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Let’s Talk About Legacy Gifts

Legacy giving and estate planning can be daunting—professional consultation can help.

A legacy gift is what someone is remembered for. It is how they impact future generations and care for their community or causes long after they are gone. In many cases, it is a defining source of income for organizations working hard to meet communities’ health and wellness needs.

“Arthritis Research Canada is dedicated to finding solutions that help people overcome the challenges caused by their arthritis—challenges that interfere with daily life,” says Patti Nakatsu, director of development for Arthritis Research Canada. “Arthritis can prevent a person from working, being physically active and caring for young children. It can cause sleep problems, mental health issues and put people at risk for serious complications like heart attack and stroke. Legacy gifts support research that is finding answers so that people can thrive, despite having arthritis.”

Focusing Your Gift

Father holding daughter in a field.
Courtesy of Family Services of Greater Vancouver

Choosing where to focus legacy giving can be daunting with so many worthy causes in need of support. Without the right kind of help, establishing a resilient legacy gift can seem almost impossible.

“It may be helpful to reflect on your values, the causes that have affected you or your loved ones or an underserved need you see in your community,” says Craig Hikida, vice-president, donor services at Vancouver Foundation. “For those who know exactly what they want their gift to achieve, it is important to allow flexibility so their chosen charities can always respond to future needs as they arise.”

Donors should consider how they can ensure that their values are carried into the future by an organization that shares them, recommends Maria Howard, CEO of Family Services of Greater Vancouver.

“If you’ve received support in the past or have benefited from a particular cause, leaving a legacy gift is a wonderful way to ensure the organization of your choice can carry out its mission for many years to come,” she says.

Another tact is for donors to consider the services they want their loved ones and neighbours to have access to in a moment of crisis—like counselling, community connection, or literacy and life skills workshops—the things that make life a little easier in a stressful world.

For those with pointed interests, Family Services has four funds that donors can give to, based on what matters to them. The funds include the Healthy Families Fund, Empowerment Fund, Inclusive Communities Fund and Youth Services Fund.

For those who know more loosely the area where they’d like to focus their giving, Vancouver Foundation can help. Once a donor has decided on what their legacy will be, the how is the next consideration.

Legacy Gifting Strategies

Middle aged woman embracing elderly woman.
Courtesy of Burnaby Hospital Foundation

This is where consulting with a professional financial planner to ensure your personal and financial goals match is essential. “A professional can provide you with various options and advice,” says Kristy James, president and CEO, Burnaby Hospital Foundation. “This can involve developing a strategy for charitable giving depending on your applicable assets.”

Different strategies will take advantage of various tax benefits, so it is important to be clear on how you plan to structure a charitable legacy gift to make the most impact.

“The fact is, when you pass, your estate is likely to be responsible for taxes payable,” James says. “Leaving a bequest in a will, appreciated securities or life insurance can reduce your personal taxes and increase benefits to your estate and its beneficiaries.

“And, while leaving a gift in your will is an emotional and practical decision, we have often found that donors who consult a professional can find a new realization about how they can support their charity of choice, while also ensuring that their loved ones are taken care of.”

Nakatsu says it’s important for people to know that they can take care of their loved ones and support the causes they value most, because even a small portion of an estate can go a long way. “For example, 5% of an $850K estate translates into a donation of $42,500,” she says. “Imagine the difference this can make for people living with arthritis! We recommend donors speak with a professional advisor to get the best advice for their own particular situation.”

Consulting the Organization

Nurse assisting elderly woman.
Courtesy of Vancouver Hospital Foundation

Professionals also help donors navigate the complexities of gift and estate planning and avoid unnecessary fees. “This grows your legacy and gives you peace of mind,” Hikida says. “A professionally drafted plan will help ensure your estate is protected from potential costly legal challenges, which can result from something as simple as ambiguity in the language used.”

Consulting with a charitable organization prior to including them in your estate plans is highly recommended, especially if you intend to place any restrictions on the use of your gift. Otherwise, there is a risk that the charity may have to decline the gift in the future if the purpose can not be met.

A named endowment fund can be established at Vancouver Foundation to receive a gift and make regular payments of income to your chosen registered charities or support your selected area of focus. “This simplifies the distribution of your estate for your executor and ensures that the charities receive steady, ongoing support in perpetuity,” Hikida says. “Donors who can’t decide on a charity or cause can rely on Vancouver Foundation’s community expertise to fund charitable projects across BC, ensuring your legacy always funds current and emerging needs.”

Using the service of a professional will ensure the will is valid, including listing an accurate charity name, making sure the donor’s giving is going exactly where they intend.

“There are many ways to give a legacy gift, including bequests (cash gifts), naming a cause as the beneficiary of your TFSA, RRSP or life insurance policy, endowments, securities, and even real estate,” Howard says. “A professional can help you navigate what will make the most sense for your unique situation.”

Young boy in a wheelchair.
Courtesy of Variety – The Children’s Charity of BC

Jennifer Shang, director, donor relations for Variety – the Children’s Charity of BC, says another option is leaving a gift of assets other than cash to save capital gains and estate taxes, and therefore make a bigger impact than you previously thought possible.

Or consider establishing a donor-advised fund through which you can donate a lump sum now but spread it among various charities or distribute it over several years. “This effectively creates a pseudo foundation for a fraction of the cost of setting up a private foundation,” Shang says. “You receive the tax receipt when you make the donation and can then allocate the funds to any of Canada’s registered charities.”

In-house Legacy Planning Professionals

Middle aged woman playing with a toddler.
Courtesy of Arthritis Research Canada

Arthritis Research Canada works with donors to ensure that any specific wishes related to their gift are understood and honoured, and that we acknowledge their generosity in a way that is meaningful to them.

Similarly, Burnaby Hospital Foundation has professional staff and a community of volunteer professionals, including lawyers, accountants, financial planners, and notaries, who can discuss your specific circumstances about estate planning.

“New to Legacy Giving this year, Burnaby Hospital Foundation has joined Will Power, a national public education campaign to inspire people to think differently about charitable giving,” James says. “This campaign aims to educate the public about making gifts in their wills and has, alongside estate planning professionals, created helpful materials such as a free online webinar that explains the legacy planning process and benefits. Our staff are excited to help connect the public to these resources and help them understand legacy giving in a new way.”

Variety – the Children’s Charity of BC has also partnered with Willfora, a free resource to help make creating or updating a will easier than ever. Willfora allows you to create a legal will online in 20-minutes or less, at no cost to you.

“This way, you can take care of those you love, while helping create a future where special needs kids in BC are thriving, achieving their full potential and having their needs met every single day,” Shang says.

Learn more:

Family Services of Greater Vancouver |

Vancouver Foundation |

Burnaby Hospital Foundation |

Variety – the Children’s Charity of BC |

Arthritis Research Canada |