Documents To Show Your Attorney When Planning To Retire
Planning for your retirement is a way to ensure your family members and dependents live comfortably after you stop working. But it's common to feel overwhelmed by retirement planning and delay the process — or not do it at all. Getting the ball rolling is essential to make sure you'll have all you need when you retire.
Working with a qualified attorney may make the retirement planning process manageable. You can develop a practical retirement plan and stay committed for the long haul.
Your attorney will want to understand your complete financial picture. They may ask you to gather specific documents to share at your first meeting. After your meeting, your attorney may request more information. Consider completing a retirement planning questionnaire. You may also wish to review FindLaw's Retirement Planning Tips.
This article discusses documents your attorney may ask for during retirement planning.
Working With Your Attorney
Your attorney needs a full picture of your financial situation. This will involve the discussion of property, taxes, and investments.
Tax Documents and Account Statements
Your attorney will review your tax documents and financial statements. This will help them determine if your net worth is on course to meet your current needs and long-term financial priorities. You may be off track and not have enough money in your accounts. If so, you can plan to pay your debts, increase your savings, and invest in a manner that prioritizes your retirement goals.
Your attorney may request the following documents:
- Income tax returns for the past three to five years (federal, state, and local)
- Income-related documents for you and your spouse
- Bank statements/certificates of deposit
- Loan documents, including car, student, and business loans
- Credit card statements
- Bills, including college tuition, health and dental insurance premiums, medical bills, utilities, etc.
Retirement Accounts, Stock Portfolios, and Real Property
Your attorney may want to review the balances on your retirement accounts. Retirement accounts include employer-sponsored defined benefit plans like 401(k)s as well as IRAs. You can discuss whether you're contributing enough to these accounts to meet your goals. Your attorney may also advise on how to reduce taxation on future withdrawals.
You and your attorney may look at your real estate portfolio. It might be wise to refinance or sell your home to meet your financial needs. Your attorney also may review your investment portfolio to determine appropriate investments.
Your attorney may ask you for the following documents:
- Pension estimates
- Retirement account statements
- Stock portfolios
- Stock option plans
- Mortgage/home value information
- Annuity statements
Estate Planning, Insurance Policies, and Personal Property
While planning your retirement, you also can revisit your estate plan. You and your attorney can review your will and any powers of attorney and advance health care directives. You want to ensure your estate plan aligns with your retirement goals.
You also can review your insurance policies, whether life, auto, medical, or homeowners. While many retirees drop their life insurance, you may wish to keep your policy for posterity or estate purposes.
Finally, reviewing a list of your high-value personal items is a good idea. You and your attorney can determine what items of personal property, if any, you should liquidate as part of your retirement plan.
Your attorney may ask for the following documents:
- Wills/living wills/trusts
- Powers of attorney/durable powers of attorney
- Advance health care directives
- Life and health insurance policies
- Homeowners and automobile insurance policies
- Appraisals/value of significant personal property, including jewelry, valuable artwork, boats, etc.
- List of contents of safe deposit boxes
Social security can have a significant impact on your retirement planning. Your lawyer will want to consider it when guiding you through the process.
Projected Social Security benefits can affect your retirement planning. You can collect reduced benefits as early as age 62. But you maximize your benefits by waiting until full retirement age to claim them.
Knowing your estimated benefit amount is important. Social Security benefits, including Original Medicare (Parts A and B), supplement your portfolio.
Your attorney may ask for the following documents or information:
- An accurate estimate of your projected Social Security benefits, available from the Social Security Administration's (SSA) retirement benefits calculator
- Your annual Social Security statements, which you can get online by opening a my Social Security account
For additional information, see FindLaw's Social Security and Retirement Resources section.
What if you must stop working before retirement due to a medical condition? You can apply for Social Security disability benefits under the SSA's Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. Contact your local Social Security office and give them your Social Security number. You can then begin applying as a disability claimant before the SSA.
You might decide to work with a Social Security disability attorney. You appoint them as your representative by filing a fee agreement (SSA-1696) with the SSA. You and your attorney submit to the SSA your medical records and a written statement from your doctor stating that you can no longer work. After an administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing, the SSA may award you Social Security disability benefits.
After an award of disability, your retirement planning attorney may want to see the following documents:
- The ALJ decision finding you disabled under the Social Security program
- Notice of Award, the formal letter from SSA providing details and a breakdown of your benefits
In general, SSA disability benefits do not affect your SSA retirement benefits. Your disability benefits convert to retirement benefits once you reach full retirement age. Your monthly benefit stays the same since your disability benefit was the same as a full, unreduced retirement benefit.
A legal professional can provide legal services to ensure a comfortable retirement. You can work together to prepare a comprehensive retirement plan that protects the best interests of you and your dependents. Visit FindLaw's Retirement Planning section for additional resources and browse for Social Security attorneys and tax attorneys in your area.
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