What Does Estate Planning for First Responders and Military Look Like Compared to Civilians?

Are you someone who has chosen to work in the field of law enforcement, firefighting, prison corrections, or emergency medicine? If so, then you know that certain risks are inherent in the line of work that you perform. No matter what role you serve at work or the specifics of your job there is an increased amount of risk to you when you go to work each day compared to civilians. This applies perhaps even more so to those of you who are in the military. While these may be extremely rewarding careers, it goes without saying that there is still an inherent amount of risk involved when it comes to performing in these areas.

When you go to work each day there is a reality that no matter how well you prepare for your job or how good you are at performing your job activities there’s a chance that you may not go home that day. What this means on a practical level is that you need to have your affairs in order as far as preparing for your state to be handled. However, the difficulty is that while you know this is important you do not know the deadline date, so to speak that you need to have all these tasks performed.

Understanding that estate planning is important is one thing period getting it done and doing so in a way that is sensible and to the best of your abilities is another matter altogether. To what extent are you able to prepare your estate while still performing your work duties as a first responder, military member, or police officer? That is what you need to answer for yourself and your family. When it comes to preparing your estate there are many ways to go about doing this.

It is a difficult situation to find yourself in if you are a first responder who deals with secondhand and in many cases firsthand trauma each day. It is not easy to maintain your sense of composure and calm when the circumstances of other people around you are becoming quite dire. On top of that, you have your responsibilities to consider, and planning your estate may not be at the top of your list when it comes to priorities. Therefore, if you find yourself needing to consider your options when it comes to estate planning then allow this blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to be your jumping-off point.

In today’s blog post, we are going to talk about how there are differences between estate planning for first responders and military members versus the rest of us in the civilian world. While the methods of estate planning are going to look very similar, how you and your family go about the estate planning process will likely be different than how your neighbor does. This is not to say that it is any simpler or more difficult. What we are trying to accomplish with this blog post is to point out how all persons over the age of 18 need to engage in some sort of estate planning regardless of their circumstances.

Minimizing distractions as a first responder

The reality of the situation is that the work of a first responder, emergency room physician, police officer, or military member contains more risk, stress, and responsibility than many people who work a typical nine-to-five job. I can tell you that figuring out the work you do may require sacrifice and effort beyond what an office-type environment calls for is certainly not easy. However, the inherent risk in the line of work you perform can be breathtaking. Not wanting to focus all your energy on this risk, he would tend to the day-to-day matters of your job as best you possibly can. However, the realities and risks of your job are inescapable.

When the risks of your work are constantly on your mind that means you are not able to fulfill your work duties as best as you possibly can. The argument can be made that your work responsibilities are better handled when you are free to focus solely on them and not concern yourself with other matters while you are on the clock. Speaking as a member of the civilian workforce, I can tell you that ideally, those who work on the front lines whether it be in our nation’s defense or the medical field, would do so without distraction at work period I realized that this is a far-fetched desire and all of us have other concerns that are on our minds while we work period however, in the line of work that you perform it would be best to have a distraction-free environment.

Minimizing distractions at work is a noble goal, especially for our first responders. We can think of no better way to minimize distractions than to ensure that your affairs are in order should the unthinkable happen at work. Admittedly, this is not an enjoyable subject to occupy your time with. It is the kind of subject that many of us would purposefully avoid to not think about it thoroughly. However, I think there is an applicable example that we can all relate to that can help illustrate this point.

Can you think back to a time when you and your family may have been struggling financially? Your savings account may have been a minimal amount or nonexistent. I’m willing to bet you that it was during this time that you and your family ran into the most issues as far as needing money for emergencies. Everything, due to your lack of any money in savings, would pop up as an emergency. This was enough to stress anyone out and cause you to rethink your actions a great deal.

However, the more money you were able to earn and the more money you were able to sock away meant that the buffer between you and the emergencies in life grew and grew. Ultimately what would happen is that as your emergency fund would grow the number of emergencies that you would run into regularly would decrease. There is something about having an emergency fund that causes emergencies to become less and less frequent. Or, at the very least, what you used to consider to be an emergency no longer would count. I am trying to argue that emergencies will become inconveniences when you have planned to save money.

I think a similar point can be made regarding estate planning as a first responder. When you engage in state planning that means that you may have fewer distractions available to you during work period as we have already discussed, distractions at work as a first responder can be a recipe for disaster. Instead of risking distraction at work, you can and should take a moment to plan your estate to minimize the risk of harm to yourself or someone else. When and if you have questions about estate planning, please reach out to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We offer a free-of-charge consultation where you can discuss matters relevant to your life, equipping you to better focus on your work and family life.

As far as planning your estate is concerned, working with an experienced estate planning attorney can be the difference between creating an estate plan that is just good enough versus one that will suit your specific needs and account for the factors that are most important to your life. Remember that the planning that you do will not directly benefit you once you have passed away. Rather, the primary benefit of your estate planning will be the increased Peace of Mind and financial options provided to your family. When you pass away, your family can focus on their memories of you instead of primarily concerning themselves with unresolved financial issues from your life.

Differences in estate planning for civilians versus first responders and military members

One of the major differences that you will have to bear in mind as you begin to prepare your estate as a first responder or a member of the military is that no matter what your level of wealth is, your inability to create a viable estate plan for yourself and your family it’s certainly a negative and a drain on the long term success of your family as a unit. When you create a well-thought-out and structured estate plan, you set yourself up for long-term family success. There is not much you can do to prepare your family in the long term after you pass on. Whatever influence you have on the family finances or ability to earn a wage will have quickly dissipated. With that said, taking estate planning seriously has dramatically increased your ability to function in this role beyond your death.

The information and steps that we outlined towards estate planning for the rest of today’s blog post are an introduction and a general one, at that. Surely, you will have some questions about where to go from here and how best to move forward. For that, we recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. Our lead estate planning attorney, Megone Trewick, is someone who has not only years of experience in helping first responders plan their estates but is also a terrific listener and great problem solver. You can meet with her or any of our experienced state planning attorneys at no charge six days a week.

Creating a last will and testament should be seen as a terrific step that you can take towards estate planning regardless of whether you are married. Military members should consider a will and essential duty once they begin serving our country. The military has resources to assist you with doing this and our law office is certainly here to help should the need arise. No matter what your level of wealth is, how many children you have, or whether you have even started building a family a wheel is something that can help you now and help your family later.

A will informs the world about your preferences for property distribution after your death. The failure to create a will means that your property would pass to your airs as required by the state of Texas and its laws on intestacy. Although these laws favor distributing property to immediate family members, your preferred estate plan for your family may not align with that. If you do not necessarily want immediate family members to receive most or all of your property when you pass away, then creating an estate plan is essential. They will be the most basic and sometimes the only step that you need to take in this regard.

Your will allows you to name someone as the executor. Instead of a court appointing someone to oversee your property’s distribution, the will and executor arrangement allows you to choose an executor to carry out your wishes for property allocation after your passing. This approach saves time and money and ensures that a legally bound executor follows your instructions for distributing your property.

If you are married and have a high net worth, then your will can also help you avoid issues when it comes to the federal estate tax. There is an unlimited marital deduction and a federal estate tax exemption for both you and your spouse. Were you to fall into a wealth situation where this is an important consideration, you could allocate whichever spouse were to die first exemption amount in a trust. This would reduce the estate tax for your combined estate and protect your assets. All the while a trustee could manage the property in a way that benefited whichever spouse survives and your children.

Creating a revocable living trust means that you as the grantor of the trust would transfer ownership of your property into a trust during your life. This means that the trust would be the legal owner of any property in that trust. Many people who are first responders or in the military choose to use a revocable living trust as a substitute for a will since it provides an outlet for the distribution of property upon your death. A major difference between a revocable living trust and a will is that you can create the revocable living trust to specify how to distribute the property and how to handle and utilize the trust’s assets during your lifetime.

A key benefit to establishing a revocable living trust is that it can help you avoid probate. Probate is a process through the legal system that allows people to transfer property upon their death. When assets or not owned by you but rather by a revocable living trust, they do not have to go through probate. In most cases, probate is a slower or and more expensive way to transfer assets versus a will. Even a will can occasionally require probate to distribute the property.

For a military family, a revocable living trust decreases the likelihood that you would have to go through probate in multiple states. Here’s what I’m talking about. Consider a situation where you have been stationed all over the United States, leading you to own real estate in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. If you die without a will, the likelihood increases that your estate would require probate in each of those states. However, with a revocable living trust you could avoid the probate process altogether.

These are just a few ways that planning your estate may look different than planning the estate of a civilian. Whatever the case may be, you have options when it comes to figuring out how you want to handle matters related to estate planning and asset preservation for future generations. Whatever your goals are, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can assist you with reaching them in a way that makes sense now and in the future.

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 law as well as about how your family may be impacted by the filing of a probate case.

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