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Create a Legacy: Building Hope for Generations

Leaving a legacy can take numerous forms, and can be simple to set up with your family.

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Leaving a legacy can take numerous forms and can be simple to set up with your family.

There are numerous options to set up contributions that will leave a lasting legacy for you and your family

One of life’s truisms is that the older you get, the more you hope your life matters in some way—and the notion of leaving a legacy therefore assumes increasing importance.

Leaving a legacy of what you value in life can carry forth to future generations. Additionally, your one-time gift or the many other legacy-giving options available have the potential to benefit innumerable people in need.

But to whom do you give, and how do you give? The former question merits considerable thought, and perhaps discussion among loved ones. As for the latter, professionals who specialize in estate planning are on hand to lend advice.


Relying On The Experts

After spending a lifetime building a business, accumulating wealth and protecting one’s assets, seeking professional advice on gifting after death makes a lot of sense.

 A good lawyer can plot strategies that will best preserve the assets that fuel your legacy. For example, Ingrid Tsui, partner and leader of Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP’s Wills, Estates + Trusts practice, often advises business-owner clients to undertake “dual” will planning. B.C. estates are subject to 1.4-per-cent probate fees and the typical delays and public disclosure of assets that comes with applying for probate. A dual will plan can result in the Canadian private company avoiding all of this.

The savings will generally offset the additional legal fees associated with preparing a second Will. But there are other advantages to this strategy apart from it being a solution to the 1.4-per-cent probate fee issue and asset dissemination delays: “Applying for probate also causes a loss of privacy, because estate assets and their values are listed in the filed documents, which are publicly accessible,” says Tsui.

There are certain criteria which the will-maker must implement in order for a dual Will structure to work, including selecting different executors to act under each Will.

Tsui’s message is that business owners should take the time and necessary steps to consider the best plan possible.

Another element that can negatively impact the creation of a legacy—and something that can be easily rectified—is the tendency of people to avoid the services of lawyers or notaries and undertake their own estate planning.

Elyssa Lockhart, partner at McQuarrie Hunter LLP, says: “People think they may be streamlining the legal process and saving money by taking steps to avoid the probate process; often after the death of a spouse, a surviving partner adds one or more of his or her children to their assets as joint owners—and that’s when the trouble begins.”

Over time, these new owners can become proprietary about assets— preventing parents from selling, reinvesting, and using them freely. “Incidences of this occurring seem to be increasing, and while legal steps can be taken to rectify the financial situation, litigation doesn’t resolve the bitterness created within the family,” says Lockhart.

McQuarrie’s commitment to the communities it serves runs deep, and this year marks its 50th anniversary. Its legal team is especially motivated to helping companies and individuals avoid the many hazards stemming from substituting simple solutions for comprehensive legal advice. “In terms of the legal landscape, most do not appreciate its intricacies,” says Lockhart. “Simply put, people don’t know what they don’t know.”

Lockhart points out that jointures don’t necessarily save families money. She explains: “If you list a child who doesn’t live on your property as a joint owner, it is treated as an investment in their hands and gains in value can be taxable at a much higher rate than the approximate 1.4 per cent probate fee.

“The bottom line is none of us wants to leave a legacy of bitterness or expense—but by not consulting with a lawyer, you put your legacy at risk to the unknown.”

One issue that often arises in discussions with clients who are committed to charitable giving is: How can I encourage my children to also give back to the community? 

A solution for very wealthy individuals is to establish a private foundation during their lifetime.  Others, who expect to leave a substantial estate when they die, may wish to earmark a large portion of it to establish a private foundation in their names.  However, as Brian Mulholland, a partner at Edwards, Kenny & Bray LLP points out: “A private foundation needs people to run it and requires a considerable financial commitment. Founders may encourage their families to get involved in the running of the foundation, but that involves a significant time commitment, which is often not what family members are willing or able to give.”

Mulholland, whose firm works with many individuals and businesses who have chosen to make charitable giving part of their lives and part of the legacies they leave, suggests that: “Involving your family in your charitable activities is a great way to instill the spirit of charitable giving in them.”

 Over the past decade, Mulholland has become increasingly focused on estate planning and administration for owners of family enterprises and high net-worth individuals. He goes on to note that for many clients who either do not have sufficient wealth or do not wish to set aside the kind of money required to establish and fund the ongoing administration costs of a private foundation, giving to donor-managed funds or specifically choosing one or two charities to support both during your lifetime and from your estate is an excellent way to create a legacy of charitable giving. 

For clients who want to encourage their children to embrace charitable giving, Mulholland suggests: “You can begin the process by having family meetings to explain why you have chosen to support a certain charity or charities, what you do, and what you hope the outcomes from your charitable giving will be. By making the charity and the work it does familiar to them, you’re increasing the chance that they will want to get involved. And if they actually begin donating their time to the cause, it’s more likely that they will continue to give back, either to your chosen charity or one of their own choosing, after you’re gone.”

 Dwight Dee, partner with Miller Thomson LLP, says: “We are finding more and more people expressing their desire to leave a philanthropic legacy through their estates, which makes sense in B.C. considering the wealth that is accumulating due to our high real-estate values.”

Miller Thomson’s private client and social-impact lawyers throughout the country work with domestic and international clients alike and are well connected with advisors throughout the charitable and estate-planning sectors. “We quickly get to the heart of what a client wants and work together for practical strategies and solutions,” explains Dee.  “This is important, because while legacies take effect after you’re gone, effective planning now can ensure you get the most impact for your gift, now and in the future.”

With a special focus on both private client planning and charities, Miller Thomson sets up charitable gifts in wills and through trusts, and consults on donor-advised funds and establishing private foundations. Moreover, its Social Impact Group is one of the largest teams of legal experts in Canada dedicated to helping charities and other not-for-profit organizations with strategies that address legal issues and keep them ahead of changing regulations.

Another option available to people who want to give back is to establish a donor-advised fund at a community foundation, which enables them to make a charitable contribution, receive tax benefits, and then recommend grants from the fund over time.


One of the donors to the Vancouver Foundation is Derek Wills, who established the Derek and Janice Wills Foundation fund. Flexible donor terms can start with a gift as low as $1,000.


Making adjustments

As the largest community foundation in Canada, Vancouver Foundation assists people in establishing endowment funds in order to support charities and causes. President and CEO Kevin McCort is especially proud of his organization’s Legacy Fund, a startup permanent endowment with flexible donor advised terms that can be started with a gift
as low as $1,000 plus a commitment that a future gift of $9,000 or more will follow through your estate.

Granting begins when the fund reaches $10,000, either through the estate gift or additional lifetime donations. “It’s the easiest way to get involved in legacy giving, and the beauty of this strategy is it only takes a line in your will stating that you want to support your fund at Vancouver Foundation,” says McCort. “After that, should you choose over time to change who or what your fund will benefit, you simply make the adjustment through us.”

In the event donors stipulate that Vancouver Foundation can do with their assets as they see fit, the organization abides by a rigorous procedure to ensure the money is well spent. “Essentially, we ask different charities to identify specific issues and determine their root causes,” says McCort. “Let’s say the issue is homelessness, and one root cause might be the outcome of foster care: this may allow us to direct assets to programs that better transition foster children into independent living.” 

Hundreds of individuals and families have entrusted their legacies to Vancouver Foundation, safe in the knowledge their gift will make a real difference for generations to come.

United Way has been operating in the Lower Mainland for 87 years now. The non-profit organization works to identify social issues, address root causes, and affect positive, long-term change. “One of the ways we work with the local agencies is by providing core funding,” says Michelle Bernard, manager of philanthropy at United Way of the Lower Mainland. “We take an holistic approach to serving our community.”

It’s a crucial strategy, given that so many smaller organizations are struggling simply to retain key staff and keep the lights burning.

United Way’s main focuses are children, poverty, building strong communities, and helping seniors stay healthy and connected; and with more than 170 community partners, the Lower Mainland chapter funds nearly 350 programs annually.

Unsurprisingly, United Way’s prominence and longevity is an asset when it comes to legacy giving. “People know we’re always going to be around,” says Bernard.

However, she concedes that more can be done to promote legacy giving overall: “I truly believe everyone should have a gift for charity in their wills, especially at a time when it’s easier than ever to do so and so many organizations are in need. For those curious about us, it’s as easy as picking up the phone to learn more about what they can do.” 


For The Kids

The many charities benefitting children are diverse, but they have one thing in common: they help give young ones back their childhood.

Such is the case with Variety—the Children’s Charity of BC. Its Variety Kids Can campaign builds on the organization’s goal of stepping in where health care ends to help kids with special needs. Launched earlier this year, the campaign is geared to attract more funding toward Variety’s core grant areas, with funds going towards mobility programs, specialized therapies, mental wellness, educational programs and bursaries for learning disabilities, plus lifesaving medical equipment and supplies. The campaign was kicked off by an initial $1 million donation by the Milan and Maureen Ilich Foundation, with the goal of $2.5 million raised.

Kristy Gill, executive director of Variety, says: “There are more and more children who have special needs with parents who don’t have the finances to support them, and we need to step in.” 

The problem becomes apparent when one learns that even simple devices such as hearing aids aren’t covered by government care.

To fortify the services it provides, Variety is seeking to expand its Legacy Committee with as many as 10 volunteers from the legal, estate finance, and investment realms, to help educate potential donors about the organization’s programs and ensure that their gifts have the most beneficial outcomes.

It should be noted that Variety’s current initiatives augment a consistent history of making a difference to children in need: launched in B.C. in 1966, Variety has since 2010 distributed over $30 million in funding to families and organizations in communities throughout the province.

Philanthropy and legacy giving have become a tradition in the Arnish family. Recently Tracey Arnish, chair, board of directors for Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon, shared that she had named RMH in her family will. 

 From her perspective, the motivation stemmed from her first-hand exposure to the organization after her son was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007. “We were fortunate to receive medical treatment in our home city, but during this time we became aware of families [from out of town] who didn’t have anywhere to stay,” she recalls, adding that the forced separation of families is compounded by the monumental problems associated with loss of income due to having to relocate.

 But at Ronald McDonald House, Arnish, who is also chief people officer for Coast Capital Savings, “saw the comfort and security as well as the sense of relief that those staying [in the facility] received.” 

 RMH’s success in keeping families together compelled Arnish to join its board in 2013; as for naming the organization in her will, she says the motivation “was knowing we can continue to provide families across B.C. and Yukon with a home away from home.” 

 Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon is one of 14 Ronald McDonald houses across Canada helping the families of children diagnosed with serious illness or injury when they must travel for their child’s treatment.

Despite its high profile, the Make-A-Wish Foundation is very much a grassroots organization, with the 200 volunteers of its BC & Yukon chapter ensuring that 82 cents out of every dollar was used to grant 127 wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions last year, according to CEO Ross Hetherington.

The importance of granting a child his or her wish cannot be underestimated. “They hold onto that wish as they undergo treatment,” says Hetherington, adding that a special Wishing Well legacy fund also grants wishes in extreme cases: “Sometimes, unfortunately, we have to grant wishes within the space of a day, depending on the medical condition.”

As an organization that receives no government funding, Make-A-Wish is constantly looking down the road for donation sources: understandable, considering the average cost of a wish is $10,000 and a Wishing Well wish is $15,000.  Hetherington says: “I can’t say enough about our wonderful donors, as well as our volunteers who continue to support what we do and provide children with comfort, happiness, and hope.” 


Victory Square Technologies founder and CEO Shafin Diamond Tejani (centre-left) met with Variety BC staff and grant recipient Kalenna (pictured here with her mother, Natasha Golinsky); Tejani has commited $500,000 in matching funds to the Variety Kids Can campaign.

Leaving a legacy to Make-A-Wish will ensure more kids like Moss have their wishes granted.

Hospitals, Plus

Leaving legacies to hospitals means so much more than funding new equipment and programs. 

“Community program funding is also an integral part of legacy giving,” says Tinu Mathur, board chair of the Burnaby Hospital Foundation. “Our donors help fund everything from healthy-lunch programs for schoolchildren to health programs for seniors; in addition to the importance of hospital equipment and operations, this is extending the health care continuum.”

This is not to downplay the importance of hospital funding: governments do not fully fund BC hospitals, and the monies received are creating the baseline for our health-care system.

Fortunately, Burnaby Hospital donors since 2002 have given close to $19 million to purchase new equipment, and the Burnaby Hospital Foundation’s purpose is to ensure that the facility is equipped in every way to advance the health of all generations as well as maintain the vibrancy of the entire community (for the record, the most common legacy gift options are a bequest in a will, a gift of life insurance, and a gift of retirement funds such as RRSPs and RRIFs).

Mathur says: “Anyone can help us make a difference, and no contribution is too small. With our foundation, a donation is more than a gift towards wellness: it’s an investment in your community family, your neighbour, and yourself.”

Jeff  Sodowsky, chief development officer for the BC Women’s Hospital + Health Care Foundation, stresses: “Everyone can make a legacy gift. So many people think one has to be a Pattison or Rockefeller to make a positive impact, and it’s simply not true,” he says.

 Through fundraising campaigns, signature events, and growing support from partners in the community, BC Women’s Foundation is poised to support BC Women’s Hospital and women’s health at unprecedented levels, with the purchase of new equipment and technology; program and service enhancements; site redevelopment; and greater research, education, and training capacity.

 Legacy giving to BC Women’s Hospital may obviously benefit 50 per cent of the population, but Sodowsky notes that: “This directly benefits the other half as well. Plus, as the largest birthing facility in Western Canada, the support we receive provides for the safe arrival of new dependents across the board—just as having a will in place protects any newborn child.” In fact, one of the hospital’s newest developments is the impending opening of its Newborn ICU, only one of three in the world which, in addition to critical equipment such as advanced incubators, contains 70 private rooms so that mothers and their babies need not be separated after birth.

 Given the diverse needs of BC Women’s Hospital, the ways to donate are many, from giving online and leaving a gift in your will to creating a fundraising website and giving stocks and securities. “The point is, everyone has the capacity to make a difference,” says Sodowsky. “Your donation ensures that women have a place in healthcare to call their own.” 

Fighting The Good Fight

One of the most necessary beneficiaries of legacy giving are those dedicated to fighting diseases, and in its more than 100 forms, arthritis is the most costly ($33 billion annually) chronic disease in Canada, affecting more than 5.2 million Canadians (including 700,000 British Columbians).

However, arthritis research receives only three per cent of the available research funding in this country. Fortunately, Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research organization in North America, with a diversely disciplined scientific team whose 75-plus studies cover the breadth of this disease.

Dr. John Esdaile, scientific director for Arthritis Research Canada, says: 

“With donor support and as a world leader in patient-focused research, our organization is making major strides in changing the trajectory of arthritis by reducing its impact on both disability and job loss and by preventing its development.”

Would-be legacy-givers take note: the number of people, both young and old, with arthritis is expected to rise dramatically in the next 20 years; a gift to Arthritis Research Canada ensures lifesaving research continues and that patients triumph over the pain and disability of this disease.

Cancer statistics are undeniable: nearly one in two Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with some form of the disease in their lifetime, and 206,200 Canadians are expected to be diagnosed this year alone.

But other statistics reinforce the importance of giving to organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society (which recently merged with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation to pool resources and improve efficiencies): since 1988, more than 179,000 deaths have been avoided as a result of cancer prevention and control efforts. Also, the five-year cancer survival rate has increased from 25 per cent in the 1940s to 60 per cent today.

These successes can be attributed in a large part to advances in research and prevention funded through the generosity of Canadian Cancer Society donors, including legacy donors. 

Janice Williams, manager, estate and gift planning, for the Canadian Cancer Society BC & Yukon, says: “A legacy gift is an opportunity to change the future of cancer. Donors want to make a difference and I have the opportunity to work with them to fulfill that wish through a charitable bequest. The strides we’re making towards eradicating cancer and the support programs we offer to those living with cancer wouldn’t be possible without their generosity.”

What could be more universally recognized as a philanthropic cause than The Salvation Army? The 152-year-old organization operates in 127 countries and 51 B.C. communities, providing programs and services that live up to its famous moniker, Giving Hope Today. 

Vicki Raw, charitable gift advisor, planned and major giving for the organization, says: “Even the average citizen knows we offer food, clothing, and shelter to those in need, but we also transform lives by helping people escape domestic abuse and human trafficking, as well as get on the path to recovery from addiction.” Most recently, the organization is active in everything from the B.C. wildfires to Africa famine relief.

The Salvation Army’s mission is simple: to be a transforming influence in the communities it serves. Becoming involved is equally simple: the organization’s website lists no less than 19 different ways you can help, from becoming a monthly donor and making a gift in your will, to corporate partnerships and active volunteer work.

Raw concludes: “I’ve worked in the philanthropic field for 22 years and never seen such generosity in legacy giving as with The Salvation Army. People know we do good work—and that their gifts truly make a difference.” •