Serving Those Who Serve Contributed by: Taylor R. White, Estate Planning Coordinator
Procino-Wells & Woodland takes great pride in serving the needs of our active military service members and Veterans. The men and women who serve our country hold a special place in my heart and my prayers as I have observed the sacrifice, honor, and grit they possess for this country and its citizens.
Admittedly, the last thing on my mind as my younger brother prepared for his first deployment was discussing his insufficient, ‘fill in the blank’ estate planning documents provided by the military. In a blur of emotion, fear, and strained positivity, I found it difficult to address the dark possibilities that come with wearing the United States flag on his shoulder. To my surprise, it was my brother who questioned the thoroughness of his estate plan and asked me to talk it through with him, which resulted in some revisions.
Now, years later as my brother prepares to be honorably discharged and return to civilian life back home, my focus shifts to ensuring that later in his life, he is able to qualify for the benefits he has earned through his years of service. His plan, like most others, will require maintenance and revisions throughout his life that reflect changes in his goals and lifestyle.
Task & Purpose Members of our military are trained to embrace plans and structure. They also are aware of the need to expect the unexpected. Developing an estate plan supports both; an estate plan prepares for things that are in our control and for the elements of life that remain unknown. Both active-duty members and Veterans can find peace in having a plan in place that safeguards their family, their wishes, and their legacy.
Address it & Put it in Writing Estate planning formalizes and legalizes the internal thoughts we have and conversations that take place with our loved ones about our wishes. To ensure our fiduciaries can follow through with our wishes, we must arm them with the proper legal authority to honor us. Verbal conversations and ‘homemade’ estate plans leave gaps in this authority and may result in the inability to honor a person’s specific requests.
When There’s a Will, There’s a Way There are three documents that make up a foundational estate plan. In short, an estate plan is incomplete without a thorough Will, Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive.
A Last Will and Testament allows a person to dictate asset distribution upon their death, nominate an executor and appoint a guardian for minor children (if applicable). A person who passes without a Will or with a Will that does not meet certain legal statutes, risks state intestacy law governing these items and more.
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows a person to appoint a person or multiple people (Agent(s)) to make legal and financial decisions for them if they cannot make those decisions for themselves. This document is also used out of convenience, like when an active-duty member is deployed and it’s more convenient for their affairs like bill paying to be managed by a trusted person at home. This document is essential.
An Advance Health Care Directive allows those over the age of 18 to express their healthcare wishes in the event of a future medical crisis. It not only appoints a person or multiple people (Agent(s)) to communicate with medical staff and make treatment related decisions if they become incapacitated, but it also allows a person to specify their wishes relating to anatomical gifts (organ donation) and end of life care.
Think Ahead & Strategize Estate plans are not ‘one size fits all’- as goals, circumstances, and lifestyles differ, estate plans should differ. When thinking about creating an estate plan, it’s important for a person to identify their goals. Is it a goal to minimize administrative burdens on loved ones? Avoid complex procedures, lengthy timelines and fees through probate avoidance? Consider a Revocable Trust to accomplish these items. Identify and prepare to receive VA benefits through sheltering assets? Consider an Irrevocable Trust specifically drafted for Veterans to work towards this purpose. Our initial mission is to arm families with the information, tools and resources to make informed decisions based on their goals.
For members of our military, the thought of how they will take care of their families if something were to happen to them can be pressing. For Veterans, the thought of how they will navigate their earned benefits and leave their legacy can be burdensome. It is vital for active-duty members and Veterans alike to understand the need to be prepared with a thorough estate plan.
To all of our military heroes past, present and future- thank you for your service. We are humbly grateful to serve those who have served and those who continue to serve our country.