Legacy Giving Expresses Gratitude for Organizations Close to the Heart

AUGUST 24, 2023

Peterborough lawyer Karen Sisson ’78 (Lady Eaton College) outlines how remembering organizations in a will allows clients to ‘live on’ in places that meant a great deal to them 

Headshot of Karen SissonA great deal of my legal practice involves estate planning and discussions with clients about providing a gift to organizations with which they have been involved during their lifetimes. Some who may have accumulated wealth and have provided for their families, or who have no immediate family, are looking to do something rewarding with their assets after they have gone.

I have supported many clients in ensuring arrangements have been made to direct their gifts to a charity or nonprofit of choice, including in some cases to an alma mater. At Trent University, for example, there are myriad ways to direct legacy support whether that is to the Humanities & Social Sciences, Nursing, or Athletics. Members of Trent's Legacy Society are also creatively forging their own legacies including Dr. Tom Miller '82 whose legacy will ensure the vibrant, residential, academic, college-based education remains central to Trent; or Michael Nolan '69 whose legacy will ensure Trent's trademark natural landscapes will continue to be enjoyed for generations. Some clients want to support their alma mater’s greatest needs, allowing the University to dream big, while others prefer to set up a fund in their own name for an area that is personally meaningful. It is also common for people who have had humble beginnings, and then go on to achieve great success, to use their legacy support to assist young students who are in financial need such as a gift to the Trent Fund.

While some people think only the wealthy can afford to make a great impact on a charity close to their heart, clients are often pleasantly surprised to realize that legacy giving allows them to make a far greater impact than what they could afford during their lifetime.

In fact, Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of the ability to leave a significant charitable gift under the terms of their will, and depending on the circumstances, a legacy gift may provide tax benefits to the estate. Legacy giving is remarkably simple to do. Most minor changes to add a legacy gift can be easily made through discussion with your lawyer and then signing appropriate documents.  

Anyone wishing to provide a legacy gift to any organization should do so only after speaking with their professional advisers to discuss what options would best meet their estate plan. Without appropriate direction, an Executor/Trustee may not be able to carry out a testator's wishes as he or she had hoped.  

Overall, legacy gifts are an expression of gratitude and a way for people to 'live on' in a place that means a great deal to them. For the University, this may be expressed by staff, faculty, alumni or those who have children, grandchildren, or other family members who are alumni. Still others may be community members who have had wonderful Trent experiences by attending on-campus events, belonging to the Athletics Centre, walking the campus trails as part of their wellness routine, or taking an inspiring continuing education course. There are many ways in which people are part of the Trent community without being students.  

From my personal standpoint as a proud Trent alumna, legacy giving ensures future generations will always be able to enjoy the transformative Trent experience. 

Learn more about Trent University legacy giving, which is about not only paying it back but paying it forward. 

Karen Sisson '78 (Lady Eaton College) earned her B.A. at Trent University before embarking on her legal career. Sisson has 25 years of experience with LLF Lawyers' wills, estates, and wealth management team. Her practice focuses exclusively on personal planning and estate matters.