Military service can be as rigorous and risk-filled as it is rewarding. For servicemen and women with families, the threat of an overseas deployment often necessitates a bold strategy—a strategy that affords peace of mind to ensure that their spouses and children are protected should they die in combat.

The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc. has spent decades helping military families plan their estates. Our experienced team of attorneys could help you form the foundations of a long-lasting legacy, no matter your income or your rank. Military familities and estate plans | California Estate Planning Lawyer

Understanding the Necessity of an Estate Plan

Everyone needs an estate plan. However, active-duty servicepeople often have a more urgent need for an estate plan than their civilian counterparts. Even in times of peace, military personnel face unique risks that increase their chances of injury and death.

An estate plan is the only way to ensure that your estate is managed in accordance with your wishes. Without a will, a trust, or any other arrangement, your assets could be managed by California’s stringent probate code.

Under the laws of The Golden State, any person who dies without an estate plan is said to have died intestate. Intestate successions are almost always administered in accordance with a strict legal formula. This formula privileges close living relatives, often at the expense of other intended beneficiaries. 

Establishing an estate plan provides members of the military with a critical opportunity to make informed decisions about their estate assets and their physical health and well-being.

The Basic Components of Every Estate Plan

While there are many documents that can be included in an estate plan, a comprehensive plan should include the following components:

A Last Will and Testament

A will directs a probate court to disburse your estate assets in accordance with your preferences. You can also use a will to nominate a guardian for your minor child and explain the reasoning for different inheritance decisions.

An Advance Care Directive

An advance care directive can be included as an addition or addendum to a will. This document lets you decide the type of care you want or don’t want in the event that you are ever seriously injured or otherwise incapacitated.

Life Insurance

Life insurance, including Servicemembers’ Group Insurance, could provide your family with the money needed to pay for a funeral, replace lost income, and retain their independence in the event that you are ever killed in the course of active duty.

Beneficiary Designations

Beneficiary designations permit the transfer of certain assets, such as bank accounts, outside of probate. They must be regularly reviewed and revised.

Survivors Benefits

Many programs through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) award benefits to families automatically. However, Social Security survivors benefits must be applied for in advance.

While every military estate plan should include these fundamental documents, servicepeople sometimes have complicated needs that warrant more creative solutions.

Estate Considerations for Active-Duty Personnel

The United States Armed Forces will offer estate planning services to active-duty personnel. However, these services are often routed through third-party providers, and many do not prioritize servicepeople.

The Law Firm of Kavesh, Otis & Minor, Inc. has spent decades helping military families protect their interests. We could help you or a loved one make arrangements to:

Establish a Trust

California law permits the establishment of several different types of trusts. Revocable living trusts, for instance, can be used to keep certain assets—such as a home or vacation property—outside the probate courts’ purview. This could facilitate an easier transfer of wealth.

Protect Out-of-State Property

Some veterans may spend months—or even years—living in different states on domestic deployments. If they own property or hold assets in more than one state, their estate plan must account for the different laws of different jurisdictions.

Preserve Benefits

The VA offers some benefits to the surviving family members of servicepeople who are killed while on active duty—but claiming benefits is not always easy. Families are often best served when they have an actionable plan to obtain resources as soon as they are needed.

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.