It?s July ? a month filled with patriotic celebrations, fireworks and barbeques. During this month, many of us feel a greater sense of gratitude for our family and friends who have served or who are serving in the military. As someone who grew up with a father in the Naval Reserves and as someone who served in the U.S. Army, I have a special place in my heart for military families.
As an attorney, I see the great need for military families and their loved ones to consider setting up ? or revising an existing estate plan. Military families have unique issues and estate planning challenges that must be addressed. This is especially true when one or more military family members are deployed overseas. Additionally, members of the military have access to special benefits and resources. All of this means that estate planning for military families can become complicated. For this reason, it is crucial that military families seek specialized help to ensure their affairs are truly in order.
Whether you are just starting your military service or have been serving for some time, consider the following common factors that may be important in your estate planning situation.
Factors to Consider
There is no ?one-size-fits-all? when it comes to estate plans. You plan should be customized to meet your family?s circumstances. For instance, you should consider the following:
- Do you own real property and, if so, if it is located in different states?
- Are you married?
- Do you have minor children, or children with special needs?
- Do you have money set aside in a 401(k), IRAs, or thrift savings plans?
- Do you plan to give to charity? and
- Will you be moving multiple times across states or to different countries?
Estate Planning Necessities
Fortunately, there are many benefits available to military families that can help with estate planning, including:
Life insurance – Life insurance is a vital part of an estate plan intended for those who are financially dependent upon you, especially if you are facing deployment. Service Members? Life Insurance Group can provide active-duty members with low-cost life insurance for themselves and their loved ones from. More information can be found on the Department of Veterans Affairs website (https://www.benefits.va.gov/insurance/). When looking at your life insurance, work with me to ensure that the beneficiary designation works the way you expect.
Will – A will is an essential document that outlines how you want your property distributed when you die. It also allows you to name who will handle your estate and specify who will care for any minor or special needs children.
Trust – A trust is a separate legal entity that can hold and manage property and assets for the benefit of one or more people or entities. Similar to a will, a trust allows you to spell out 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 directions 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.
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 servicemembers or veterans (1) who die while on active duty, (2) whose death is due to a service-related disease or injury, or (3) 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.
You Need Special Help
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.
You can expect an estate planning professional to assist you in setting up the following:
- Powers of attorney for financial matters, as well as health care decisions (they are very helpful when a spouse is deployed);
- Wills and living wills;
- Funeral and burial arrangements;
- Organ donation;
- Family care plans;
- Life insurance;
- Estate taxes;
- Survivor benefits; and
- Estate administration and/or probate.
An estate plan serves several vital purposes. Here are just three to consider: (1) to help provide for your family?s financial security, (2) ensure your assets are preserved and passed on to your beneficiaries according to your wishes, and (3) designate who will take care of and manage your assets upon your death.
I am here to guide you through the best options available to you and your family. Give me a call today to set up your free consultation. As a special thank you to current military families, mention this blog, and get $250 off the cost of any estate planning I do for your family.