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  • Ronald J. Axelrod, Rochester, NY, Business Lawyer

4-Steps to Building a Solid Estate Plan

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

Estate planning is a four-step process. It's important that you understand all of the elements involved in a comprehensive estate plan to protect your legacy for your heirs. In this article we'll review these steps and learn more about important aspects of your estate plan that may have been missed.

Senior citizen and Ronald J. Axelrod, estate planning attorney in Rochester ny

The First Step

The first thing you'll need to do is to meet with your financial planner or attorney to determine what you want your plan to look like. What are your goals, aspirations, concerns for family members, gifts, charities, and your overall legacy? All of these should be discussed at your initial meeting.

The Second Step

After you have laid out a clear vision for your estate plan, your attorney will need to prepare and execute the appropriate documents that will put your plan in place (i.e., wills, trusts, health care proxies, living wills and powers of attorney).

The Third Step

The next step is to make sure your plan is properly funded. This means retitling assets into your trust, reviewing transfer-on-death designations, title to your bank accounts and most important, the beneficiary designations on your IRAs and 401(k) plans.

Senior woman contemplating planning retirement in front of her laptop

An Often-Missed Important Step

For most people, other than their home, their retirement plans are their largest asset. Regardless of the language in your will or trust, these assets, considered non-probate assets, will on your death go to whomever you have selected on the beneficiary designation form associated with these assets. Do you want these assets going to children from a prior marriage or do you want these assets going to a trust you have prepared for the benefit of grandchildren? If you have designated your estate as the beneficiary of your retirement benefits, it will greatly complicate the administration of your estate. If you have created a living trust to avoid probate, you may have just increased the cost of administering your estate as you will now have a trust estate administration plus the cost and expense of a separate probate estate proceeding.

A thorough review of your beneficiary designations is a very inexpensive way of making sure your estate plan works the way you intended it to. New beneficiary designation forms can usually be downloaded from the plan administrator’s website. This simple step is very important in ensuring that your estate plan works the way you intended it to.

Two people meeting with estate planning attorney

The Last Step

Now that you have a solid estate plan in place, it's important that you review it every 3 to 5 years to make sure it is still in line with your overall plan, the nature and extent of your assets, new tax laws, and most importantly, any changes in your family situation.

Ron Axelrod – Estate Planning Attorney in Rochester, NY

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