Survivor Finances and Legal - Essentials

While no actions can completely erase the pain you feel after losing a family member or loved one, getting your financial and legal affairs in order can be a small step in the right direction and can provide some peace of mind during this difficult time. Military OneSource provides tools and services to simplify and ease the process, including ways to:

Understand the probate process.

When a loved one dies, you may go through a court proceeding called "probate," the legal process by which a person's final debts are settled and legal title to property is formally passed from the deceased to his or her heirs. Since the probate process can be a little overwhelming, it helps to remember the four steps: 1) the hearing; 2) collection and inventory of assets; 3) bills, taxes, expenses and creditors; and 4) formal transfer of remaining estate property. 

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Claim your tax and Social Security benefits.

A critical step in organizing your finances after a death is understanding your survivor tax and Social Security benefits. Several of the benefits paid out to families of deceased service members are tax-free. These include Social Security benefits, death gratuities, burial benefits, and VA pension and compensation payments. In addition to the Social Security lump-sum death payment, there are other monthly benefits for eligible surviving family members. 

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Plan your finances.

Mapping your financial future is a bit of a crossword puzzle if you’re trying to figure out benefits. Be sure to use the interactive online survivor benefits report to view current and estimated future benefits and to help you set up your savings and spending plans in order to forecast your financial future. The Department of Defense's "A Survivor's Guide to Benefits" is also a practical resource that provides the information you’ll need to adjust your financial plans. Financial counselors are always available through Military OneSource.

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Identify insurance and survivor benefit payments.

As a survivor, you may be entitled to payments from your service member’s Survivor Benefit Plan. The amount received is based upon the number of active-duty service years at the time of death. You may want to know about the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance – service members pay life insurance premiums from their monthly income.

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