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Pre-Deployment Legal Checklist

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  • 1. Pre-Deployment Legal Checklist Find out how prepared you are to deploy by going through this one-stop legal checklist. If you can honestly answer each block to your own satisfaction, you’re probably in good shape to deploy. For additional information on any of the subjects listed below, simply read the page(s) noted in parentheses. If you need a POA, Will, or Legal Assistance to help you get ready, please note our hours at the end of this guide. We’re at ext. 3301, if you have any questions. I. POWERS OF ATTORNEY ____ Do you have the necessary powers of attorney so business can be done while you’re away? ____ For care of children (medical, dental, emergency care, in loco parentis) ____ For Banks (to access checking or other accounts to pay bills – bring acct# & bank address) ____ For Finance (start, stop, change allotments or make inquiries)) ____ For Real Property (buy or sell – bring exact property description) ____ For TMO (accept or ship household goods) ____ For Vehicles (ship, sell, pick-up, register, repair– bring VIN & lic#) ____ For Taxes II. WILLS ____ Do you need a will or an updated will? ____ Do you want a living will, also known as a physician’s directive? ____ Do you want a durable health care or durable general power of attorney? III. INSURANCE ____ Is all of your insurance, including your SGLI, up-to-date and have the right beneficiaries? ____ Is your emergency data and family care plan up-to-date and on file? IV. TAXES ____ Have you paid your taxes or made arrangements for someone else to pay them? ____ Federal and state income taxes? V. SOLDIERS’ AND SAILORS’ CIVIL RELIEF ACT ____ Do you have any pending litigation that could affect your deployment? ____ Do you need to extend or break your lease? VI. OTHER ARRANGEMENTS ____ Are your important papers organized and accessible? ____ Do you know who is going to look after your car, house, pets, and kids? ____ Have you arranged to have all your bills paid? ____ Mortgage or rent on your house or apartment? ____ Car, truck, or motorcycle payments? ____ Student or other loan payments? ____ Utilities (electric, gas, water)? ____ Credit cards? ____ Other (List:__________________________________________.)
  • 2. I. TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS: POWERS OF ATTORNEY A. What is a Power of Attorney (POA)? A POA authorizes another person (your "agent") to act on your behalf and conduct your business while you are deployed. A POA can allow your friend to sell your car, let your spouse ship your household goods, or authorize a relative to take your child to the hospital. In a nutshell, a POA gives your agent the ability to act on your behalf. Please note that businesses and government offices are not required to accept POAs. If possible, you should check with the banks, businesses, and government offices you use to determine their POA acceptance policies before you execute a POA. There are two basic types of POAs: General POA and Special POA. A general POA gives your agent virtually unlimited authority to act on your behalf; it allows the agent to do anything that you could do. While a general POA is the broadest type of POA, it has significant risks and limitations. One risk of a general POA is that your agent can purchase items in your name on credit and you are obligated to pay the debt. Conversely, the usefulness of a general POA is limited by the fact that they are much less widely accepted than special POAs. A special POA gives your agent the authority to do one or more specified acts. You specify on the POA document what acts the agent may perform on your behalf (e.g., sell or register your car, ship or receive your household goods, cash your paychecks, clear base housing). A special POA is more restricted than a general POA, so there is less risk that your agent will abuse his or her authority because the amount of authority granted is limited. If your agent exceeds the authority described in the special POA, you likely will not be liable for your agent’s unauthorized acts. Another benefit is that SPOAs are more widely accepted than GPOAs. B. What are the risks involved with granting a POA? You alone are responsible for the actions your agent takes on your behalf! If you decide you need to grant a POA to maintain your affairs while you are deployed, always remember three general rules: (1) DON’T GIVE A POA TO SOMEONE YOU DON’T TRUST, (2) USE A SPECIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY IF AT ALL POSSIBLE and (3) ALWAYS SET AN EXPIRATION DATE. Although POAs can legally be revoked at any time, it is not an easy process. It may be necessary to physically destroy the POA and notify all the entities your agent has or might have contacted on your behalf. A POA in the wrong hands can wreak havoc on your life. C. Do you need a POA? If you and your spouse have joint bank accounts and own all of your property jointly (cars, houses, accounts, etc.), your spouse can already take care of much of your family business in your absence. However, married and single members alike – especially those with children – may require a POA. Special POAs may be granted in many areas, including the following: Children (medical, emergency evacuation, in loco parentis), Banks (access to pay bills, make withdrawals, cash checks), Finance (start, stop, change allotments or make inquiries), Real Property (buy or sell), TMO (accept or ship household goods), Vehicles (ship, sell, pick-up, register, or repair), and Taxes (file or amend). II. ESTATE PLANNING, PART ONE: TESTAMENTARY WILLS A. What is a Testamentary Will? A testamentary will is the legal document that directs how your estate (everything you own at the time of your death) is to be distributed after you die. In your will you name the beneficiary or beneficiaries who will inherit your belongings. You will also appoint an executor to handle your affairs after you die. Your executor may or may not also be a beneficiary – that is up to you. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you can also appoint a guardian or joint guardians to look after and care for your children. B. Do you need a will? Not everyone needs a will! It is a myth that your state of residence will automatically inherit your estate if you die without a will (also called dying “intestate”). Most unmarried military members with no children who die intestate will have their property distributed to their parents or, if they have no then-living parents, to their brothers and sisters. Most married military members who die intestate will have their property distributed to their spouses with a portion going to their children if they have any. However, every state has different laws. To be sure your desired beneficiaries receive your estate, you at least need to talk to a legal assistance attorney.
  • 3. C. What about a physician’s directive (a.k.a. living will) and a durable power of attorney? A physician’s directive, or living will is neither a will nor about living – it instead lays out your wishes in the event that you are incapacitated by coma or other health conditions. For example, a living will can direct that you be disconnected from life support machines. On the other hand, a durable power of attorney for health care directs whom you wish to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are not “of sound mind.” Similarly, a general durable power of attorney will allow you to appoint someone to conduct your affairs if you are incapacitated. Living wills and durable powers of attorney, like testamentary wills, are regulated by the laws of your state – ask a legal assistance attorney for more details. D. How do you get a will, a physician’s directive, or a durable power of attorney? The first step is to get the worksheets pertaining to the instrument you desire. You can download the necessary worksheets from our webpage linked to the Brooks Home Page, or come by our office and ask for a copy. Then, after you have completed the forms to the best of your ability, make an appointment to see an attorney, or come during walk-in legal assistance times. You will then meet with an attorney to discuss your wishes. After meeting with an attorney, if you decide to indeed get a will, physician’s directive, health care power of attorney, or durable power of attorney, you will make an appointment to execute your documents. III. ESTATE PLANNING, PART TWO: LIFE INSURANCE A. Have you checked your private life insurance? Any military member who has private life insurance should check with the insurance company or agent to determine whether the policy contains a "war clause" or "combat exclusion clause." Such clauses state that the insurance policy will pay nothing if the insured is killed or injured during combat or combat-related activities or as the result of an act of war. Obviously, this kind of clause is not advantageous to military members. It is important to understand the difference between beneficiaries named in your will, if you have one, and beneficiaries named in your life insurance policy. Life insurance is paid according to the terms of the policy, not according to the terms of your will. Many people designate the same people as beneficiaries of both, but that is a choice, not a requirement. B. Have you updated your DD Form 93 and Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI)? Generally, the DD Form 93 and SGLI information is held at MPF. The DD Form 93 serves several purposes, including designation of next-of-kin for death notification and recipients of final pay and benefits. SGLI is available but not required for military members at varying rates and up to $200,000. It is a life insurance policy that does not have a war clause or combat exclusion clause and highly recommended before any deployment. Because it is not a whole life insurance policy, you won’t receive any kind of refund or return if you leave the military in some way other than dying. As with any insurance policy, SGLI is paid according to the terms of the policy and to the beneficiaries named on the form, not according to your will or your will-designated beneficiaries. It is equally important to keep your will, your private insurance, your DD Form 93, and your SGLI all up-to-date. Whether on the SGLI or any other form, we encourage you to name specific persons and not use the “by law” designation. If you do not designate an SGLI beneficiary or designate "by law," then SGLI is paid according to federal statute, 38 U.S.C. § 1970, as follows: 1. All to the spouse, but if none, then 2. All to the surviving children in equal shares (and descendants of deceased children, by representation), but if none, then 3. All to natural parents (equally divided), or to the survivor thereof, but if none, then 4. All to the executor or administrator of the member’s estate, but if none, then 5. Next of kin under the law of the state of the member’s domicile at the time of the member’s death. IV. INCOME TAX RETURNS The Legal Office, through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, offers free assistance with the filing of tax returns, including electronic tax filing of the federal return during tax season. Military members who are deployed or serving overseas are entitled to an extension of the 15 April income tax filing deadline until 15 June and an additional extension of 15 August by written request to the IRS. However, even with these time extensions, you have to pay anything owed by 15 April or you are subject to fines and penalties. We encourage members who will be deploying in the March-June time frame to file their returns as soon as they have all the necessary forms and paperwork – make the end of February your personal deadline. You can also get a SPOA to designate an agent to file your taxes for you.
  • 4. V. SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' CIVIL RELIEF ACT The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) is a federal law that affords active duty military members special rights and protections. If, for example, someone sues you and obtains a judgment against you because you failed to respond to the lawsuit, the SSCRA provides a means by which a court can delay the proceedings or re-open the default judgment if your failure to appear in court was because of your military service. The SSCRA does not, however, cancel the lawsuit altogether. Other protections of the SSCRA include a 6% cap on interest rates for certain loans and debts incurred before entering the military, protection against foreclosures and repossessions without court order, and prospective relief from certain financial obligations members cannot meet because of military service. The SSCRA is also the law that allows military members to keep their state of domicile even though they are reassigned to duty around the world, allowing us to continue to vote, have a driver’s license, and pay (or be exempt from) income and other taxes in the state we call home. VI. “NON-LEGAL” ISSUES YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT The Legal Office can help you with a POA, a will, and legal assistance, but we cannot pick up your mail, adjust your insurance policies, or organize your life. T he following items are things that you need to consider before you deploy or go on extended TDY – you’ll be glad you did. A. Vehicles Most military members do not consider the cars they leave behind as being potential problems during deployment. Are you going to store your car in a commercial lot or garage? If so, check with your insurance agent. Because the car will be off the road and stored in a secure, professional facility, you may be entitled to receive a substantial discount on the premiums you pay while the car is in storage. If you decide to take advantage of any discount, then remember that you must notify your lender if there is a loan on the vehicle. Is a friend going to care for your vehicle? If so, you should have a special power of attorney for your friend to do what might be necessary while you’re gone, such as renewing your car insurance, re-registering your car, or authorizing maintenance and repairs. If your friend is going to drive the car, then be sure your insurance policy and theirs will cover any accident that occurs. Even if you are a dorm resident, you still need to think about who should take care of your car while you’re gone. Don’t assume that you can simply leave it in the dorm lot without consequence. At the very least, your dorm manager, first sergeant, or another trusted individual should have a key to the car to move it if necessary. B. Finances Who is going to pay your bills while you are gone? If you are married, your spouse can pay your bills if he or she has access to your bank account(s); does he or she? If you want someone other than a spouse to pay your bills, they will need access to your money. A power of attorney may suffice, or you can add his or her name to your account. Before giving anyone access to your money, consider paying as many bills as possible by allotment or by automatic withdrawal from your bank account(s). You can, of course, rely on the on mail service to your deployed location, but be prepared for delays. C. Household Whether you own or rent the place where you live, you need to make arrangements for its care in your absence. Who is going to take care of things like mowing the lawn or checking the security or making sure that the pipes don’t freeze? If you rent, is your spouse or roommate or a friend staying in the home while you’re away? Does this person have the written authority to act as a proper tenant in your absence? If you rent and your deployment is going to be a long one, have you considered whether it would save money simply to move out? Does your lease contain a military clause that allows you to break the lease on short notice if you have orders for either long-term TDY or PCS? Where are you going to leave your household goods? If they are staying in your house, then make sure you have already provided adequate homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to cover their damage or loss. If you are storing them in another place, then your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance might not cover them; ask your insurance agent. Have you forwarded or suspended your mail delivery? Finally, consider whether you want to suspend or shut off your utilities, cable, phone, and newspaper service. You might save money while you’re gone by not paying for what you’re not using, but there might be re-connection charges for you to pay when you return. Even if you are a dorm resident, you still need to get answers to many of these questions before you go. D. Children Have you made all necessary arrangements for your children? Do you have a family care plan as required by AFI 36-2906 and AFI 36-2908? Who are your children going to stay with? Do the caretakers need a
  • 5. power of attorney to enroll your children in school or obtain medical care for them? If your designated caretakers live far away, who is going to care for your children until the caretakers arrive? Do you need to make arrangements to provide financial support? If you are divorced and your ex-spouse has partial custody or visitation rights, have you arranged for your ex-spouse to assume full custody in your absence or for your designated caretakers to honor the existing agreement? If you are married to or divorced from another military member, have you considered what will happen if both of you deploy at the same time? Your kids will go through enough while you are away – please plan ahead for their care and well-being. E. Documents Finally, the following is a list of papers and other information that you should have organized and readily available: Social Security numbers for all dependents; Certified copies of birth certificates for all dependents; Immunization Records for self and all dependents; Certified copies of marriage certificate; Certified copies of any divorce/annulment; Certified copies of other legal documents regarding child support or property settlement; Naturalization certificates/citizen papers, if applicable; Adoption or legal guardianship documents; Copies of all real estate papers; Copies of all state/federal tax returns (past 5 years); Passports for all dependents; Copies of all insurance contracts (life, accident, renter’s, etc.); Copies of all Powers of Attorney that you have issued; Original Wills for you and your spouse; Automobile, boat, recreational vehicle papers; Stocks, bonds, etc.; Bank/Savings deposit books; Copies of contracts, leases, mortgages, deeds, deeds of trust and other documents regarding to real property, interests; Bills of sale for major items; Documents regarding outside business interests; Other financial records, e.g. bankruptcy; Military and other employment records; Copies of all utility, phone, and credit card billing accounts. Still have questions? No problem – just call us at the Legal Office at 536-3301 and we’ll find a way to help you! Legal Assistance Hours: T/W: Appt Only 0830-950 Th: Walk-In 1400-1530 Notary Hours: T/W: 0800-1130 M/TH: 1300-1530 Will Executions: F: Appt Only 0800-1000