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Life Happens: Legal Assistance and Paperwork for Service Members and Families

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

You know the drill: Paperwork comes with the military. It also comes into play for legal protections in both your professional and personal life. Hassles can arise when something happens and you don’t have your paperwork in order.

In certain cases, you may need a military lawyer for advice or representation. Military OneSource can help connect you to the legal assistance you require. Call 800-342-9647.

Organize your life: Legal paperwork helps you be prepared

There are some legal documents every service member — and citizen — should have:

Last will and testament. A will lets you decide what happens to your property in the event of your death. Otherwise, the courts will decide for you, and likely impose a fee for doing so. A will is often the principal document in an estate plan, in which you determine what happens to your money, real estate, investments, Social Security, life insurance and business interests. If you have a will, consider updating it based on your family’s current needs.

Power of attorney. This document allows you to name a trusted person to act on your behalf on legal or money matters while you’re deployed or otherwise unable to represent yourself. It permits them to do your banking and buy or sell property, among other transactions.

Living will. With a living will, you can declare ahead of time what medical treatment you want — or don’t want — should you suffer a serious injury or illness that leaves you unable to make such decisions for yourself.

When life gets messy: Know your legal options

Sometimes things happen in life and you need legal help. You can contact your legal assistance office for more information on many issues, including:

Divorce. Typically, divorce is governed by state and local laws and procedures, but being in the military can present issues specific to the services ─ ranging from affecting military benefits such as housing to supporting family members upon separation. Understand your rights and obligations.

Child custody and adoption. Legal assistance can be helpful in several situations involving children. These can include preparing a family care plan that can help provide direction to the person caring for your children when you deploy. And if you adopt a child in another country, be aware that you will have to follow up with paperwork and additional steps in the United States as well when you return stateside.

Other legal matters. There are a range of other issues — from reporting crimes to alcohol and drug offenses — for which you’ll need legal assistance or representation. Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator to find your nearest legal assistance office.

You can seek assistance from military defense counsel if you’re facing administrative discharge or criminal prosecution by the military. Military defense counsel are certified judge advocates who provide independent legal representation and confidential legal advice for service members suspected of an offense or facing adverse administrative actions.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

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