Lawyer consults with service member

Writing a Last Will and Testament

Although writing a last will and testament is not required, it is recommended that service members and their families have wills, even if you do not have kids or valuable property. A valid will is a legally binding document that ensures your wishes are carried out after your death. If you haven't created one already, here are several reasons why you should consider preparing a will.

Importance of the will

If you own property, you’ll want to determine who receives ownership in the event of your death. Particularly if you own property, you can determine how your estate will be divided.

If you own property, for instance, your estate may increase in value after mortgage replacement or general appreciation. If you don't have a will, you won't have a say in how your estate gets divided.

As a parent, a will can help you determine the appropriate guardians for your children. A will is needed to establish legal guardianship. Without a will, a judge will choose guardians for your children and determine who raises them.

When you can write and update a will

Any person aged 18 or older who is of sound mind can write a will. However, keep in mind if you write a will under life-threatening circumstances, the will could be challenged. If you do not write your will personally, but rather a friend or family member writes it for you, your will could be challenged or revoked. An attorney at your legal assistance office can help you draw up a will and any associated estate-planning documents.

You can change your will at any time as long as you meet certain conditions, like rewriting the entire will or using an amendment called a "codicil." You may want to update your will with your attorney if:

  • You get married or divorced
  • A birth or death in your family affects your plan in your will
  • You have a large increase or decrease in the value of your property
  • The person you name as executor, guardian or trustee dies or becomes unavailable to serve
  • The laws associated with estate taxes change
  • You change your state of legal residence
  • You wish to change how you want your property distributed

Make the right preparations for your family and estate. Your legal assistance office can help you create a will that suits your desires and needs. In the event your legal assistance attorney isn't able to give you the advice you need for your property, legal assistance will help you find a civilian attorney.