Hello, and happy Friday to you! If you’re new to this series, you might want to check out the previous posts before delving into today’s topic.
This post is coming late in the game, but it’s actually something that should be taken care of in advance of deployment.
Today, we’re discussing legal matters.
There are definitely some items that need to be taken care of and in place prior to a deployment. Many of them will simply save you a whole lot of hassle and red tape for certain situations. Others are items that you should never be without.
Note: I’m not a sugar-coater. I tell it like it is. Therefore, my points may seem a little tough, but these are subjects that every married couple should discuss openly and honestly.
~ Bank accounts. Both spouses should have access to all baking/investment accounts. This is especially important for the at home spouse, in case of emergency.
~ Life insurance. The military member probably already has life insurance, but in most cases, the spouse (especially homemakers) are overlooked when it comes to life insurance.
In considering life insurance, there are many variables and types of insurance available. However, the military offers a spousal life insurance plan in conjunction with an already existing service member plan. The premium for this plan is minimal and is an auto debit from monthly pay. And it’s pretty good life insurance.
My advice: Consider how much the homemaker (in my case) is responsible for (child care, meal preparation, house cleaning – to name a few). Then consider how much it would cost you to hire out these services if something were to happen to said homemaker… I don’t know about you, but I’m certain my husband doesn’t want to have to think about where the money for these things is going to come from if he’s just lost his wife.
~ Powers of Attorney. Definitely something that should not be overlooked and something that you should always have (regardless of deployment status). Both spouses should have full sets of powers of attorney. This includes an Advance Directive (Living Will), regular medical power of attorney and also Financial power of attorney.
These documents can be provided by your JAG office or you can hire a civilian attorney (civilian attorneys will cost you out of pocket, this is NOT typically a free service). Be sure to discuss with JAG your exact wishes (ie. do you wish to be kept alive via artificial means in certain circumstances).
Prior to your JAG appointment, discuss who you would like to be responsible for your medical and financial decisions if you are incapacitated. This means, you also need to choose someone(s), in addition to your spouse, who would act on your behalf if your spouse wasn’t able. Reason – what if both of you are injured in the same car accident and neither of you are able to make medical or financial decisions for yourself, let alone the other – who would you choose? Choose a person you are 100% certain will adhere to your wishes and not be persuaded by anyone else. Be sure this person knows of your desires and agrees to take on this responsibility, if needed.
~ Powers of Attorney for children. This a maybe/maybe not situation. It’s rare for both parents to be incapacitated at the same time, but it does happen. Also, what if dad is deployed and mom is unable to make decisions? If you have children under the age of 18, it’s something to consider. For minors, there is a special medical power of attorney, this gives whomever you choose, permission to be your child’s agent in the event of both parents being incapacitated/unavailable.
~ Spare credit card. One of the things that has been personally helpful to me is keeping a spare credit card at home (NOT in your purse/wallet). This became a very beneficial item to me 2 years ago when Michael was on a regular TDY (in the US). At some point during one Tuesday (still not sure how/when/where this happened…), my wallet was rummaged through and my credit/debit card information was stolen – I was alerted by my bank that evening that there were suspicious charges on my account. I then had to have the old cards cancelled and new ones issued. This affected my debit card, gas card and a credit card I carry. But, because I had a back-up credit card at home, I was not without access to funds. Otherwise, I would have only had the $2 cash I had on me and personal checks to pay for all purchases until my new debit card arrived.
~ Last Will and Testament. This is a big one and a hefty discussion. It is also another document you should have regardless of deployment status.
Some things to consider:
:: If you do not have children – who will receive your possessions and money/investments, etc. if both spouses are deceased.
:: If you have children under the age of 25 or 30 – will any money passed on be held in a special trust for them, until they reach ___ age?
:: If a child’s share will be held in a trust – who will be Trustee(s)? Consider this – whomever you choose, will be entirely responsible for carrying out your financial wishes in regards to your children, until they reach the age you have specified.
:: If you have minors, who will you choose to be their guardians if you are both deceased? Who will you choose to continue raising your children and respect your desires as their parent?
:: What if both parents and all children are deceased, who gets your possessions and money then?
I am not an attorney (though I’ve been a legal assistant in an estate planning law firm for the last 9 years) and nothing in this post is to be construed as legal advice. I’m simply a concerned wife who has some knowledge in the legal field and am vigilant about our financial/medical affairs being kept in order and discussing the tough subjects.
Also, an estate planning attorney can be a valuable asset, especially if you have investments (IRA, 401(k), stocks, bonds, etc.). Making sure your affairs are handled how you intend, upon your death, can bring peace of mind for both of you, especially if you are facing a dangerous deployment.
Did I miss any legal issues? Please tell me if I did.
Are there any other topics you would like to see discussed in this series? I only have one other segment planned, and that’s a special discussion. I will be detailing ways that family and friends can help out and help your family cope during such a difficult time.