The transition to civilian life comes with challenges that sometimes leave retirement and estate planning at the bottom of a long list of to-dos. Even so, it is essential to begin retirement and estate planning process as soon as possible. By taking the time to plan, you will have more power to control the extent, and method, of your asset and property disposition at death.
Military Retirement Benefits In Alabama
Organizing your estate plan and writing your will doesn’t have to be a complicated or confusing process. However, because military retirement benefits are handled differently from civilian retirement benefits, being informed about the differences is critical. This article will discuss some of these important distinctions for military retirees in the context of wills and estate planning.
Wills for Retired Military Personnel
Wills are an essential component of the estate planning process. Each state determines the legal requirements for drafting a valid will. This may include specific conditions as to the number of witnesses required, the form of the writing, and the location and number of signatures. State law also determines the effect of handwritten or other physical changes to a will.
Given the various rules that govern wills, having an experienced lawyer prepare your will ensures that your wishes will be protected during probate.
Yet many people do not appreciate just how vital it is to draft a valid will as a military retiree. The American Bar Association notes that state law governs more than just will formalities. State law also dictates how military retirement payments are divided and distributed to former spouses under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA).
Drafting a valid will allows you, rather than the state, to control much of the distribution of your property and military retirement benefits upon death. Failing to prepare a will, on the other hand, leaves the power of dividing your estate in the hands of state intestacy laws and court-ordered USFSPA payments to former spouses. State intestacy laws are essentially the default laws that govern how a person’s personal belongings and real estate will be distributed at the death when there is no will or estate plan.
Estate Planning for Retired Military Personnel
Military retirement benefits should be considered as part of your overall estate planning. Given the broad range of potential military retirement benefits available, such as Survivor Benefit Plans (SBP), it is essential to understand how federal and state laws governing these benefits work together. You need to know which benefits you have the legal right to dispose of versus those benefit distributions which are not disposable through estate planning.
Typically, estate planning involves taking an inventory of all your assets and debt to make effective dispositions. With adequate preparation, and drafting by knowledgeable lawyers, you may be able to minimize tax consequences and avoid the costly probate process. Some common tools used during the estate planning process include wills, trusts, transfer on death (TOD) instruments, and the use of joint tenancies. Having a lawyer who understands how each of these tools may be used for the disposition of military retirement benefits will be critical.
Dependent Information for Military Retirement Benefits
Providing for children and dependents is often an important goal of estate planning. Military retirement benefits such as Survivor Benefit Plans provide additional protection for your dependents. These can become vitally important because, as the government notes, military retirement payments will cease when the retiree passes away.
The SBP works like insurance and provides an annuity to a military retiree’s spouse or children upon a retiree’s death. It should be set up upon retirement because the retiree must pay premiums from any received military retirement payments. Additionally, military benefits may be available to former spouses through other programs as well. To avoid missing qualifying deadlines for certain benefits, it is important to speak with an informed lawyer or military representative as soon as possible.
How Our Lawyers Can Help With Military Retirement Issues
If you or a loved one are retiring from military service, or have already retired, you should explore your estate planning options by talking with a qualified lawyer. Leigh Daniel, Attorney at Law, has experience with helping military retirees understand how their military retirement benefits fit into an estate plan. Our legal team will walk you through the legal ramifications of your existing estate plan while explaining all of your legal options for protecting your loved ones.
Hiring experienced lawyers is especially crucial in the field of wills and estates for military retirees because the laws in this area are very complicated. However, you shouldn’t let the complexity of military retirement benefits scare you away from beginning the estate planning process. Leigh Daniel will help you identify your assets and will explain the consequences of federal laws and court-ordered spousal benefits.
Online forms and automated services may not provide you with the level of specialized attention you need. Instead, such services often fail to minimize the expenses and potential tax consequences of your estate plan and allow for a costly, and potentially unnecessary, probate process. Working with a skilled lawyer like Leigh Daniel, who has experience with military retirement benefits, will allow you to maximize your savings and avoid common estate planning mistakes.
Get Help Now From an Experienced Military Retirement Attorney in Huntsville
With dedicated legal representation from Leigh Daniel, Attorney At Law, you will be able to avoid common pitfalls associated with obtaining and dividing your military retirement benefits. In addition to providing a military discount for eligible clients, we have a compassionate and zealous approach to representation. This means you can rely on us to listen to your needs, prioritize your goals, and help you protect your military retirement benefits and estate plan.