The Retirement Checklist

You've finally made the decision: This is the year that you retire. Congratulations! Whether your landing spot is a beach chair in Cabo San Lucas or a rocking chair on your porch in Traverse City, some pre-retirement planning can save a lot of post-retirement headaches.

Update Your

Estate Planning Documents

That will you signed back when your kids were in grade school probably won't have much utility now that you have reached retirement age. Estate plans should be reviewed at least every 10 years, but it is particularly crucial that you have your estate planning documents updated before you retire.

In particular, consideration needs to be given to how the administration of your assets may need to change in the future, as well as to whom your assets should be directed. For example, if you become incapacitated, will your spouse be able to manage your assets adequately, or would a third party be more appropriate? And while most people simply divide their assets among their children, we would urge you to consider a gift to a church or other charitable entity, as even small charitable gifts can have an impact, both for the charity and for you as the giver.

Finally, sitting down with an estate planner may help identify potential areas of concern, whether they be family squabbles over a particular asset or a looming federal estate tax bill.

Review Your Insurance Policies

Those life insurance policies you purchased when you were young and had dependents may become prohibitively expensive at retirement age. Unless necessary to estate planning goals, life insurance policies may be a monthly expense you can do without.

You will want to think about long-term care insurance because the purchase of such plans may serve as a prudent way to manage the risk of long-term care, or to ensure a certain level of quality and flexibility of care.

Plan Your Financial Matters

As you head into retirement, you need to review all financial matters with your accountant or financial planner. Among other things, you will want to take stock of recent spending trends, the better to produce an accurate budget for your retirement years.

Figuring out how to get the most out of Social Security and Medicare may provide some budgetary relief. You will also want to review your mortgage, if you still have one. Mortgage rates remain low, and refinancing while you are still employed may make good financial sense (as it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to refinance in retirement).

You will also want to take stock of minor or major home repairs that may be on the horizon and set some money aside for those items.

Check Your Heart

No, we're not talking about your physical condition (although seeing your doctor for an updated physical and to discuss an exercise program wouldn't hurt), but your emotional condition. Hopefully, you have many happy, healthy years ahead of you. What are you passionate about? Find a worthwhile pursuit, whether it be volunteering with a charity, letting out your closet thespian, or undertaking a second career.

Retire to something, not just from something. Becoming emotionally invested in your retirement could make the difference between a fulfilling retirement and one spent aimlessly chasing your spouse around the grocery store (unless, of course, that's what makes you happy!)

Brian L. Johnson, a partner of the law firm of Dingeman, Dancer & Christopherson, PLC, is an estate planning and transactional attorney practicing in the areas of estate planning and wealth transfer planning, business matters, and land use and development.