For Nona and Dave Bixler, estate planning was an unexpectedly emotional, reflective journey.

Defining a legacy: Nona and Dave Bixler

April 26, 2019

When Nona and Dave Bixler were ready to plan their estate, the Sanford Health Foundation connected them to Thompson & Associates, a values-based estate plan review and education service offered free to donors.

The Sioux Falls couple, who share four children and nine grandchildren, didn’t know what to expect but felt they couldn’t put off planning any longer.

Nona, the director of volunteer services at Sanford Health, and Dave, a financial analyst for the Sioux Falls City Council, had a strong desire to give back to their community while also making sure their family was well taken care of.

From the moment they first sat down with Doug Olson, vice president at Thompson & Associates, the Bixlers knew they’d made a wise decision.

Nona recently described the experience in her own words:


What was your first impression of the Thompson & Associates planning process?

From the first time that we meet Doug, we felt comfortable. He was so easy to visit with and each time we arrived for our appointment it felt like we were visiting with an old friend.

Doug didn’t pressure or add his opinions; he was just present and listened.  We (or I) cried and laughed many times during our process.


What made the meetings emotional?

You really have to reflect on the things that are important in your life. I don’t think we ever take time to do that because we live in a world so focused on the next immediate thing.

The hardest part of the whole process for me was completing the last assignment Doug gave to us. He suggested we write a letter to each of our children expressing how proud we are of them and all those things you don’t say every day.

It was hard to write those letters knowing those words would be the last thing that they would have. It took forever. But I know they will be the greatest gift that we leave for our children.


Dave and Nona (center), surrounded by family.

You also left a legacy gift to the Sanford Health Foundation. What inspired you to do that?

My husband and I have been blessed to have a good life in Sioux Falls. We are not rich by any means but we do feel it is important for us to give back, as we have received so many blessings.

Many of us want the future to be better for our children, families and community. Giving back is an easy way to ensure that can happen.  Giving has a positive impact. Be gracious and share of the gifts you have received — the investment is one you will never regret.


How long did it take to finalize your plan?

We met once a month for one hour and I believe we had our planning paperwork in our hand after eight or nine meetings.

It didn’t take much time after that. When we met with our estate planning attorney later to formalize the legal documents, that process was so much easier.


How do you feel today knowing you have a plan in place?

My husband and I felt a sense of relief after we had our final report from Thompson & Associates.  We feel at ease knowing that our wishes will be honored when we are gone.

We also feel good about leaving a legacy gift to the Sanford Health Foundation, as Sioux Valley/Sanford has been a huge part of our lives. I’m happy to know that a piece of me will be at Sanford for a long time past my 35-plus years.


Would you recommend the planning process to others?

Absolutely, without a doubt.  It is something that we all put off but Doug with Thompson & Associates made it so easy.

I would suggest making an appointment to have a cup of coffee with Doug and someone from the Sanford Health Foundation.  They will explain the process.

You will find that you will look forward to meeting with Doug; he is a wealth of knowledge.


Ready to create or update your estate plan? 

Start by downloading our free estate planning guide at It’s a great resource to help think through your goals for the future.

If you’re ready to take the next step, the Sanford Health Foundation also offers unbiased third-party values-based consultation through Thompson & Associates.

The service is complimentary to donors with no hidden agendas or pressure. There are no obligations, no time restraints, and conversations are kept in the strictest confidence without the presence of any Foundation staff member.

For more information about legacy giving and the Thompson & Associates estate planning services, contact Amy Bruns, lead major gift officer at the Sanford Health Foundation, at or (605) 312-6742.

“Your estate plan is the single greatest financial impact you can have on your family and the largest financial transfer you will ever control,” Bruns says. “Many donors are surprised to discover they can fulfill a philanthropic dream, while in many cases providing more to their heirs at the same time.”