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Why should I plan my will while I am on active duty?

Are you an active duty service member who has questions about how to proceed when it comes to estate planning? That is understandable considering the busy pace of your life and your commitment to your work and duties. You probably do not have a lot of free time to go in and plan for issues that could occur decades in the future. It would make sense if your attitude toward planning was “We will cross that bridge when we come to it”. The fact is that right now you may not even have enough time to figure out what’s for dinner tonight. Not to mention being able to plan your estate.

Many people think as you do. Most people do. Statistically speaking, your chances of dying as a younger person are not that significant. However, having a career in the military adds to those odds. Imagine a situation where you are working a routine job for the military or are even in training here in the States. What you are planning on being just another mundane day at the "office" could turn out to be anything but that. When bad luck meets the wrong place at the wrong time your family may be faced with a situation where it has to scramble to determine what kind of estate planning you were able to engage in before your passing.

This is not a pleasant outcome to contemplate but it is a responsible one to think about. Planning your estate means planning for an event that will not impact you directly. Isn't this similar, however, to how you plan for missions and objectives while serving in the military? The military has a total and complete “next person up” way of going about their business. You know that if something were to happen to you while on a mission or in fulfilling some sort of duty, the rest of the men and women who are in your unit or serving alongside you would pick up the slack and continue.

This is sort of like how you need to plan for how your estate is going to be handled once you pass away. No longer would you be in a position where you could impact your life and those around you. Once you pass away all the work that you put into your estate planning to that point will be what matters most to your family. It will be obvious if you do not put enough effort into your estate planning and your children, spouse and extended family are the people who will suffer the most for your lack of diligence and care. This is not meant to be an overly harsh warning to you but is meant to hopefully light a fire under your backside and get you motivated to perform the elements of estate planning.

When it comes to estate planning while a member of the military you have an ally in the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our attorneys take a great deal of pride in being able to serve men and women like yourself who serve our country with such honor and distinction. We offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. This means that no matter where you are in the world, we can work with you to set up a consultation where you can ask questions and receive feedback about your circumstances in the law.

Keep in mind that estate planning needs to be something that you are intentional about. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's blog post, your estate plan is not probably something that you focus too much of your attention on each day. Rather, it needs to be something that you are purposeful about and have a plan regarding. A consultation with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys can help you to begin to think critically about the issues which are most important to you and your family. From there, our attorneys can work with you to develop a plan which can help you to satisfy the goals you have and move forward with your life once the estate planning has been completed.

What does it mean to die without an estate plan?

It is not uncommon for adults in the United States to die with no estate plan in place. Most Americans die without a will and many Americans believe that a will is only for rich people or for some group whom he or she does not belong to. This is a shame given that estate planning is beneficial for everyone and does not need to be something that costs a lot of money or takes up a lot of time. However, what an estate plan does need to be is personalized to your needs. The circumstances in which you find yourself are truly unique and not something where you can simply copy and paste another person's plan into your own life. You will find that the plan does not assess your needs fairly or accurately.

When you die without an estate plan you lose power and autonomy over the property which you own. This is bad enough if you do not have family or people who rely upon you but if you have a spouse and children this is an especially dangerous situation for you to find yourself in. The last thing that you want to do is to go through life with no estate plan and no way to ensure the safety and stability of your family after you are gone. The simplest way to help ensure that your family will be provided for after your death is to engage in estate planning. This estate planning could be via a will or trust. These are the most common methods of estate planning.

A will states what your intentions are for your property after you die. You would name beneficiaries in your will who would receive property distributions once you pass away. You could name family members, friends, charities, a church, or something completely different as a beneficiary. You just need to be intentional about who you are choosing to inherit from you and think clearly about who can benefit the most by receiving the property in question. It may be that you do not want family members to receive property. In this case, you can leave your property to another person or entity like a charity.

The other main type of estate planning vehicle is a trust. A trust can be created within a will (known in that case as a testamentary trust) or can be created independently of a will. The trust is used to house property that you own. A trustee is named in the trust to oversee all the property contained therein. The trust can expire at a certain point and can distribute property upon certain conditions coming to fruition. For instance, you may hold property within the trust for the benefit of your children where the property will be distributed when your child turns a certain age, graduates from college, or gets married.

In a will, you will name a person as the executor of the will. The executor inventories all property that you own. Inventorying means noting how much of everything there is. If particular property items are mentioned in your will, then the executor should make sure that those items are accounted for. The larger and more complex your estate is then the more important it will be for you to name an executor who is up to the challenge. A person with honesty, basic intelligence, and a desire to serve another person are characteristics that you are looking for when attempting to locate a good executor. Speak to him or her before naming them as your executor to make sure that they are up to the challenge.

A trustee has a similar role within a trust. He or she has a legal duty to keep up with all the property owned in the trust. When certain conditions are met the trustee must be prepared to distribute property according to the terms of the trust. This can be a challenge if a beneficiary under the trust tries to exert some pressure to possibly have money handed out earlier than the terms of the trust allow for. This puts the trustee in a position where he or she may need to say no to a trustee to avoid having a lawsuit filed against him or her by another beneficiary.

At the end of the day, you do not want to go out on deployment for the military without having first thought critically about your estate plan. We know that there are risks when it comes to military service. This is not to say that you will not make it back if you go overseas with the military or that you are going to run into bad situations while living in the USA. However, there is always a chance that some military training or exercise may find you in a position where your life is at more risk than in other professions. While you are knowingly taking on this responsibility, you cannot ignore the other responsibilities which are a part of your life.

All the work that you have put forth to save for a rainy day, protect your family and just generally be responsible can go up in smoke if you do not properly plan your estate. What you are giving up by not properly planning your estate when you have the opportunity is control and autonomy over your assets. If you die without a will, for example, in most cases your estate will need to go through probate and a probate court judge will be the one who can decide on how your assets will be distributed. Keep in mind that this probate court judge does not know you and will only be following the laws of intestate distribution.

The next consideration regarding estate planning relates to your children. Your children are likely the primary motivating factor for you when it comes to going through all the steps which you have in your life to build wealth and security for your family. With that said, all the steps which you have taken in your life to this point could go up in smoke if you do not have a will or estate plan in place for your family. These are relatively simple steps that you can take when you have the opportunity rather than spend time concerning yourself worrying while you are deployed or overseas. Take the time now to plan your estate when you have the opportunity, and you can perform your job duties with less stress.

Steps to take when planning your estate

Planning your estate, as we have mentioned in today's blog post, does not need to be something that you do only after you have reached a certain level of wealth. Rather, estate planning can and should be something that you begin to engage in as soon as you become an adult or certainly by the time you get married and have children. What many people gather from watching television or movies is that estate planning is only worth the effort once you become wealthy or otherwise have a big family. The reality of the situation is that estate planning can and should be done once you begin to take on the responsibilities of adulthood.

Creating a will is not something that necessarily has to be expensive or time-consuming. For many people, planning an estate is easier when you are helping someone that you know. An example of this is when you seek to help a loved one plan their estate but have not yet taken those same steps to plan your own. While it is admirable to help others when you are able it is also something where you should not necessarily help another person with their estate until you have taken the steps necessary to plan your own.

In your branch of the military, you may have people or resources available to you who can help you by providing you with information that can be helpful to begin the process of planning your estate. Certainly, if you are budget conscious then you should investigate these resources and fully take advantage of them. However, you should also be aware that these resources may not be able to specifically tailor their advice or the information provided to you. Keep in mind that the requirements for a will in Texas are likely different than the requirements for a will in another state. With that said, making sure that you have a properly drafted will based on the laws of the state of Texas is job number one.

For that, you should consider reaching out to an experienced estate planning attorney such as those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our attorneys work side by side with members of our community every day to help plan their estates. It doesn't matter if you are old or young, wealthy, or not wealthy. Especially when you have someone in your life who relies upon you for their well-being you must take the necessary steps to plan your estate and be intentional about doing so. When you have a higher-than-average amount of risk in your life due to your military service then you must be able to work through these issues and have a plan in place for how to handle matters related to your estate and the future of your family.

There are benefits to working with an experienced estate planning attorney from our office. This begins with our attorneys being familiar with the estate planning laws of Texas. As we just mentioned a moment ago, there is no guarantee that someone from the military or even an online will creator will be up to date on recent changes in estate planning laws in Texas. You want to avoid a situation where you take the time to create a will only for your family to realize that the will does not comport with the laws of Texas when it comes to wills and estates. Rather, you want the effort that you expend to be worthwhile.

Thank you for joining us on our blog today. If you have an interest in estate planning, especially as an active-duty member of the military, please do not hesitate to join us as we continue to share relevant and interesting material about the world of Texas estate planning.

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas estate planning as well as how your family may be impacted by the filing of a probate case.

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