Decisions-making now for a future legacy: The benefits of discretionary funds

Charlotte SalomonI am a lawyer who has been working in the areas of wills making and estate administration for 27 years in Victoria, BC. Throughout my practice, I have met many clients who are philanthropic. Some of them are couples or single people with no children of their own. They recognize the need to support organizations which help disadvantaged members of our society. My clients often give to charities, but they are concerned that their retirement fund will first need to be used for themselves as they get older and need more advanced care.

When it comes time for them to do their wills, clients often tell me that they want everything to go to their spouse (if they have one), and then to charity. Which charity? Most answer that they have not decided yet, that they can’t pick just one, or that they don’t know which is the right charity. They agree that this is not a decision to be left to the executor, but it is not a decision they are able to finalize right now, although the time has come to get their wills done!

At this point of the will-planning dialogue, I have introduced clients to Natasha Benn, who is the Manager of Philanthropic Services at the Victoria Foundation. Her bio for the Victoria Foundation says that for 13 years she worked as a paralegal specializing in the areas of wills and estates with the law firm of McConnan, Bion, O’Connor & Peterson. I am proud to say that I worked with her for those 13 years and regarded her as someone who had sound knowledge in will drafting and estate administration. We developed a professional relationship at the firm which has continued even after she moved on to her now current position with the Victoria Foundation. Natasha is a people person. She is totally relatable and reliable. She can be counted on to be an excellent source of information to my clients who are making important decisions dealing with the residue of their estates. Her explanations are sensible, timely and considerate. She provides a solution.

Kids playing outside

One of the many funds that Natasha talks about is a Discretionary Fund with the Victoria Foundation. She speaks to my clients and finds out what they see as the needs to be fulfilled by their legacy. Is it giving underprivileged children the chance to go to a sports camp in the summer? Is it providing for people fleeing abusive home situations? Is it employment programs for recovering addicts striving to be employable? Since there is not usually one charity that comes to mind for these types of needs, the Victoria Foundation, which receives grant applications from small and large charitable organizations of all types in the Capital Region, can provide a solution to clients who want to leave a legacy.

Once the Victoria Foundation receives the bequest from a donor’s estate, the funds are used to establish a Discretionary Fund, and the Victoria Foundation distributes a portion of the returns annually to charitable organizations that support the needs the will-makers wanted to address when they made their wills. At times, some of the charitable organizations that will receive a grant from the Discretionary Fund are those that did not even exist when the wills were made!  This is another benefit to creating a Discretionary Fund with the Victoria Foundation: A charitable gift helping those in need in perpetuity.

Making a will is not easy, but a Discretionary Fund with the Victoria Foundation as a residual beneficiary is a flexible, rewarding and fulfilling choice for many of my clients.


Charlotte A. Salomon KC
Barrister & Solicitor