Handling Requests for Plan Documents

By: Victor H. Hicks II, CFP®, AIF®
Owner, Managing Principal
Lumin Financial, LLC
An Independent Registered Investment Adviser

When a plan participant asks for copies of plan documents, what should be done?
Since plans are required by law to provide certain requested plan documents in a timely manner, it’s important to have procedures in place for responding to document requests.  Lumin Financial offers a primer on document request procedures: 

Required Documents

A retirement plan participant is entitled to receive certain plan documents at stated times and intervals without charge and without having requested them.  These include the plan’s summary plan description (SPD), summary of material modifications (SMM), and summary annual report (SAR).

Requested Documents

A plan participant or beneficiary also can request copies of various plan documents. The U.S. Department of Labor specifies that participants must be provided any document on request that “specifies procedures, formulas, methodologies, or schedules to be applied in determining or calculating a participant’s or beneficiary’s benefit.” These include the latest SPD, the latest SAR, trust agreements, contracts, any bargaining agreements, and “other
instruments” under which the plan is established or operated.

Reasonable Fees

A plan administrator can charge a reasonable fee to cover the costs of providing requested information. Note that plans cannot charge a fee for providing plan information they are required to distribute. A fee is considered reasonable if it is equal to the actual cost per page to the plan for the least expensive means of acceptable reproduction and not more than 25¢ per page.

Failure To Provide Requested Documents

Penalties for failing or refusing to provide requested plan information within 30 days
can be steep. Under pension law, the penalty may be as high as $110 per day.

If your plan doesn’t have a document request plan in place, please contact Lumin Financial to get started implementing this important and legally required duty.


Lumin Financial is a fee-only independent Registered Investment Adviser, specializing in 401(k) plans for small- to mid-sized employers. Lumin Financial advisors serve plan sponsors throughout the Midwest with a disciplined approach to managing plan investments, counseling on fiduciary risk matters, and reducing excessive plan fees. In addition to managing investments and risk, Lumin delivers personalized financial education to plan participants.  Let them help you plan a clear direction for a bright future.  www.luminfinancial.com

Lumin Financial, LLC is a Registered Investment Adviser.  Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies.  Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Opinions provided are those of Newkirk and Lumin Financial, LLC.  This information is from sources we believe to be reliable, but we cannot guarantee or represent that it is either accurate or complete. Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact upon each person’s situation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters.  You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.