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Category: Planning for the Future

Make a Will Month – What do I need to do to get ready?

Make a Will Month – What do I need to do to get ready?

Did you know that making a Will is one of the most important things you will ever do?  Most people understand that without being told. So why is it that so many people neglect taking care of this?  Often people simply feel overwhelmed.  They believe it will take too much time, and will be too difficult.   While it might seem a little overwhelming, it really is a simple and straight-forward process.

The following is a list of things you will need to think about to prepare your Will and powers of attorney –

  1. Determine what assets you have.
  2. Determine what debts you have.
  3. Understand the ownership structure of your assets i.e. are the assets jointly held vs. sole ownership.
  4. Determine if there any investments that can appoint designated beneficiaries to minimize probate fees.
  5. Determine if any steps can be taken to minimize taxes.
  6. Understand your family structure, and potential issues and conflicts that may arise.
  7. Determine who you want to appoint as Executor or Executrix to manage the business of your estate.
  8. Determine who you want to appoint as guardian of your minor children.
  9. Determine how you will meet obligations the law imposes for support of dependents.
  10. Determine if there are any specific gifts you would like to go to specific people.
  11. Determine if there are any people with special needs who require special consideration.
  12. Determine if there are any charities you wish to give gifts to taking advantage of tax savings available.
  13. Determine how you wish to distribute your property.
  14. Determine who you would like to make decisions on your behalf before you pass away in the event that you become incapable of making decisions yourself.


That is it.  Still overwhelmed?  Don’t fret you are not alone. This is the reason why many people will hire a law firm to assist in the drafting of the document and guiding them through the entire process.

If you decide to use a law firm to assist with your Will, the law firm should be providing you with a step by step questionnaire that will assist in making sure that your situation is fully understood, and the best possible advice is being given.   The questionnaire should gather all of the information in a systematic way that makes it as simple for you as possible.

This also provides you with a very important opportunity for you to organize your assets, in a way that will be understandable to your Executor, who will need to be able to make sense of your financial situation without having you around to explain it.

When I was called to the bar in 1995, the very first thing that I did as a new lawyer was assist with the administration of an estate of an older gentleman, who was quite wealthy.  His wife never really had been part of the financial decision-making process. She arrived with 3 boxes of old correspondence from various investment companies.  There was no organization, just paperwork.   I spent countless billable hours contacting these companies, with the purpose of determining if these were active investments or not.  Some were and some weren’t.  While I took care to ensure that I did this work in the most efficient way possible, our bill was sizable and could have been avoided.

These days, with computerized records things are a little easier, as long as the people who need to know, know what investments exists, passwords to access the information etc. It can be painful, but this type of organization should be done to make the transition after death much easier.

The Alzheimer Society of Ontario has an estate planner and guide to prepare these documents. However, as there is tax planning involved that can save your estate a lot of money, and Wills and powers of attorney are a specialized area that requires specific knowledge to ensure binding documents, I highly recommend that you also use the services of a lawyer to assist you – the result – peace of mind.

Really, there is no need to be overwhelmed.  Asking for help gets the process started and it is faster than you may be imagining. And the peace of mind is measurable.


Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

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


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.

Make a Will Month – What is holding you back?

Make a Will Month – What is holding you back?

“When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer.”
– Stevie Wonder

Early in my career as a lawyer I had a client who called me because she wanted to make her Will and powers of attorney.  I provided her with the information that she needed and asked her when she wanted to meet to give me instructions to prepare the Will.  She told me she would get back to me.

I put her on what I call my “hound list” – a list of people I follow up with from time to time who have expressed interest, but not yet retained my services.  From time to time I would send my client a friendly reminder encouraging her to set up an appointment with me. Each time, she would say that she was ready to go, and that I should call her.   When I called her, she would tell me that she really wasn’t ready yet.   This happened three times.  On the third time I asked her what was holding her back. She literally hung up the phone on me. I was wondering if I had been rude, or had said something wrong.

A few days later I received a phone call. “Steve”, she said, “I want to tell you the reason that I have been delaying making my Will.”  The panic and anxiety in her voice was clear.  After a fairly long pause she said “I’m going to die”.

I was immediately upset and worried. Was she sick? Was there urgency to get this done for her? As delicately as I could I asked, “Are you sick?”

“No.”, she replied, causing me great confusion.

“Is there another reason you are going to die?”

It turns out that she wasn’t going to die – at least not imminently.  She grew up in a family where you simply did not talk about death. It was a taboo subject. The belief being that if you talked about death, you were inviting death. In essence if she made a Will, she believed that she would die shortly after.  She even had an anecdotal story of an aunt who wrote a Will, and died within a month.

People’s beliefs are people’s beliefs. Something that may seem completely irrational to one person can make complete sense to another person. I get it. Death is not a fun topic. It makes people uncomfortable. It is mysterious. It is painful.  And many people want to avoid talking about it.

I am not fond of having people on my hound list, and it is not only for business reasons.  People on my hound list have expressed interest in making their Will. I am aware of the problems that are caused when people die without a Will, or lose capacity without having powers of attorney in place.   I feel a very strong responsibility to encourage people to follow through once they have contacted me.  Whether they use my services, or someone else’s, or even do it themselves, I don’t care. Just as long as I know that they have taken care of this important step.

I used a rational approach.

“Mrs. Smith”, I said (name changed for confidentiality reasons), “Did you know that more than half of the people in Ontario do not have Wills?”  She did not know this.

“Well”, I said, “that means that less than half of the people in Ontario do have Wills – and most of them have lived long, prosperous lives, even after making their Will.”    She laughed.   A tension was broken.

“When you say it that way, it seems so silly”.

To me however, it did not seem silly. Just frightened and scared of the unknown. Once she was able to confront her fears, she was ready to go.

In my experience most adults know they should have a Will and power of attorney. There are three basic reasons they delay.

  1. Superstition/Psychological Readiness
  2. Concerns about Costs
  3. Concerns about Time


There is little that I can do except encourage those who are not psychologically ready to commit to making their Will.

Regarding costs there are free resources all over the internet for Wills and powers of attorney. If you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself, you should be able to find a lawyer to prepare a basic Will with a consultation for a very reasonable rate.

Making your Will can feel overwhelming and stressful. I totally and completely understand that. This is why The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim ( is committed to making the process easy, and understandable.  To set up a free telephone consultation please contact me at  No question will be left unanswered.


Written by:

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


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.

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

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


If you have a Will, you need to read this

If you have a Will, you need to read this

New Federal Estate Planning Legislation

Make a Will Month (November) may be officially over, but this year we are still encouraging Ontarians to review their Estate plans because of new rules! On December 16, 2014, the Conservative government made amendments to the Income Tax Act, which impact the Will and estate planning process. Both amendments begin in 2016. Check your Will – you may need to take immediate action!

Amendment – Charitable Gifts – Three year Graduated Rate Estate

Right now, charitable gifts in your Will result in tax credits that can be used against taxable income in the year of death and in the year before it. Your Executor/Trustee uses these credits to reduce or eliminate taxes in the year of death or claw back taxes paid from the previous year.

The new rule states that all charitable gifts stated in your Will must be made within three years of the date of death or the valuable charitable tax credits can no longer be used. Your gift will still stand, and the charity will issue the tax receipt; however, if the tax receipt is dated more than three years after death, it cannot be used to reduce your taxes.

What you need to do: If you are considering or have included a charitable gift in your Will, please ensure that your Executor/Trustee is aware of the new rules so you get the best possible tax breaks

Amendment – Spousal Tax Liabilities – Spousal Trusts, Joint Partner Trusts, Alter Ego Trusts

The Income Tax Act says that all individuals are to have “disposed” of their capital assets upon death, even if they have not sold any of them. The government calls this a “deemed disposition” and it can lead to a large capital gains tax for the estate.

Under the old rules, the taxes from a “deemed disposition” must be paid by the estate of the deceased person, which makes sense as the assets belong to the estate. Sometimes, these assets are not liquid, meaning cash flow can become an issue for the remaining spouse. In the past, a Will could direct a spousal trust be set up to ensure the well-being of the remaining spouse and the taxes could be deferred until the surviving spouse passes away.
The new rules make the spouse pay these taxes. This new rule is dramatic as the ownership of the assets still remains in the first estate and imposes a tax liability onto a person who does not own them.

Action: If you have a trust in your existing Will please seek professional guidance as soon as possible.

Please note that a number of technical submissions from law firms and accountants have been made to the new Federal Government on the inherent unfairness of these new rules. Stay tuned!

Learn more about Will planning on our website.

IMG_4846 (edited)-2Colleen 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

Planning for incapacity – what you need to know

Planning for incapacity – what you need to know

If you can’t decide, who will decide for you?

One in 10 Ontarians over the age of 65 will develop Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, yet less than 1/3 of Canadians have made legal arrangements to ensure their care. The Alzheimer Society of Ontario has partnered with the Ontario Bar Association to promote Make a Will Month in November, encouraging Ontarians to make a will now so they can rest assured later.

Planning for incapacity is like purchasing insurance. It involves planning for unpleasant contingencies. If dementia strikes and you lose your ability to manage your own affairs, you will need someone to act as your substitute decision maker. That’s why it’s worthwhile to think about who you would like to act as your attorney for personal care or property while you still can.[1]

If you don’t complete your Power of Attorney documents while you are still capable, your family members may have to apply to the court to have a substitute decision maker appointed. In Ontario those persons are called guardians (for Personal Care and/or for Property). This court process is considerably more time-consuming, expensive and stressful than making the decisions yourself.

Having these plans in place is a kindness to those you care about. These plans also offer the chance to communicate your wishes, helping to ensure that the end of your life will be in keeping with what you wanted.

Continuing Power of Attorney for Property

An Attorney for Property’s duties and authority often include:

  • Ensuring that bills are paid and accounts kept in good standing;
  • Applying for pension and insurance benefits and making sure income is used for your benefit and care;
  • Maintaining homes, adapting them to your changing needs or, if necessary, selling them to pay for care;
  • Signing legal papers including leases, real estate documents and contracts for services.

Power of Attorney for Personal Care

An Attorney for Personal Care is charged with making decisions and acting on wishes relating to:

  • Where you live
  • What sorts of medical treatments are pursued
  • Consent to those treatments
  • End of life decision.

For both personal care and property, consider the following questions and speak to your legal advisor about how to prepare the documents that reflect your values and wishes:

  • Who do you trust to be organized and honest with your financial affairs?
  • Who do you trust to respect your expressed wishes for decisions such as future health care and living arrangements?
  • If you are considering multiple attorneys, do those individuals get along?
  • Do your proposed attorneys live nearby so that they can help in an emergency?
  • Are your proposed attorneys likely to communicate well with your family and friends, will they foster your independence and put your needs ahead of their own wishes?
  • Have you talked about your wishes with your substitute decision makers, in particular, and your family as a whole?
  • Do you have your financial information gathered so that your substitute decision maker can locate your assets, your creditors and make sure that your financial interests are looked after?

After considering these questions, I encourage you to contact a lawyer in your community to assist you in planning for incapacity.

Learn more about Make A Will Month by visiting

Jane-martinJane E. Martin, Barrister & Solicitor

Chair, Ontario Bar Association Trusts & Estates Law Section

Dickson MacGregor Appell LLP



[1] The terminology used for these documents varies across the country. In British Columbia a “Representation Agreement” is signed to authorize representatives to make decisions for the legal affairs, financial affairs and personal care and health care needs for an adult who has lost capacity. Some provinces also have advance directives and living wills. Regardless of the names of the documents, they function to allow someone to assist you if you become incapable due to illness or accident.

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