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5 Estate Planning Tips For Military Personnel

If you are a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, you have several unique challenges regarding planning your estate. Even if you have limited assets, it is important to thoroughly plan your estate to make sure that survivor benefits go to the appropriate people and matters of your death and burial are handled according to your wishes. Because state laws and military regulations can affect how your estate is divided, it is important to have a clear plan outlined before you enter any high-risk situations. 

Include an Outline of the Benefits You Expect Your Loved Ones to Be Eligible For 

Spouses, children, and immediate family members are eligible for several kinds of survivor benefits if you are killed in the line of duty or as a result of your service. This can include a monthly compensation, the death gratuity, a death pension, access to health care, and continued housing benefits depending on the cause of your death and your status before your death. 

Because your loved ones may be experiencing grief and trauma after your death, outlining the specific benefits that they will be eligible for in your estate paperwork may be helpful for them. 

State Clearly Who You Want Military Benefits To Go To 

You may need to regularly update your estate documentation, including your private will and the Family Care Plan that you must file with your commanding officer. Anytime your personal or professional situation changes, you should check these documents to see if they need to be updated. In these documents, it should be clearly stated who will receive your survivor benefits and who will care for your dependents. 

You should keep in mind that if you are married, even if you are separated, your benefits will likely go to your spouse even if you do request an alternative distribution, unless your spouse waives all rights to these benefits. 

Include Burial Arrangements 

As a military member, part of the costs of your burial may be covered by military funds. In most cases, a burial plot may be provided fully or partially by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but preparation such as embalming or cremation will only be covered if you die while on active duty.  

It is important to include both how you would like your remains to be handled and how the cost of your final arrangements will be covered, whether your death is related to your service or not. 

Decide Whether You Need a Durable Power of Attorney 

A power of attorney can make decisions for you while you are overseas or training. You should only give someone you trust your power of attorney, and you may want to explore a limited power of attorney to protect your assets. If you become debilitated, a general power of attorney usually ends. However, you can also opt to give someone durable power of attorney, which would allow them to continue making decisions on your behalf until the time of your death, at which point your appointed executor would take over. 

Consider Both Military and Civilian Resources 

There are many military resources, including professional legal help, that can make it easy to complete estate planning. However, you may also want to look into private civilian resources, especially if you have a complex estate with multiple beneficiaries or private assets as well as military benefits. 

As a service member, it is imperative that you take the time to thoroughly plan your estate and regularly update your will when you have major life changes. It is a good idea to review your documents any time you are stationed in a new state or country. For more information, consider contacting a professional like those at  LeBaron & Jensen, P.C