No matter the time of year, it is always a good opportunity for members of the military and their loved ones to consider setting up — or revising an existing —estate plan. Military families need to consider special estate-planning issues that others do not. This is particularly true when one or more family members are deployed overseas. Beyond this, members of the military have access to special benefits and resources. This can become complicated and, for this reason, it is important to seek professional help if you are a military family.
Whether you are just starting your service in the military or have been serving for some time, consider the following common factors that may be important in your estate planning.
Important Factors Military Families Should Consider
Estate plans should be customized to each person’s particular circumstances. In your estate planning, you should consider whether:
- You own real property and if it is located in different states.
- You are married.
- You have minor children or children with special needs.
- You have money set aside in 401(k), IRAs, or thrift savings plans.
- You plan to give to charity.
- You are moving multiple times across states or to different countries.
Estate Planning Necessities
There are many benefits offered to military families that can help with estate planning. These include:
Life insurance is an important part of an estate plan intended for those who are financially dependent upon you, especially if you or your spouse are facing deployment. Active-duty members have access to low-cost life insurance for themselves and their loved ones from Service Members’ Life Insurance Group. More information can be found on the Department of Veterans Affairs website. When examining your life insurance, work with us to make sure that the beneficiary designation works the way you expect.
A will is a crucial document outlining to whom and how you want your property distributed at your death. It also allows you to name who will administer your estate and specify who will care for minor or special needs children.
A trust is a separate legal entity that can hold property and assets for the benefit of one or more people or entities. Similar to a will, a trust allows you to dictate who will receive your property at your death and how it is to be administered. The added benefit of a trust is that it also provides instructions on how to handle the assets during any period of your incapacity. For most families, a trust-centered estate plan is a better fit, but a will can work for some families as well.
Other Benefits for Survivors
Survivor benefit plans (SBP) are pension-type plans in the form of an annuity that will pay your surviving spouse and children a monthly benefit at your death.
Likewise, dependency and indemnity compensation (D&IC) provides a monthly benefit to eligible survivors of service members or veterans:
- Who die while on active duty.
- Whose death is due to a service-related disease or injury.
- Who are receiving or entitled to receive VA compensation for a service-related disability and are totally disabled.
When you are examining any financial service or insurance product, it’s a good idea to work with an estate planning attorney to make sure any beneficiary designations work the way you expect and provide the maximum benefit to your family.
Do I Really Need an Estate Planning Attorney?
Members of the military often experience frequent moves, have access to several forms of government benefits after service, and can be subject to some unusual tax rules. For these reasons, estate planning for military families is more complicated than most.
Our experienced estate planning attorneys can assist you in setting up the following:
- Powers of attorney for financial matters, as well as health care decisions.
- Funeral and burial arrangements.
- Wills and living wills.
- Organ donation.
- Family care plans.
- Life insurance.
- Revocable and living trusts.
- Estate taxes.
- Survivor Benefits.
- Estate administration and/or probate.
Our legal team is here to guide you through the legal process to ensure your family’s financial interests are secure and secure our property is preserved so you can pass it on to your beneficiaries. Consult with our attorneys to determine who will manage your assets upon your death and get advice on the best options available to you and your family.