Life in the military is about being ready for deployment. You may be duty-ready, but don’t overlook preparations on the homefront. Make sure to create or update essential legal documents before deployment. Do it for your family’s sake.
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Getting your legal affairs in order beforehand will reduce some of the worry when you deploy — and gives you more control when away. For peace of mind, take the following steps:
Prepare or update your will. A will lets you decide what happens to your property, belongings and even your children’s guardianship if necessary, in the event of your death. Otherwise, the courts may decide for you. If you already have a will, consider updating it based on your current needs.
Decide whether you need to appoint a general or special power of attorney. This document lets you name a trusted person who can act on your behalf regarding a number of personal matters including legal, financial, and family matters or just a specific matter while you’re deployed.
Decide whether you need a living will or a durable medical power of attorney. With a living will, you can declare ahead of time which medical treatment you want or don’t want, if you suffer a serious injury or illness and can’t speak for yourself. A durable medical power of attorney allows you to designate a person to make decisions regarding your medical care in the event you become incapacitated and cannot make those decisions yourself. These may seem like difficult things to do, but you want to make sure your wishes are known and honored and that someone can legally speak on your behalf. Tip: Discuss your wishes with this person beforehand.
Create a family care plan. This serves as a blueprint for how you want your family cared for while you’re away. A plan is required for service members who are:
- Single parents
- Dual-member couples with dependents
- Married with custody or joint custody of a child whose non-custodial biological or adoptive parent is not the current spouse of the service member, or who otherwise bear sole responsibility for the care of children under the age of 19 or for others unable to care for themselves in the absence of the service member
- Primarily responsible for dependent family members
You select a family caregiver for your loved one(s). Tip: It’s best if you and your caregiver work on this document together. Learn more about how to create a family care plan for caregivers.
Need legal help with documents? Active-duty and retired service members are eligible for free legal assistance from judge advocate general legal offices. Find your installation’s legal services/JAG office on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS or through your base website. You can also use the online Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator.
More ways to secure the homefront before deployment
Be sure to review or update personal and beneficiary information for the following:
- Record of Emergency Data (DD Form 93). This is the military’s official and legal document that designates the beneficiaries of certain benefits in the event of your death.
- Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Forms. To download forms, visit the Veterans Affairs Life Insurance webpage.
- Bank accounts – make sure to ask about transfer on death provisions.
- Thrift Savings Plan, Individual Retirement Accounts, 401(k) and other retirement savings vehicles.
- Stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other assets.
If you do not designate beneficiaries for your assets or guardianship for minor children (if you have children), then the court (based on state law) makes these very important decisions for you. Making preparations in advance allows you to remain in control of your affairs and provide for your loved ones.
Additional benefits and resources
Need help translating or creating legal documents? Military OneSource can help. Consultants are available 24/7/365 to answer your questions and connect you with deployment resources and assistance. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS calling options or schedule a live chat. You can also contact your installation Military and Family Support Center for more information about deployment support services.