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After Retirement 1: Determining your Legacy

Markus Muhs - Nov 26, 2020
The first of three estate planning blog posts on legacy planning, from a subject matter expert.
The Treasury of Raqmu, a literal legacy of the Nabataean people
This week's blog post is the first of a series of guest blog posts from my friend and fellow Rotarian Kathy Hawkesworth of the Edmonton Community Foundation. Kathy is a legal professional, former tax advisor, and a past chair of the Edmonton branch of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners. She acts as Counsel/Philanthropy Advisor for ECF and presented on her area of expertise at the Rotary District 5370 virtual conference a few months ago in which she called out advisors for not talking enough about this stuff. I agree, we need to have deeper conversations on this, which is why I invited her to contribute this piece.
Be sure to read parts 2 and 3 in coming weeks. At the bottom of this post I'm including a link to our Estate Planning Guide and in the next few posts I'll also be linking to other useful resources. If you can't wait and want to learn more, ECF has some excellent resources on their site, linked above.

I have had the privilege of working at Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF)  for almost 20 years. During this time, it has been inspiring to hear the stories of people who want to make a difference in our communities near and far, and learning what “legacy” means to them.  I have also learned that people often feel adrift in trying to talk about who, how and what they wish to accomplish. 
This blog post hopes to demystify some old words and inspire you to think, talk and act on this idea of legacy.   
Here we are occupying a space where COVID-19 is real, our communities need us more than ever, and to some extent our wings for volunteering in person have been clipped temporarily.  Many people have used this forced pause button to put their houses in order — literally and figuratively.  It is a good time to pause and think about “legacy.” 
A “legacy” defines and expresses who you are. The way you express it may be in how you spend your “time, treasure and/or talent”.  How and why you express your legacy answers a question about you.   A “legacy” acknowledges that we are larger than the body we occupy or even the family we inhabit.
In my work, I have met people who describe themselves as “ordinary.”  Ordinary people doing extraordinary things for organizations and causes they care deeply about — when they are able to choose a time that works for them. That might be during their lifetime volunteering, or when a life transition like downsizing or selling a business happens, or in their wills and estate plans. 
There is room and reason for each of us to find our “why,” our “what” and our “how” to support issues that matter to us, especially to increase the joy we experience from contributing.   
Professional advisors are the most likely group — other than charities themselves — to raise the topic of philanthropy with you.  It might occur as part of an estate plan or a will discussion when doing some tax planning. 
In a research study done in Canada in 2014, 91% of financial advisors indicated that they had discussed charitable giving with their clients, whereas only 13% of clients indicated they have had a meaningful discussion with their advisors. 
It is a huge gap and I believe the disconnect may be in understanding what a “meaningful” conversation is.
I fear that most of the conversations that DO happen resemble a “name that tune'' game, only it is a “name that charity'' game.  They include a professional advisor asking, “Mr. or Ms. Client, are there any charities you would like to include in your will?” 
The word “charity” also comes with baggage. Our lives in Canada are enhanced by more than 86,000 charities. Not only  are there charities helping people living in difficult circumstances, but also those that bring us close to our passions, whether they be arts, libraries, research, schools serving pre-schoolers right through to post-secondary, environmental causes, health, international organizations, and the list continues. 
It is easier to figure out what a meaningful conversation or legacy is if you ponder or reflect on the issues that you feel most connected to, or the work that means the most to you.  For example, those who like dance or a school that teaches dance may want to consider supporting an organization like Alberta Ballet or Mile Zero Dance as part of their legacy.  
It is remarkable how many people have the magic number of three very distinct interests.
Narrowing down the fields of interest is helpful in determining where you want to focus your time and resources.  I and my colleagues are always delighted to have a conversation with people going through this process.  We can help turn ideas into words that can help guide you to the organizations doing great work in your areas of interest.  You don’t need to make a gift to ECF to access this conversation.  It is one of the ways we support community.
Kathy Hawkesworth (LLB, TEP)
Counsel/Philanthropy Advisor
Edmonton Community Foundation

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week! Sign up to our eNewsletter to never miss an update. Reach out to Kathy or Markus if you have any questions or would like to further explore planning your legacy.
Some additional estate planning resources: