Down to Business: Wills and Taxes, Important Next Steps

Now that you’re getting settled in to military life, there are a few other essential steps you and your spouse might consider taking together, or at the very least, discussing. 

Life Insurance

Your spouse should have a Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy.  Most service members choose to update this policy when they are married and list their spouse as a beneficiary.  Your service member should also update his or her record of emergency data sheet, known as DD Form 93.

Taxes

You and your spouse may also elect to change your respective state and federal tax status to reflect your marital status.  This is not required, however, as there may be a variety of reasons you may to elect to maintain your tax status. You can inquire further about changing your tax status or direct any specific questions you might have to either your installation legal offices or a Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program if available.

Last Will and/or Trust

Last Will: Both you and your service member might choose to update or create a will upon marriage, and when you have children.  Your last will allows you to distribute property to beneficiaries, specify last wishes, and also name guardians for minor children. 

Living Trust: A living trust performs the same function of a Last Will, but is generally not subject to probate court.  Wills go through probate court, where the government will research various elements of your life, i.e. if you have children with someone else, family that wants the money, etc.  This can delay the distribution of your will, occasionally for years, and may cost thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees.  But, if you elect a living trust, your Will is not be subject to probate.

To decide if a will or a Last Will or a Living Trust is better for you, schedule and appointment with your installation’s legal office.

Living Will and Advance Directives

Living Will: A Living Will dictates what you would like to happen if you become sick, incapacitated or are on life support.  This Will allows you to state whether or not you would like medical professionals to take extraordinary members in order to save or prolong your life.

Advance Directives: An Advance Directive is a subset of a Living Will that might take decisions a step further- for example, to include written instructions regarding your medical care preferences. Your family and doctors will consult your advance directives if you’re unable to make your own health care decisions.

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