn’t only about leaving what you earned but also what you learned, and we all have an opportunity to make a difference every single day.  In my opinion, leaving a legacy doesn’t call for great wealth, fame or even taking giant steps— I don’t have to be a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King to leave a positive mark right now, one that I hope will linger long after I am gone.

As Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner reminded me in their book, A Leader’s Legacy, “by asking ourselves how we want to be remembered, we plant the seeds for living our lives as if we matter.”

I encourage you to take some time and explore what you want to leave behind, as well as, what you want to carry forward.

Portrait of Colleen Bradley
Colleen Bradley Chief Development Officer, Planned Giving Alzheimer Society of Ontario


Me? A Super Hero?

Me? A Super Hero?

Some of the biggest box-office hits in the past couple of years focus on Super Heroes…Batman, Captain America, Black Widow…. Super Heroes appear when the planet is under siege from evil and somehow, against all odds, save the day.

It’s fun to fantasize about having a Super Hero in your own life to save the day. But here at the Alzheimer Society, we believe everyone has the potential to be a Super Hero, including YOU!

But first, let me tell you what we are fighting – Dementia and procrastination.

The #1 foe – Dementia

Alzheimer’s and dementia are two terrible forces growing stronger every day. Did you know the risk for developing dementia doubles every five years after the age of 65, and up to 10% of dementia cases start before that age? Right now, 214,000 (1 out of every 10) people are living with dementia in the province of Ontario alone, and that number will increase to 250,000 by 2020!

To a baby boomer like me, these are scary statistics. Whether it’s a parent, aunt, uncle or spouse, the chances are high that someone in our family circles will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The #2 foe – Procrastination

Did you know that if you develop mental incapacity, it is too late to complete your Will or Powers of Attorney for Personal Care and Property? Currently over 50% of Canadians do not have a Will and over 70% do not have Powers of Attorneys for our personal care or property.

If you don’t take action, you may be allowing the government – the Office of the Public Trustee – to take over your affairs. You worked hard all your life to take care of yourself and your family, and accumulate some assets. Don’t stop now! Waiting for tomorrow just doesn’t make sense to me.

Now here is the part of the story where you can become a Super Hero disguised as an ordinary Canadian.

Rewards for becoming an Alzheimer Society Super Hero

Did you know that by making a gift in your Will you can potentially eliminate taxes owed by your estate? And you get a rebate of taxes you already paid? This rebate allows for an increase in the inheritances to your beneficiaries. And, perhaps the best part of all, the gift you make through your estate plan will go towards solving one of the fastest growing diseases on our planet.

The power of action

Yes, I believe in Super Heroes! Yes, I believe that the world could be a different place. But it requires action.
What if we overcame fear, stopped procrastinating, and made our Powers of Attorneys and Wills? And what if we included charities in our estate plans? Can you imagine how we could change the world?

Please consider being our Super Hero. Make an appointment with an estate lawyer, create or update your Will and your Powers of Attorney for Personal Care and Property and your Will and kindly consider including a gift to the Alzheimer’s Society.

Someone in the future will be glad that you overcame fear and became a Super Hero. It could be someone you know!

To help you get started, request our free Super Hero Estate Planner and Guide and fact sheets.

IMG_4846 (edited)-2Colleen Bradley

Alzheimer Society of Ontario

Chief Development Officer, Planned Giving

Why I made my Will

Why I made my Will

A few months ago I was boarding an airplane to Mexico with my husband…without our daughter, who at the time was 10 months old. Until that point, I had not been away from my daughter for more than a few hours. I dreamed about sleeping in, but I cried at the thought of leaving her. I was also thinking about how my husband and I would be on the plane together. Should something terrible happen, I had nothing written down to protect my daughter and assets. No one would know our wishes.

I have been working in the not-for profit field since 2008, specifically in Planned Giving, which is all about getting your Will and Powers of Attorney done and reaping the benefits of leaving a gift in your Will to a charity. So I know better. I know the process to get these legal documents done. But like so many Canadians (50% of whom do not have a Will), I pushed those thoughts away until I had a plane ticket and was forced to think about the “what if?”

I called a lawyer. I was anxious. I had the tough conversation to plan for when I’m gone. I had a week to sort out with my husband who our house, savings and other assets would be left to and who would become the guardian to our little girl. The thought of someone else – no matter how wonderful a person – raising your child is crushing. But we had to make a decision and after some debate, we did.

It was not comfortable, but it’s done. Our daughter, our assets and my peace of mind are protected. The thought of reviewing our life circumstances yearly and adjusting our Wills is no longer daunting.

Although it took courage to talk about end of life planning, I now feel empowered and relieved. For those who have not gone through this process, take a deep breath and dive in.

At the Alzheimer Society we believe you can be a Super Hero by completing or updating your Will and Powers of Attorney and leaving a gift in your Will to the Alzheimer Society. Why? Because you are doing what is right, taking action, protecting your family and your assets and saving the world from dementia. You can do it!

Shawn-2Shawn Paron

Chief Development Officer, Planned Giving

Alzheimer Society of Ontario

What do you want YOUR legacy to be?

What do you want YOUR legacy to be?

For those of us working for a charity, the word “legacy” means a thoughtful charitable gift, a gift left in your Will. But there could be another meaning: how did you show up in the world?

In other words, aside from the dollars distributed from your estate, how do you want to be remembered? What do you want YOUR legacy to be?

How do you show up in the world? Most of us strive to be the best possible person we can in daily life. We aim to be productive, giving, and caring people who cause as little pain as possible to others when travelling on our own path. Some of us volunteer; others donate to important causes.

What do you want YOUR legacy to be? I was recently asked this question by our CEO, Chris Dennis. In the 26 years that I have been working in the charitable sector in estate planning, this was the first time I had ever been asked that question! So I have to admit, I needed a moment to reflect.

When speaking with donors who want to give a charitable gift in their Wills, I usually ask that early in our conversations. So I asked myself more of the same questions I pose to donors: What’s important to you? What are your core values, the beliefs you have woven into the fabric of your daily living? What do you think your purpose is for being here? And perhaps the most interesting question of all was: What’s missing? Is there anything else you could be doing while you’re healthy, happy and alive?’

Getting back to Chris a few days later, I said I wanted to create a Centre of Fundraising Excellence at the Alzheimer Society as part of my legacy. If I was going to take on the responsibilities of Chief Development Officer, I wanted to build a strong foundation of revenue to fight our foes of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. I wanted to educate people on why they need to overcome procrastination and complete their Powers of Attorneys and Wills. And I wanted to work with a team that strove to be the best.

When I reflected on my personal life, I know I have fallen a bit short of my goal of ensuring that the people I care for most know of how much I love and appreciate them. Yes, I tell my family and friends that I love them all the time, but I believe “deeds speak.” I noticed that there is room for improvement in my actions there and other areas too. And then it hit me: my legacy is a work in progress. I create my legacy moment by moment, day by day, by being intentionally aware of what I am creating, and who I choose to create it with.
So what do you want YOUR legacy to be?

I’d like to invite you to consider your personal legacy. How do you show up in the world? How do you treat yourself, others, your communities, and the planet? What gets in your way? What would it take to align your beliefs and words with simple actions? Your actions today, like completing an estate plan, can ensure others will be protected and thrive long after you leave this earth.

I invite you to create a strong personal legacy that includes cherished memories along with the dollar legacy you leave in your estate plans. Because in the end, it will be how people ‘remember’ us that will truly matter.
If you would like to share your thoughts on this blog, please email me at

Learn more about Make a Will Month.

IMG_4846 (edited)-2Colleen Bradley

Chief Development Officer, Planned Giving