If you think you don’t need a will, think again

| March 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

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Capt. Mark E. Starchman
Army News Service

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Many Soldiers may think they don’t need a will, but misconceptions may be preventing people from creating this important document.

 

  • “If I don’t have a will, won’t everything just go to my spouse/kids/parents automatically?”

Who actually inherits from you depends on many different factors and is subject to the laws of the state of residence or where one’s property is located. Depending on the state and the family situation, this could mean that everything left behind goes to parents, a spouse, children, siblings or some combination of those groups. By executing a will, the individual decides who inherits what is left behind rather than leaving it up to the state and courts.

For those with children, keep in mind, the will doesn’t just pass along wealth and property; it also allows you to designate who you’d like to care for your children after you’re gone. If this preference hasn’t been memorialized in a will, it may be up to a judge to decide who will raise your children and watch over their property. The judge won’t know you, your children or your relatives as well as you do, and may leave the responsibility to someone you would never have wanted to care for your children.

 

  • “I’ve already filled out my DD93, DD214 and my SGLV 8286, so I’m all set, right?”

Wrong. Those forms filled out with the personnel office only distribute service-related benefits; they don’t control what happens to everything else you own. Bank accounts, investments, real estate, vehicles and other personal possessions are not covered by any of the forms you fill out during in-processing and Soldier readiness forums.

 

  • “But I don’t even have kids, why should I have a will?”

Legal-scales-books-gavel-Image1-550x366In addition to allowing an individual to specify who inherits, the will is a chance to tell the courts who will be in charge of your estate.

One of the most important things one does in a will is to appoint an executor or personal representative for his/her estate. After death, this person will be empowered to carry out the deceased’s wishes and settle the estate (e.g., notify banks, credit card companies and government agencies of the death; pay debts; contact heirs; pay taxes; collect, maintain, protect and distribute property).

An executor is entrusted with an enormous amount of responsibility in properly executing last wishes. By naming this person in the will, you’ll ensure that someone you trust is managing your affairs.

 

  • “I keep meaning to make a will, but I just can’t seem to find the time!”

The Schofield Barracks Legal Assistance Office tries to make the process of making a will as quick and painless as possible. Just stop by during regular business hours to pick up the “Estate Planning Questionnaire.” You can take this questionnaire home and fill it out at your leisure.

When you’re done, drop it off at the office and schedule an appointment to return to review and execute your will.

Legal assistance attorneys are also available to answer any questions about the estate-planning process. They will discuss options for leaving property to intended heirs or other more complex arrangements, such as setting up a trust for a child or disinheriting a family member.

If you want a say in how your property is distributed in the event of your death, a will is the appropriate legal document for you.

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What Legal Assistance Can Do

The Schofield Barracks Legal Assistance Office can answer questions about living wills and assist in their preparation. In most cases, it recommends execution of a living will along with a last will and testament.

Make an appointment to visit the Legal Assistance Office in Bldg. 2037, 278 Aleshire Ave. Its hours of operation are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Thursdays, 1-4:30 p.m. (walk-ins on Tuesdays). Call 655-8607.


(Editor’s note: Starchman works in the Vicenza Legal Assistance Office.)  

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