Many people think of estate planning as no man’s land — a topic difficult to discuss or a project that feels expensive or insurmountable. While plenty of active military personnel and veterans feel this way, there are specific benefits and assistance available to this elite group to make estate planning worthwhile and easier.
On this Veteran’s Day, we salute and honor our heroes by sharing critical information on estate planning for military families and veterans.
Basic Estate Planning Checklist
Every adult, no matter their profession, should have some basic estate plans in place to protect their health care and end-of-life wishes while ensuring financial security for their loved ones. Because military life has its own unique circumstances, including frequent travel, combat dangers and government-provided benefits, military personnel and veterans who have a proper estate plan in place give their loved ones certainty and protection. A basic estate plan usually includes:
- A Will that states the person’s wishes for how their property is to be distributed after their death and names an executor to oversee that process.
- A trust to ensure that all assets are managed the way the person wants should they become incapacitated or die. To learn more about the different types of trusts available, click here.
- A durable power of attorney, which gives a representative the ability to make financial decisions should the person be unable to do so.
- An advanced medical directive that specifically outlines what type of medical treatment is wanted or unwanted should the person not be able to communicate on their own behalf.
In addition to property like homes, cars, jewelry and other valuables, many military families have medals and other keepsakes to mark achievements earned by serving their country. Estate planning helps ensure that these sentimental and historical items are passed down in a meaningful way. To help you get started, we have created this free Estate Planning Checklist.
Benefits for Veterans and Active-Duty Personnel
Veterans and active military service members may be entitled to certain assistance and benefits. These include:
- Veteran Aid & Attendance Benefits: Veterans and surviving spouses may be entitled to the VA&A benefit if the veteran requires or required the “aid and attendance” of another person for basic personal functions, such as bathing and eating. Other factors to qualify include being bedridden or in a nursing home, among others, and having served during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War or the Gulf War.
- Disability & Compensation Benefits: It is important to understand the type of benefit being provided and what happens to those benefits should the recipient pass away. For example, the Veterans Pension Benefit stops if the veteran passes away, which could impact surviving family members who rely on those funds. Another example is the Survivors Pension for families of a deceased veteran whose death occurred during active duty or due to a service-related injury or disease or who was receiving compensation from the Veterans Administration for service-related disability, among other eligibility factors.