Life in the military is about being ready for deployment. You may be duty-ready, but don’t overlook preparations on the home front. That includes having or updating essential legal documents. Don’t let it slip off your radar 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 family, property and belongings in the case of your death. Otherwise, the courts will decide for you, which may include additional costs. If you have a will, consider updating it based on your family’s current needs.
Appoint a power of attorney. This document lets you name a trusted person who can act on your behalf on legal or money matters while you’re deployed. The document allows this person to bank, buy or sell property and make other transactions for you.
Make a living will. 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. It also lets you select someone to make such decisions when you can’t. Tip: Discuss your wishes with this person beforehand.
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 single parents, dual-military couples with children, or if you care for a disabled or elderly family member. You select a family caregiver for your loved one(s). Tip: It’s best if you and your caregiver work on this document together.
Need legal help with documents? Active and retired service members are eligible for free legal assistance via service judge advocate general offices. Find your installation’s legal assistance office via MilitaryINSTALLATIONS or through your base website.
More ways to secure the home front before deployment
Be sure to review or update information and beneficiary designations — or who gets what should something happen to you — on the following:
- Record of Emergency Data (DD Form 93), or the military’s official and legal document that designates the beneficiaries of certain benefits in the event of your death.
- Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Form
- Bank accounts
- 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, then the state will. Bottom line: Taking a bit of upfront time allows you to remain in control of your affairs and provide for your loved ones.
Additional benefits and resources
Need help translating legal documents? Military OneSource can help. Call 800-342-9647. The military also offers a number of programs and services for families during deployment. Ask Military OneSource.