As a military veteran, you have many unique estate planning considerations, unlike civilians. Whether enlisted in the Reserves, National Guard, or active duty, having a plan for your estate if something goes sideways is crucial. Here are some estate planning tips for all active duty members and veterans.
Create An Estate Plan
Estate planning is among the most proactive things you can do, regardless of age or circumstances. An estate plan summarizes what will happen to your assets and loved ones in the event of your death, incapacity, or disability.
What Do I Need For An Estate Plan?
There is no single answer to this question, as the best estate plan will vary depending on your situation and needs. However, certain documents are standard in an estate plan, such as a will, trust, financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and advance directive.
What Is A Military Will?
A military will is a bit different than a civilian will in that it must comply with the Uniform Code of Military Justice -UCMJ. The will can’t go against military policy or procedures. The signing must get witnessed by two people who are not named beneficiaries in the will.
Consider A Living Trust
A living trust is a legal document allowing you to control how your assets get distributed after death. With a living trust in place, the estate avoids probate, a lengthy and expensive court process.
Make sure to name a successor trustee who will manage the trust if you become incapacitated or unable to do so yourself. You can also include instructions for your assets to be used and distributed after passing.
Update As Needed
Undoubtedly, situations can and will change throughout your life. As such, reviewing and updating your estate plan as needed is essential.
For example, you may want to update your will if you marry or divorce, have a child, or move to a new state or country. You should also regularly review your beneficiary designations and make changes as needed. For instance, younger dutymen who listed their parents as beneficiaries may want to switch to their spouse or children as they age.
Don’t forget to update your financial and healthcare powers of attorney. If you appoint someone and they later become unable or unwilling to serve, you’ll need to designate a new agent. By keeping all of these essential documents up to date, you can rest assured knowing that your planning will take care of you and your family if something happens.
You’ll also want to ensure your life insurance is up to date and that the beneficiary designations on all your accounts are accurate. If you have investments such as IRAs or 529 Plans, you’ll want to name a beneficiary for those as well.
Keep Your Estate Plan Private
One final tip is to keep your estate plan private. You don’t need to share the details with anyone except your attorney, financial advisor, or other professionals you’ve hired to assist.
Of course, you can always tell your spouse or children about your plans if you want to, but there’s no need to share the information more broadly. In fact, it’s often best to keep estate planning matters confidential to avoid the potential for family conflict. And, since situations can change, it affords you the flexibility to make any necessary changes without explaining yourself to others.
However, the potential downside of not disclosing this information to your family is the news may catch them off guard and make them unprepared if something happens to you. Or, they may be unable to access essential documents or accounts if they don’t know about them. So, while there’s no correct or incorrect answer, you’ll have to decide which approach you feel is best.
These Documents Don’t Matter Until They Do
No one enjoys thinking about mortality, but estate planning is essential to ensuring your loved ones can fulfill your wishes upon death. By laying a comprehensive estate plan, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing your wishes will get carried out by law.
Consult A Legal Professional About Your Estate Plan
While this guide provides some essential information on estate planning, it’s always best to speak with a legal professional about your situation. They can help you understand the laws in your state and ensure your documents are legally sound and binding.
An experienced and caring estate planning attorney can answer any questions and help you create a plan that meets your needs for today, tomorrow, and the future.
This article was brought to you by Heban, Murphree & Lewandowski, LLC, a probate law firm in Toledo, OH that focuses on helping people resolve estate litigation problems.
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