Essential Documents Needed for Retirement

Retired mother and middle-aged daughter review essential documents needed for retirement in a bright office.

Planning for retirement and the days beyond can be challenging—especially if you are not organized. There are many essential documents you'll need at several points throughout the period leading up to retirement as well as afterward, and finding them can be extremely time consuming if they're in disparate places. However, it's not difficult to make that sure all of your important information is easily accessible for both and your family. It's just knowing where to start and whom to call on when you encounter questions.

Why Acting Now Could Be Important Later

One of the common pitfalls in retirement is being caught flat-footed with staying prepared and organized. It's funny—you have as much time as ever to get affairs in order, but the task may still fall by the wayside. However, it's worth the time investment: it's often easier to find and organize documents earlier in (or prior to) retirement, when these materials are easier to find and set aside. Plus, by acting fast, you can take comfort in knowing that your essential information is accounted for in the event of an unforeseen emergency.

Organization is easier when information and its location is still top of mind. As your habits change in retirement, you may not access the same accounts or information as often, or even forget where you've stored something. It's better to make the effort to organize documents now rather than having to scour for them later.

Getting your documentation together isn't just a matter of convenience, however. If unforeseen circumstances arise, you may not have the ability to gather your documentation quickly, but still may be in a situation in which you need it as soon as possible. Additionally, if you are in a situation in which you are unable to guide family, friends, or your financial team toward your documents, having your paperwork together in advance can help those around you.

The Essential Retirement Documents

There are several crucial documents that you'll want to have handy. These will help you make the most of your retirement, and be sure that your legacy is secured in later days.

  • List of accounts and their beneficiaries: You should have your account numbers and the institutions at which you have them on hand for all of your financial holdings. If these accounts have specific beneficiaries, note that as well.
  • List of passwords: Both you and those around you should know where your accounts are and how to access them.
  • List of key contacts: This should include your financial advisor, attorney, accountant as well as key family members who are involved in your estate.
  • Insurance information: Insurance policies can be gathered together, including life insurance, home owners insurance, car insurance, and more.
  • Deeds and titles: Centralize your ownership certificates to help organize access to and clarify the state of your assets.
  • Stock and bond certificates: Another important piece to gathering the full picture of your assets is noting your financial holdings.
  • Information on debt: It will be important for those handling your finances to be aware of any outstanding debt you have, whether loans, credit card bills, or other agreements.
  • Medical directives: You may desire to note specific wishes and instructions on medical treatment should there be a situation in which you cannot communicate them yourself.
  • Power of attorney: Similarly, you should note who has power of attorney in case you're unable to act on your behalf.
  • Will and testaments: These are important for helping your family navigate your wishes later in life.
  • Final wishes: Include detailed final wishes if you have specific directives for how you'd like to be honored at the end of your life.

Where to Go for Retirement Planning Help

Not only should you make the effort to create a centralized documentation repository, but you shouldn't hesitate to reach out if you need help putting this packet together—particularly if it means helping loved ones if and when they have to intervene. Thankfully, there are several places where you can get help in order to get the documents they need, and make certain you have the most up-to-date information.

These include:

  • Legal professionals: Attorneys can help you with documentation including wills, estate planning, power of attorney, and more.
  • Financial professionals: Bankers and financial advisors can assist you with documentation around loans, financial holdings, account numbers, and more.
  • Town hall or city clerks' offices: Documentation on property can often be found in your local municipality's records.
  • Family members: Family members, particularly those who are beneficiaries, may have documents or copies of documents that are essential to your packet.

How to Make Changes

Your financials and final wishes may be a moving target, and could very well change as you settle into retirement or encounter times during which your personal situation changes. Thankfully, it is relatively easy to make changes to many of these documents, and professionals are available to help you adapt your plan as your circumstances evolve.

Make certain that as you put together your documentation, you're having important conversations with your family. Even if some are difficult, it's worth it: collecting these documents will set you up for both a successful retirement and secure your wishes beyond. The clearer your directives and desires are, the easier planning your retirement will be, and your family will have an easier time during a challenging period.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, Member FDIC.