Welcome to Day Twenty of the “30 Day Financial Transition Challenge.” Today’s article focuses on your estate planning needs.
Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)
Today, we’re going to take a look at your estate planning needs to make sure you’ve got everything in order. Most servicemembers associate estate planning with the services at their local installation’s legal office: Will, living trust, and POA for deployments. As you exit the military, you need to not only take advantage of what’s available at your installation, but you need to make sure to cover all the bases regarding your estate planning needs.
Estate planning is more than just a will, trust, and power of attorney. Proper estate planning involves ensuring control over decisions that need to be made when you’re no longer in a position to make them. Some of these decisions are financial in nature, but many are not.
Today’s goal is to establish a plan that ensures:
- Your executor knows where your assets (or your spouse’s assets) own will go in the event you pass
- The people you entrust to handle everything know what they are supposed to do after your death
- Clear definitions for your care in the event you aren’t able to care for yourself
- All of your intentions are clearly and properly documented
- Five Estate Planning Changes When Transitioning From the Military
- Why Estate Planning Matters to You in the Military (Even if You Think it Doesn’t)
- 7 Emotional Aspects of Updating Your Will in the Military
What you need
Your estate planning documents
This exercise consists of a simple checklist of questions to help frame your approach.
1. What estate planning documents do you have?
- Will, Power of Attorney, trust, medical directives, etc.?
- When was the last time these documents were updated?
- What major changes have occurred since these updates (marriage, divorce, children, etc.)
2. If you were to die …
- Who would be the executor (executrix)?
- What would happen to your money & assets?
- Who will take care of your dependents? Other major responsibilities that someone else needs to assume?
- Do your documents reflect your current wishes? If not, what changes do you need to make? This includes updating the beneficiary on your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other important documents.
3. If you were incapacitated, what would happen…
- To you? Medical directive in place?
- To your dependents?
- To your money and assets?
- Who gets to make major decisions on your behalf?
4. What estate planning documents do you need?
Make an appointment with your base legal office.
- Make sure you go with a list of your concerns.
- Ask about each of your concerns – not just what the base offers. If the base does not cover a specific concern, ask how you can contact an estate planning attorney to help you.
Do you need to make an appointment with an estate planning attorney for needs outside the purview of your installation? If you need a recommendation, you can probably find one from:
- Your financial planner (if you have one). Financial planners work hand-in-hand with estate planning attorneys, but each professional has a clear and distinct role.
- Your accountant.
- Your family’s lawyer.
To wrap up, this is by no means a complete wrapup of estate planning. If you have special needs, complex family situation (i.e. closely held business or many family members), or other challenges, you’ll most likely find that you’re going to have to go outside your installation to address your estate planning needs. However, today’s goal is simply to incorporate those into your ‘to-do’ list.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss long term care. Long term care is probably not an immediate challenge for most military members. However, many people face challenges with regards to caring for aging parents and grandparents. This article will focus on long term care planning for those members who might have to care for relatives in the near future.