estate planning for military personnel -- US Army man in uniform standing in front of the American flag

2022-01-28

Estate Planning for Military Personnel

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Every day, thousands of brave men and women serve our country in the various branches of the military. With over 40 years of experience, it is an honor for Phelps LaClair to assist current and former military personnel with their estate planning needs. 

While the military can be a life-long career for many, it is a job that comes with high risks, including combat and overseas travel. For this reason, estate planning for military personnel is very important—you need to ensure that your family is cared for if something happens while deployed.  

Building Your Military Estate Plan

While military estate planning looks a lot like standard estate planning, there are a few specific things to keep in mind. We always recommend that our military clients make sure to establish a power of attorney, a will, and a trust. Military personnel can also add specific service member benefits so that their loved ones can access them if need be. 

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney allows you to legally designate a person to make decisions on your behalf. If anything happens to you in the line of duty, this person will be able to make decisions regarding your finances, healthcare, property, and other estate matters. 

The person chosen to be power of attorney is generally someone you trust who is close to you, such as a spouse, sibling, adult child, close family member, or trusted friend.

Due to the high risks involved with a military career, we advise all military members to select a power of attorney as soon as possible, especially before deployment. Without a power of attorney, you cannot be certain that your affairs will be left in the best hands. 

Military Will

Establishing a will is a very important task for military members. Even if you are single and/or do not have a large estate, a legally-binding will helps to ensure that your wishes are carried out if something happens to you. 

A will is a document that designates an executor to manage your assets and distribute them to the beneficiaries you name. Your will also allows you to name the person you want to be the legal guardian of your children. Additionally, your will provides an opportunity for you to state your wishes for your funeral arrangements. 

A military will differs from a standard will, however, because a minor at age 17 can join the military and create a military will. Additionally, because military personnel relocate on very short notice to different parts of the world, the Floyd D. Spence National Authorization Act allows the execution of military wills through federal laws rather than state requirements. 

Military Trust

Since a will and trust both take care of distributing your assets, you might not think that you need both. However, there are some important differences that make it wise for military personnel to have both a will and a trust.

With a living trust, military members have full control over their assets and over which beneficiaries receive them. And, unlike assets distributed through a will, assets placed in a trust are never made public record. 

For military personnel, it is sometimes better to place assets like federal pensions, military member survivor benefits, life insurance policies, and other military-related assets into a trust rather than a will. An estate planning attorney experienced in working with members of the armed forces can help you determine the best way to place your assets. 

Military Estate Planning in Phoenix AZ

The entire staff at Phelps LaClair honor the brave men and women who serve and protect our country today and every day. Without your strength and sacrifice, we would not be able to enjoy the freedoms we love. It is our privilege to provide estate planning for military personnel to the veterans and active military members in Maricopa County. Contact us today at 480-892-2488 to request an appointment. 

Photo by Sharefaith from Pexels

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