05/20/2013 12:52 EDT | Updated 07/20/2013 05:12 EDT

What Will Your Legacy Be?

Recently a 97-year-old New York man left his $40 million fortune one. In what is being called the largest unclaimed estate in New York History, people across North America, and his friends in particular, are left scratching their heads around how, and why, a shrewd and outgoing business man would leave no will behind, even though there had been much discussion in the months and weeks before. The truth is that yes, even the smartest and most knowledgeable people can procrastinate, become uncertain, or make poor decisions where their estates and their legacy's are concerned.

May is LEAVE A LEGACY™ month and while gathering information about tools and resources to help people ease into the process of planning for their estates, I came across a Canadian and U.S. national public awareness program designed to encourage people to consider leaving a legacy in a manner they might not have thought of before today.

People need to encourage their friends and family to start sharing their wishes and their make it an acceptable discussion topic. With the ageing population we need to help raise awareness of the importance of thoughtful, well-planned, tax-preferred gifts and their impact on the quality of life for everyone in our communities, from all walks of life, as well as all the other decisions that go into planning for the distribution of our estates.

A catalyst for Courageous Conversations, I often speak about advocating for your family through open and honest discussions about pre-panning and final wishes. Here are the Top 10 things everyone needs to account for, from the Leave a Legacy™ website (click here for the Canadian site):

1. Prepare a will

2. Leave a gift

3. Be specific

4. Consider assets

5. Name an alternate beneficiary

6. Existing life insurance

7. New life insurance

8. Memorial gifts

9. Encourage others

10. Ask your advisor

To learn more about how you might consider incorporating this into your estate planning or to find out more about activities taking place in your communities this month I invite you to visit the websites linked above. Visit me on Twitter or Facebook for additional tips on how you can begin leaving a legacy now.