There are so many unique and wonderful ways to recognize International Women’s Day, a day recognized around the world “celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” The day also stands for a call to action to accelerate gender parity.

One way to mark the occasion is by picking up a great read by a female author. The Book Club has picked a wide range of books ranging from nonfiction guides to inspire strategic communication to fictitious plots about estate plans. This month I’m adding Brave Not Perfect, by lawyer and political activist Reshma Saujani, to the digital bookshelf. I recommend this text to all taking on a challenge, but especially nonprofit leaders. Saujani is also the founder and CEO of the tech nonprofit, Girls Who Code. With this background of working to inspire and support women in the tech industry, she’s penned a gorgeous, influential book on daring to take a chance. Saujani takes her own experiences and encourages readers to seize the opportunity to fail and then build resilience off of those experiences. Her drive to build gender equality in tech is clear, as is her feminist message about casting off the expectation of perfection.

Nonprofit leaders, like Saujani, will undoubtedly appreciate the encouraging boost from this book to surpass all the hurdles that go into forming and building a mission-driven, successful entity.

What are your thoughts on Brave Not Perfect? I would love to hear them! Also, if the book inspires you to make certain you have a valid estate plan in place so that you can disperse your estate in accordance with your wishes, don’t hesitate to contact me! You can also get started on your estate plan with my free, no-obligation Estate Plan Questionnaire.

GoFisch book club with coffee mug

It’s not hard to find books about estate planning, but if I’m being honest most are nonfiction guides and most are kind of dry and dull. Sure, they can act as a solid primer for what you may want to know about estate planning, but they do not make for cozy, wintery weekend reads. But it’s much easier, less complicated, and concise to work with an estate planning attorney who can tailor information to your needs.

To spare you from books you’ll hate, I try to recommend reads for the GoFisch Book Club that touch on my practice areas—estate planning, charitable giving, and nonprofits—that are also engaging. Kicking off 2020, I’m adding “The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman” by John Tesarsch to the GoFisch bookshelf.

After their eccentric (or reclusive, depending on how you see it) father commits suicide, three adult siblings are left to reckon with the father’s will that leaves his full estate to an unknown woman. Secrets unravel and the strings of grievances and grief intertwine as the siblings come apart fighting over their inheritance. Without disclosing any spoilers, this is more of a family drama than a legal one, but the bits and pieces of will contests serve as a warning sign that should hopefully inspire all readers to get their ducks in a row. Indeed, while largely set in Australia, this familial breakdown and conflict over competing legal documents could happen almost anywhere.

Having practiced as a barrister in Australia, Tesarsch knows a thing or two about how estate planning can leave a lasting legacy. . . and a contested will can cause immense familial conflict.

What titles would you like to see me add to the GoFisch Book Club? I would love to hear what you’re reading. Shoot me an email, Facebook message, tweet, or Instagram DM to let me know.

books with cactus

With the cold weather upon us, there are few things more appealing than curling up with a warm beverage and an engaging book. I find the winter is a time to settle in and turn inward. It’s a season of consideration of how to better ourselves both personally and professionally.

This is why this month I’m adding Holding the Gavel: What Nonprofit Leaders Need to Know by Nanette Fridman to the Gordon Fischer Book Club shelf. For anyone who currently or is thinking about serving on a nonprofit board, this book is like a guidebook on what to expect and how to be a successful, contributive member of the board. The book contains insider stories from people who have experience leading boards and valuable information on what good governance looks like.


Some of these sorts of books can get dreadfully boring or are too general to be applicable, but this book is both helpful and specific on topics ranging from how best to conduct due diligence to managing difficult board members.

When it comes to passing on and developing a board (and the organization it serves) and leaving it better than you found it, this roadmap of a nonfiction book is worth your time.

What are your thoughts on Holding the Gavel? Share your thoughts with me on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter!

This year marks the 70th iteration of recognizing May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Started in 1949 by Mental Health America, the month marks an opportunity for education, outreach and for us to have honest conversations about something that affects approximately 1 in 5 adults in a given year in the U.S.  Furthermore, approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. That said, mental health is a big deal that impacts so many of us and also affects situations my practice focuses on, like how people structure their estate plans.

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’m adding First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety, by Sarah Wilson to the GoFisch Book Club bookshelf.

May book club

Wilson pulls the book from the years she devoted to researching anxiety and her own personal experience with it. From her own exploration into the topic she crafted a new outlook on life that actually involves embracing anxiety, not trying to suppress it or run from it. It’s not so much a memoir or self-help book, it’s a bit more like a guide from a friend who has been there before. Fortunately, the author doesn’t forego attractive rhetoric for practical tips. I also liked that she pulls in the knowledge from a range of voices from philosophers, to mental health experts, to famous people with anxiety.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this book and take your recommendations for future titles. Shoot me an email at or give me a call at 515-371-6077.

books on a table

Hopefully, by now you have had a chance to read last month’s GoFisch Book Club pick, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.” While I could complain about how the weather right now in Iowa is in a perpetual state of snow-ice-snow-wind-freezing rain, it’s actually a great excuse to curl up with cocoa and a great book. The title for this month is not a new book, but it is an enticing, mystery involving, what else, estate planning!sycamore row

Published in 2013, John Grisham’s Sycamore Row leads readers on a trip to the south in 1980’s Mississippi where a wealthy white man, Seth Hubbard, commits suicide and leaves his entire estate to his black housekeeper, Lettie Lang, instead of his two adult children, Herschel and Ramona. (I bring up the race of the characters because racism and prejudice are important themes in the novel’s setting and plot conflicts.) Sycamore Row is a sequel for fan-favorite character and fictional attorney, Jake Brigance, who was introduced to the world in Grisham’s most famous book, A Time to Kill.

Brigance is instructed by the decedent to defend his will against the inevitable controversy and litigation he anticipates will ensue. Over the course of the thriller, another will is unearthed which disposes the estate to Hubbard’s children. There are also serious questions about Hubbard’s purported testamentary capacity, as well as undue influence on the legal documents in question.

Grisham’s career as an attorney has clearly influenced his writing, and this novel offers suspense and intrigue around the topic of estate planning, while also reinforcing the importance of making a valid estate plan, keeping it updated, and discussing your decisions with your family.

What are your thoughts on Sycamore Row? I would love to hear them! Also, if the book inspires you to make certain you have a valid estate plan in place so that you can disperse your estate in accordance with your wishes, don’t hesitate to contact me! You can also get started on your estate plan with my free, no-obligation Estate Plan Questionnaire.

We’re taking a brief break from the details about the logistics of donation substantiation and the benefits of giving stocks to talk about one of my favorite subjects: books! 

The people of Iceland have a lovely tradition called jólabókaflóð where books are exchanged with loved ones on Christmas Eve and then a cozy night is spent reading together. If you choose to start your own “Yule book flood” holiday custom, consider passing along one of the GoFisch Book Club selections we’ve chosen over the year. Which brings us to this month’s title: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.Winners Take All

The author, Anand Giridharadas, explores how rich and powerful donors utilize donations not just in attempt to change the world, but to shape policy. He presents an argument that the wealthiest of donors perpetually intend to do good, but never intend less harm. The author explores tough questions, which at times, are hard to reconcile with the current state of major giving in the world today. Giridharadas also offers ideas, with a call to action for everyday citizens, on how robust social change can, and should, be more egalitarian.

Not all of the ideas in Winners Take All will be popular with all (especially not the upper crust of the richest donors), but that’s what makes this book so intriguing. It’s not afraid to push the envelope on the conversation around how the public sector operates and delve into the realities of philanthrocapitalism.

What are your thoughts on Winners Take All? I’d love to hear how this inspires your charitable giving or influences your giving strategy. Want to discuss how you can make the most impact with your year-end donation? Don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

leaf on top of book

Bust out those library cards or fire up the e-reader, we have your latest and greatest GoFisch Book Club read for November! We hope you enjoyed the October pick, but now we’re shifting gears to a fictional tale with some salient real-world estate planning tie-ins…plus it’s a National Book Award Finalist, so you know it’s good! Waiting for Eden, by Elliot Ackerman, features a wife who is perpetually present at the bedside of Eden, her husband, when he comes to after being in a coma for years. Eden was badly injured while serving in the marines in the Middle East. When he becomes conscious after his coma, the bulk of his body is marked with the aftermath of burns, and he’s unable to talk, hear, or see. He’s never met his daughter and  Mary, the wife, has to grapple with the decision to extend Eden’s semblance of a life further or turn off the life support that keeps him immobilized. As the story unfolds, truth about the marriage come to life and we’re forced to face the question of what makes a life a life? What makes it worth living?

The primary themes are love, marriage, and tough health care choices when someone’s faculties are reduced to next to nothing can be heavy. But, they’re also super important consider. Ackerman created military fiction without it being a straight “military” storyline. (But, if you do like military-related reads, you get a dose of it from the perspective of a friend of the main couple who died in the same war accident Eden was injured in.)

waiting for eden

The life/death situation presented in Waiting for Eden is rare, and hopefully you and no one you know ever has deal anything remotely similar. But, if you are in the position of making difficult health care decisions for a loved one, it’s better to know exactly what their choice and intent would have been had they not incapacitated. This is where the health care power of attorney comes in.

About Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney (PoA) is a legal document that allows you to select the person (your “agent”) that you want to make health care decisions on your behalf, if or when you become unable to make them for yourself.

Once your health care PoA goes into effect (typically most people elect to have this be the case only if an attending physician certifies you are unable to make medical decisions independently), your agent will then be able to make decisions for you based on the information you provided in your health care PoA. If there are no specifics in your health care PoA relating to a unique situation, your agent can and should make health care decisions for you based on your best interests. Obviously, the person you select as a your health care PoA agent should be someone in whom you have the utmost trust.

Equally important, your agent will be able to access your medical records, communicate with your health care providers, and so on.

Keep in mind your health care PoA isn’t just about end-of-life decisions; it can cover many types of medical situations and decisions. For instance, you may choose to address organ donation, hospitalization, treatment in a nursing home, home health care, psychiatric treatment, and other situations in your health care PoA.

GoFisch Book Club Flyer

Living Will

For people who feel strongly about not wanting to be kept alive with machines, specifically covered in a document that can be thought of as a part of your health care PoA known as a living will.

All Iowans are special and unique and have special and unique issues and concerns. It’s completely up to YOU as to what’s contained in your health care PoA. You name the agent(s). You decide what medical decisions will be covered and how. It’s all up to you.

If Eden would have had such a document executed before he went to war with Mary named as his representative, the situation still would have been tragic, but the decision less disconcerting. But, the book probably would have been less of a captivating tale of friendship, love, and what it means to be human. If you can, however, save your loved ones confusion and uncertainty, plan ahead for the unexpected with a quality, clear health care power of attorney.

What are you thoughts on Waiting for Eden? Share your thoughts with other readers in the comments below or with GFLF on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter!

If you read the September issue of my e-newsletter, GoFisch, you already have a jump start on this month’s book club pick! Head to your library, your e-reader, or favorite local bookstore and pick up a copy of My Father’s Wake, by Kevin Toolis. Toolis is a profound storyteller, which is evident not just from his writings but from his award-nominated films.

Death is an enmeshed component of estate planning. This can be difficult to dwell on at times, but there’s also some comfort in knowing that death will reach us all. No one is exempt from this destiny, which is what makes life, so incredibly vibrant in comparison. What we can control is how our loved ones will be provided for. Really, at it’s core, making an estate plan is deciding who you want to inherit the property you own (everything from your home to your art to your car), when you want that to happen, and how after you pass from this world.

My Father's Wake

This is why this book resonates so strongly. Our perception of death is shaped by the customs of our respective cultures and how we honor our deceased. From this book, it’s evident that we can learn a great deal from how the Irish deal with death.

While I’m not Irish myself, as the son of German immigrants, I identified strongly with the author’s drive to connect with and participate in the culture and customs of his heritage. For instance, the book teaches us that a meitheal is an old Irish word for a gathering together for a communal task. An Irish wake can be considered a meitheal of sorts—a communing of mortal souls to aid the deceased in bridging the ephemeral space between life and death and aid.

I lost my own father earlier this year and would recommend this book in particular to anyone who has lost someone they love.

I would like to hear your thoughts about this book in the comments below! What stuck with you? What would you like to learn more about? Do you have any recommendations of books (fiction or non) related to Gordon Fischer Law Firm’s core services of estate planningnonprofit formation and guidancenonprofit employment law; or donations and complex gifts? Let me know in the comments or contact me by email or phone!

Wraparound bookshelf

Last month’s GoFisch book club pick was a real life soap opera-esque story of estate planning, inheritance, and complex affairs tied to extreme wealth. This month’s read is also about estate planning, but is a fiction story with the quick pacing of a comedy and dialogue of a melodrama. I bet you could fly though this one while lounging poolside or swinging in the backyard hammock!

The Nest book

The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, follows the dysfunctional Plumb Family siblings around New York City as they deal with the unexpected fallout from the eldest Plumb’s major, costly mistake. All the while, the four adult siblings are the beneficiaries to a trust fund they have deemed “the nest” (like a nest egg, so to speak). The “nest,” thanks to sound investing and a generous market, grew larger than the grantor (the Plumb’s father) ever expected. Indeed, he intended for it to be helpful, but not a pot of gold to depend upon.

Leo’s accident (the oldest brother) and the unintended consequences that follow, puts a “crack” in the nest egg all had come to count on. (All four siblings had to wait to have access to their share of the funds until the youngest child turned 40.) Tensions flare, grudges are dredged up, and each of the Plumb siblings will have to reckon with their own poor financial decisions. Indeed, they were all depending on the trust fund in different ways to help bail them out of their own missteps.

This New York Times bestseller masterfully sets an engaging domestic drama filled with familial love and letdowns midst important estate planning elements. The Nest (at least for me) naturally leads its readers to want to learn more about different types of trusts, explore why estate planning is super important, and to whom they’re leaving their money to and how. It also reminds us that it’s super important to honestly discuss estate planning decisions and intentions with your loved ones who are named in the estate plan, so everyone is on the same page.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this book in the comments below! Did you love this book or not so much? Do you have any recommendations of books (fiction or non) related to Gordon Fischer Law Firm’s core services of estate planningnonprofit formation and guidancenonprofit employment law; or donations and complex gifts? Let me know in the comments or contact me by email or phone.