Financial Planning & Benefits: Charting a Course for a Successful Retirement


Retirement planning is an immense undertaking. It involves uncomfortable conversations, detailed coordination of assets and accounts, reviewing tax options, and thinking about the world without us in it. It is challenging enough to build a career, let alone planning its end and transitioning your nest-egg to your legacy. The process is made much simpler with the help of a good team of advisors who work to understand your individual financial position and help you achieve your retirement goals. Good advisors will help you think through the complicated distribution terms and tax options of specific planning instruments like your Will and any Trust you create, and beneficiary designations.


The heart of a good estate plan is your Will, where you can make provisions for specific bequests of your property. This can include specifically giving certain beneficiaries your real estate, rights to your tangible personal property, access to bank accounts, and any other probate property. A Will can also provide for all your assets that would otherwise be subject to probate to be placed into a trust that makes distributions to your heirs under certain conditions. The best choice for your specific situation may vary greatly from someone else where a simple Will or complex Trust may work better. It is important to choose an estate planning attorney who can walk you through the pros and cons of each option so you are setting yourself up for retirement in the best possible way. An estate planning attorney at this step can save your heirs potentially thousands of dollars in inheritance taxes, and help you develop the best plan for your financial well-being.

Non-Probate Assets

You must also be aware of how your non-probate assets are distributed at your death. These may be Individual Retirement Accounts (Traditional IRAs or Roth IRAs) with transfer-on-death provisions, 401(k) or 403(b) plans offered through your employer, and certain bank accounts. If you own interest in a closely held company or partnership, there may be complex provisions that cash out your interest at your death instead of passing the ownership interest to your heirs. Staying cognizant of how these non- probate assets are distributed at your death will help your advisor create a plan that ensures your wishes and your heirs are cared for appropriately. An accountant or CPA can help you and your other advisors understand your entire financial situation and work through complex tax decisions.

The Right Financial Advisor

It is also important to be making wise financial decisions leading up to retirement, so that you have that nest-egg to leave to your heirs. As you begin saving for retirement and beyond, choosing the best investment vehicles for assets saved in retirement accounts, trust accounts or accounts we set up for our children’s education is complicated enough, and changing every second — a competent financial advisor can help you cut through the noise and develop an investment strategy that meets your needs and helps grow your wealth during your lifetime. Some such decisions arise early in your lifetime like buying a home, making an investment in a company, or paying off debts. Finding a financial advisor that you trust and who will help keep you on track of your goals is invaluable to a good retirement plan.

Planning for your retirement is not such a daunting prospect when you surround yourself with a team of professionals that understand your entire financial picture and you trust to work with you to achieve your goals. There is a lot of misunderstandings, bad advice, and confusion swirling around in our media today regarding these topics that are so individualized. Your retirement goals are different than someone else’s, and building a team of competent and trustworthy legal, tax, accounting and financial advisors who understand your individual financial position will build a plan that works for you.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding retirement and succession planning for your business, please reach out to us at 814/870-7600.

Michael Bishop is a member of MacDonald Illig’s Business Transactions and Trusts & Estates practice groups. He helps clients with corporate transactions, tax issues and estate planning matters.