15 Essential Documents All Retirees Must Have in Order

RETIREMENT - RETIREMENT PLANNING
Retire with peace of mind by having these 15 essential documents ready.
Updated May 8, 2024
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As a retiree, you may have noticed all the different documents you’ve collected over the years. But it can be confusing to sort through all that paperwork to figure out what you need to keep.

Check your piles of papers or digital files and make sure you have these essential documents in order. Staying organized is an easy way to avoid wasting money before and after you retire.

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Life insurance policy

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You may still have a life insurance policy that can be paid out to dependents when you pass away.

But remember, you can’t tell others where those life insurance documents are after you’re gone. Make sure you tell family, friends, or anyone who may receive a payout where they can find these documents and who they need to contact in the case of your death.

Power of attorney

Konstantin Yuganov/Adobe Woman displaying a receipt to her mother

As you age, you may have to worry about who will make decisions for you if you can no longer make them yourself.

A power of attorney is a great way to make your wishes known so you can have legal documents on what to do next if you can no longer make decisions.

Medical records release authorization

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Due to medical regulations, doctors may be unable to give your medical records to anyone other than you.

Make sure you have a medical records release authorization form on file that names other people you trust to review your medical records.

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Medical directive

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It’s also important to have other medical directive information to state what kind of intervention you want (or don’t want) depending on your particular wishes.

You can also name someone responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf if you can’t and outline end-of-life care based on your restrictions.

Will

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It’s important to designate who gets what from your estate in the event of your death.

Factor in financial assets such as cash and property like your home, cars, art, objects, and other things you want to give to specific people.

Revocable trust

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A revocable trust will allow the executors of your will to avoid probate upon your death and get your assets secured and moved to the necessary people and places you request.

A revocable trust should be part of your estate planning, your will, and other end-of-life documents available for your inheritors.

Long-term care insurance

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It’s important to consider long-term care insurance that covers nursing home care, in-home care, or other long-term options as you age.

Make sure you have information for your long-term care insurance available with other documents. Talk to your family and friends about your wishes so they know what you want and plan for the future.

Retirement accounts

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You may have a 401(k), IRA, or Roth IRA with investments that pay for your retirement. You also may have a pension or other benefits you’re still receiving from your current employer.

These documents should be organized so you know how much wealth you have and your executor knows how much you still have if something happens to you.

Update these documents regularly to reflect market changes or withdrawals you’ve made from these accounts to cover expenses.

Medicare evidence of coverage

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Your Medicare plan should send you documents yearly that cover important information about your plan. It may include what your plan covers, how much you have to pay, and other important information.

You should keep this document with other important papers in case you need them because of questions you have or those covered by your power of attorney or medical directives.

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Property deed and title

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You may include property as part of your will to be inherited by someone you designate.

Make sure you have these documents available for you and others to make the transfer of your estate easier. This can help beneficiaries transfer the property or sell it in your absence.

Marriage and divorce certificates

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Your spouse may inherit your estate, or there may be other issues after you retire that will require you to prove you’re married for legal reasons.

On the other hand, you also may need a divorce certificate or decree to sever any legal relationships you may have previously had with a now-former spouse.

Social Security card

Rick/Adobe fake social security card

You may be old enough to collect Social Security funds or haven’t started collecting yet. Either way, having your Social Security card on hand is still important if you need it for benefits.

Your executors may also need your card when you’re gone to discuss any issues with the Social Security office after your death.

Birth certificate

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Do you know where your birth certificate is? It can be an important document for many reasons, so it’s still helpful to have when you’re older.

If you don’t have a copy of your birth certificate, you can request a copy from the state you were born in or research how to obtain an extra copy if you were not born in the United States.

Tax returns

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Tax returns can be helpful to your beneficiaries as they try to wind down your estate after your death or deal with any potential tax issues.

It’s also important to keep your tax returns for your records. The IRS recommends you keep at least three years of your tax returns on hand, and it extends that recommendation under certain circumstances.

Loans

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Hopefully, you’ve worked hard to get out of debt, but you may have loans that you’re still paying off even after you’ve retired, such as a home mortgage or car loan.

Make sure you keep detailed copies of these loans, including who you owe the money to and how much you still owe. It’s not only important for you to keep track of these documents, but they can also help your beneficiaries.

Bottom line

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It’s essential to ensure you have all these pieces in place as you move forward in your retirement. It can help eliminate financial stress for everyone involved.

Consider collecting all your documents in one place so you can easily access them. You may even consider getting a lock box at your local bank or financial institution to keep them safe.

It’s also important to talk with other people like family, friends, or financial and legal professionals so they know where your documents are if they need them for whatever reason.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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