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Legacy News

Estate Planning Event , Wed. Oct. 29, 2014


CONTACT: PAM KOO 905-640-1910 X 2462 OR


OCTOBER 29, 2014



The Hamilton Spectator article November, 30,2010

To view article please go to and type my name in the search box

Toronto Star Article, November 5, 2010

I’m not able to access the link to the article, but it’s easy to find with the instructions below;

 1.  Go to

2 In the search box, type my name, Linda Somers

3. After you click in the box, you will see the link to the article about me . ” Good Will Hunting”

It’s Not About The Money! When Estate Planning goes Wrong

 This 2 hour presentation includes ” The Accidental Inheritance” – a play written and performed by ACT 11 Studio, Ryerson University with a humorous look at mistakes made during the estate planning process. I also describe the problems older adults face during the estate planning process.


“As Director of PARK, an independent investment consultancy servicing affluent families, I attended this event upon invitation from a multi-family office with whom our firm works closely. Curious of what the evening would hold in store, I found myself repeatedly impressed by the innovative presentation of a delicate subject that so many of us find difficult to discuss openly. The Accidental Inheritance engaged participants and prompted thought-provoking dialogue through a well-structured format. In debrief with many of the attendees, some being familiar faces and others new introductions, I found that I was clearly not alone in appreciating the impact and value of this event” Ravi S. Kanani, PARK Private Wealth Inc.

“ The actors grabbed my attention and Linda’s facilitation was very stimulating. After seeing the play, my eyes were opened to new possibilities.”   June Kenner, Grandmother

“I saw a presentation recently called”It’s Not About The Money! When Estate Planning Goes Wrong”. It was spearheaded by Linda Somers, who is a very good presenter.  The play was informative, easy to understand, but most of all it was enjoyable.  I have dealt with estate planning issues before, but this was a new situation for me.  I will certainly apply the knowledge learned to my business.” Aidan Mullen, Investment Advisor

“ Linda displayed the compassion, patience and wisdom of a true professional and evoked the audiences to engage in constructive, heart-felt discussion. She uses her rare talent of asking the right questions at the right time with authenticity and moves her audience to experience rather than just share.  Thank you Linda for moving us!”  Shayne Stephens, Family Advisor, Landmark Advantage

“This was an impressive performance by the Ryerson seniors’ acting group, quality acting which enabled the audience to identify with the scenes they depicted. The audience reaction made the presentation especially worthwhile to all present and I learned about a number of potential problems.  The moral of the play: think carefully about your will and the effects it is going to have on those who will either benefit or suffer from it.  Think ahead with care!”  Elizabeth Shields, Grandmother

Legacy Planning Article

This article written with two of my colleagues is hot off the press!  I hope you enjoy it.

Legacy Planning 

Have you ever thought about what happens after you die? Do you have pictures of your family remembering you fondly? Think again. Chances are instead, your heirs will be battling each other over your estate, and might end up not talking to each other for years and in some cases never again. Consider this scenario – Anne had three daughters. The oldest predeceased her, the second, Carol is a substance abuser and Lisa, the youngest is a successful business woman. Anne continually argued with her daughter Carol, accusing her of theft. Lisa was the one who looked after her mother, visiting her regularly in the nursing home. Anne decided to punish Carol, leaving her only a minimal amount of money and the bulk of this large estate went to Lisa.  The outcome was predictable. The sisters no longer speak. Lisa now laments she does not have a sister or mother to talk to and wonders what could have been done to prevent the death of the family.

Canadian society does not like to talk about death as it is a taboo subject that often frightens us. Yet what happens after the death of a parent can be even more upsetting. The tension usually starts at the funeral. One child wants a certain family or cultural ritual to be followed, and the suggestion is dismissed by others. The children then read the will and discover their parent has either only outlined the basics to them and there are surprises or only one sibling has full knowledge of the will’s contents or the will is perceived as unfair.

How many times have you listened to your friends say they are no longer speaking with a  sibling, or  wonder what they did to hurt their parents after  being disinherited without prior knowledge?

Our aims are to help parents understand the value of an open dialogue with their adult children, to dilute the power of the taboo in talking about death, to encourage an awareness of the potential consequences of estate planning on all family members and to provide a strategy to make this last transition meaningful, loving and compassionate. We will be introducing tools and concepts to help mitigate some of the harm done by wills written from a one-sided perspective and with little consideration of the effect on others.

We offer the following four Legacy Principles to help guide you.

 1. Create a Hopeful Vision for the Future

It is commonplace for organizations to conduct strategic planning activities to ensure the organization’s long term survival. This strategizing typically includes creation of a vision and mission statement, definition of critical success factors and operational plans that direct the efforts of staff to take the organization into the future. We suggest that individuals can use the same process in preparing their own estate plans when deciding on the distribution of property, possessions and capital. Focus on the positive outcomes you wish to engender within your family, friends and community through your written legacy.

   2. Provide Meaningful Explanations of Your Hopes and Intentions

Traditional estate plans typically focus on matters such as taxes, trusts, powers of attorney, beneficiaries, and distribution of property. The traditional will is written in a legalistic, dispassionate manner and usually kept secret until the time of death, too often resulting in suspicion and distrust among family members. Our legacy planning philosophy encourages you to share your intentions, hopes and concerns with your family in order to help them understand your motivations and lessen the possibility of negative or misinformed interpretations of your decisions. 

3. Approach Estate Planning as a Reflection of Your Values 

Thoughtful estate planning enables us to reflect upon our lives. It is a contemplative exercise that can help to give coherence and meaning to the events and choices that have formed and directed how we have lived our lives. By engaging our families in discussion, we are encouraging our loved ones to be explicit about these matters and therefore are better able to communicate to our families and communities the significance of the gifts we choose to leave to them.

 4. Consider the Enduring Impact of Your Legacy on All your Family’s Generations  

The family is a complex institution that can provide love and support to its members, or create whirlpools of hurt and despair. Conventional estate plans are often a sad reflection of the dysfunction that can occur within families as children are disinherited, decisions are made that thwart reconciliations, and the pain is continued through generations. By shifting the primary focus to how we want relationships to be within the family and our wider concerns about community after we are gone, subsequent decisions about money, property and possessions flow from a foundation of compassion and care. We invite the reader to reflect upon how thoughtful estate planning, which focuses on hopes, values, and the meaning of a life well led forms the basis for a true and lasting legacy of hopefulness for generations.

 Legacy Coaching and Family Conference Mediation are two tools to help you take charge of your legacy.

1. Coaching


Before the formal estate planning work begins with a legal or financial expert, it is often helpful to engage a Legacy Coach who can help you to explore some of the critical issues. There are many sensitive topics that parents face during the estate planning process and estate planners do not have either the training or time to invest in complicated family dynamics.

Here are a few of the many dilemmas and questions faced by parents.

One of the first considerations is whether the estate should be divided evenly among all the children. There are some difficult decisions to be made if one child is estranged while other children are attentive and loving. Other issues include disabled children needing extra care and financially irresponsible children you think might squander their inheritance.

The next issue becomes the division of your possessions. Do you really want the children to argue over the family cottage? Would it not be helpful to have this discussion while you are alive, so everyone has a better understanding of your intentions? It is not unusual to find that one child has more attachment to the cottage than the others. In this way you can decide if you want to leave the cottage to the one child, and compensate the other children. Do not forget about the grandchildren. You may assume that the adult children will pass estate funds and property to their children. This does not always happen, so if you wish for a grandchild to have a specific item or some money you should make your intentions known.

What charities or foundations are important to you? You may want to specify the organizations to which you wish to leave any endowments. Another innovative idea is to start your own foundation or scholarship fund. This would leave a real lasting legacy.

The estate trustee plays a critical role and should be carefully selected to ensure the smooth management of the parent’s wishes, as well as family relationships that will be affected while the estate is being closed. If the person is not one of the beneficiaries, be sure to involve the trustee in family discussions to clarify how everyone will communicate and make decisions.

A Legacy Coach is trained in both coaching skills and family dynamics and is a useful resource to help you explore concerns and make decisions that reflect your values and hopes for the next generation.

 2. Family Conference Mediation

A Family Conference is a useful method to pre-emptively deal with divisive issues that affect the family. The conference brings families together while the parents are alive to review the estate plan and to address potential painful conflict within the family. A professionally trained mediator assists the family in resolving issues about the estate and aims to reach agreement among all the participants. Mediation can not only prevent potential legal disputes, but is less costly than a court process in the unfortunate event of a challenge to the will.

Most importantly, mediation can help to strengthen relationships within the family.

You can protect your family from disasters such as the one faced by Lisa and Carol.  With the mediator’s help, you will tell family members about your estate plan and obtain their understanding and hopefully approval of that plan.

To start a family conference, you first need to arrange for a family conference mediator and together you decide on a neutral location and time. The next step is to invite the adult family members and obtain their written consent to participate.  During the preparation period, you will need to decide on an agenda so the conference can be kept on track and all your information is presented.

The goal of the family conference is to have all family members sign a Family Conference Agreement approving the estate plan and agreeing not to contest the will.  It also reviews the parent’s wishes and any amendments that have been reached during the family conference.  If the meeting goes well, this can happen in a single session. In some cases, subsequent meetings will need to be held. Once the conference is completed, the mediator will draw up the Agreement. All family members sign the document and each one is given a copy.

After the Family Agreement is signed, your lawyer and other professional advisors will prepare the necessary documents, including wills, trusts, powers of attorney and deeds of gift, to implement your estate plan. Once that is done, you need to be diligent in reviewing the estate plan to make sure it reflects your wishes.

If the situation arises that a family member refuses to attend the conference it should still continue with as many family members as possible. The mediator will talk to this person and try to establish reasons for the absence.  If a family member refuses to sign the agreement, their reason for not signing should be documented in case there are challenges to the estate at a later date.  This will make it difficult to prove incapacity or undue influence.

Family Conferencing can also be utilized in the succession planning of a family business so that both the business and family relationships survive. The conference aim is to design a family council with a responsibility to develop mechanisms to reach consensus, make effective decisions and overcome impasses about the direction of the company.

One of the major benefits of the family conference is the fostering of family ties. You are not left wondering what happens after your funeral, but instead, have the reassurance that your children will be sharing memories instead of arguing over money.

The sad and all too common story of Anne and the estrangement between her two daughters might have been avoided if Legacy Planning tools were used.  Estate planning is sometimes referred to as a ritual during our last transition.  Our hope is that you will decide to make this last transition about your legacy.

 Linda Somers, M.Ed,  Legacy Coach/mediator 416 – 638-3838, Lorraine Joynt, MCA, mediator/facilitator,, 416-967-9432, Ruth Edelstein, MA, mediator,,416-967-9432     

New Legacy Web Site

Robb Lucy has created a web site devoted entirely to a topic of great interest to me.  LEGACY!!  He is encouraging people to be aware of their legacy throughout their lives and to act accordingly. He sees legacy as much bigger than $$$, and asks yu to consider doing the following:

1. Write your story either in an Ethical Will or Personal Legacy statement- even writing your own eulogy can help you to determine how you want to live your life right now.

2. Gather your families stories by interviewing aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, cousins. These stories can be compiled into print, video or audio for future generations to review the family history.

3. Create your story by doing the things that will leave memories about the legacy you want to leave.This can encompass philanthropic activities, caring for a neighbour’s child when the parent is ill, or volunteering at a homeless shelter. The possibilities are limitless.

Two interesting quotes from the website are:

Bill Clinton “The creation and maintaining of one’s own Legacy should consume your every waking hour.”
Robert Kennedy  “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each one of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

For more info go to



Inheritance Going to the Dogs!!

The late billionairess hotelier Leona Helmsley (also known as the ‘Queen of Mean’) left her doggie, Trouble, $12 million when she passed away recently. Yes, MILLION.

However, according to new reports, a NYC judge has quietly reduced the pooch’s $12 million trust fund to $2 million and signed off on a deal to pay the late billionaire’s two disinherited grandchildren $6 million amid allegations that Helmsley wasn’t mentally competent when she signed her will.

The trustees of Helmsley’s estate argued that Trouble doesn’t need the full $12 million she was left.

The judge gave them permission to place $10 million of the dog’s trust into Helmsley’s multibillion-dollar charitable foundation.

Trouble is currently living in Florida with the general manager of the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel.

The Queen of Mean’s will had asked that either her brother or grandson care for the dog, but both passed cause the dog’s a notorious biter!

How much did THEY get in the will???

In an affidavit filed by Trouble’s care taker, he says $2 million is more than enough for the dog to live off of, “Two million dollars . . . would be enough money to pay for Trouble’s maintenance and welfare at the highest standards of care for more than 10 years, which is more that twice her reasonably anticipated life expectancy.”

The glorified dog sitter put her annual expenses at $190,000, which includes his $60,000 guardian fee, $100,000 for ’round-the-clock security, $8,000 for grooming, $3,000 for miscellaneous expenses, $1,200 for food and anywhere from $2,500 to $18,000 for medical care.

That pooch has it better than a lot of people we know!

Legacy with a Twist!!

A woman went to her doctor. 
The doctor, after an examination, sighed and said, ‘I’ve some bad news. 

You have cancer, and you’d best put your affairs in order.’

The woman was shocked, but managed to compose herself and walk into the waiting room where her daughter was waiting. 

‘Well daughter, we women celebrate when things are good, and we celebrate when things don’t go so well.  In this case, things aren’t well.  I have cancer.  Let’s head to the club and have a martini.’

After 3 or 4 martinis, the two were feeling a little less sombre.  There were some laughs and more martinis.

They were eventually approached by some of the woman’s old friends, who were curious as to what the two were celebrating.

The woman told her friends they were drinking to her impending end.

‘I’ve been diagnosed with AIDS.’

The friends were aghast and gave the woman their condolences. 

After the friends left, the woman’s daughter leaned over and whispered, ‘Momma, I thought you said you were dying of cancer,
and you just told your friends you were dying of AIDS.’

The woman said, ‘I don’t want any of those bitches sleeping with your father after I’m gone.’

That’s …. ‘Putting Your Affairs In Order’.

Author Unknown

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Slain Parents Had No Will

A tragedy occurred in Toronto when Nazifa and Rahimulla Shahghasy were murdered while running errands last week. Their two children ages 19 and 21 are not only having to cope with the sudden loss of both parents, but there was no will, life or mortgage insurance. The families’ savings was also recently wiped out as the father’s stroke last year meant he was unable to work. There is a strong possibility that the family home will be seized and the daughter will most likely have to leave her studies at Humber College. It is so very, very sad when these tragedies occur. Many people do not want to acknowledge their mortality and may put their families at risk when an unexpected death occurs.  My heart goes out to these young adults who are facing some difficult times ahead.

Legacy Myths

Here are the last Legacy Myths from the research study.

Myth # 5 Families Talk About Their Legacy Plans

Most elders ( 68%)thought it was important to talk to their children about their inheritance as well as their legacy. However, the study discovered that less than a third of elders and boomers have had a comprehensive discussion. The reasons for not talking include personal discomfort with talking about inheritance and death.  Some elder infantalize their children thinking their children would be upset or in denial about death. The boomers are concerned they would appear greedy if they brought up the subject. Family conflict was another barrier to discussing legacy and perhaps it was better to sweep things under the rug than raise issues that might cause problems.

Myth # 6 All Children are Equal

Equal distribution of inheritance is often seen as the best way to avoid conflict. Many elders and boomers expect the family inheritance will be distributed equally, but this is not the rule. Almost half of high net worth elders do not think that every child has the right to an equal share in their inheritance. Interesting to note this is twice the rate of thinking in lower net worth families. What prompts an unequal division is if the child provides care for the parents, or have a greater financial need. Many think the children deserve less if they cause conflict or disrespect the family.

 Parents will also turn to some children more than others for advice and input about their legacy plans. Two in five elder have an ” Alpha Child” defined as the child they turn to first.