Settling Legal Matters Before Deployment: 3 Things You Need to Know
If you’re getting ready to deploy, you have a lot to do and think about before leaving. Although most people aren’t too excited about dealing with legal matters, it’s important to get your affairs in order to protect your best interests and your family.
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program can help. Yellow Ribbon experts have identified three important legal issues you should consider before deploying:
1. Powers of Attorney: Designate a Trusted Representative
There are two types of powers of attorney: general and special. When you give someone—called an agent—the power of attorney, you are authorizing him or her to manage your affairs while you’re away. A general power of attorney (POA) can act in your place for just about anything and could manage your interests and everything you own.
A special power of attorney provides limited power. It gives an agent the ability to do a specific task on your behalf, like selling your car. Think carefully about if, when and to whom you grant powers of attorney. You will need to decide the length of time for the POA. Whenever possible, use powers of attorney that are limited in scope and granted for a specific time period only.
While you are deployed, powers of attorney can be used by your agent: to buy, sell or register a vehicle, for financial and legal transactions, to ship or receive household goods and to sign an eligible family member up for a military ID card. Medical POAs are recommended for caregivers taking care of your family in your absence.
2. Wills: Make Sure Your Wishes Are Understood
A will is a legal document that spells out what happens to your dependents, property and assets upon your death. You need to make sure your will is up to date. Anyone who has minor dependents, owns property or wants to be specific about a bequest should have a will. To prepare a new will, contact your Legal Assistance Office or Command Staff Judge Advocate Office.
If you already have a will, you may need to update it if your circumstances have changed significantly. Examples of why you would need to update a will include if there has been a divorce or a death in the family, if you’re claiming a new state as your legal state of residence, or if the legal guardian of your children cannot serve in that capacity. Once you make changes, a new will is created and all copies of a previously executed will must be destroyed.
3. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA): Understand Your Legal Protections
SCRA gives Service members certain protections when they are called to active duty in the military or deployed. The goal of the law is to postpone or suspend some civil obligations, so a Service member can concentrate on military service.
You may be protected against mortgage foreclosures, tax filings, termination of leases, eviction, outstanding credit card debt or pending trials. The law covers all active duty Service members and members of the National Guard and Reserve—but only while they are on active duty. In order to be protected, certain conditions must be met, and you must be prepared to show that the military has had an impact on the legal or financial matter. If you have any questions about SCRA, be sure to seek assistance with your Legal Assistance Office.
Understanding and taking care of any legal considerations before you receive military orders will help you feel secure while you’re away. Attend a Yellow Ribbon event in your community to learn more about legal and other deployment preparations at www.yellowribbonevents.org.