If you’re a current or retired member of the military who’s preparing to put your estate plan in place, you may be wondering if there are things you need to do differently than a civilian would. Estate planning is typically the same process for service members as for civilians. Note, however, that no two estate plans look alive.
As a current or retired servicemember, you will want to consider the military survivor benefits your family will be able to get after you’re gone. You’ll want to factor these into your estate planning. Let’s look at just three key benefits.
Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)
The SBP is a monthly annuity that’s paid to surviving spouses and/or children. The amount is based on the servicemember’s pay or retirement income. The annuity is paid automatically if someone is still on active duty when they pass away. Once a servicemember retires, however, they must pay premiums to allow their surviving loved ones to receive the annuity.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
This typically pertains only to servicemembers (active or retired) whose cause of death is related to their service. This can be the case even if someone passes away many years after the initial injury or medical condition originated.
Note that if someone dies while receiving disability benefits from the VA and they were considered totally disabled, surviving family members can receive DIC benefits even if the cause of death wasn’t related to their service.
The VA currently provides a burial allowance of up to $2,000 for service members whose death is service-related and up to $300 for non-service-related deaths. It’s important to make sure your loved ones know about this benefit before they start making burial plans.
If you want things like a headstone, marker or flags commemorating your military service, it’s a good idea to designate that in your estate plan. These are available to active and retired military personnel. You can provide as much (or as little) detail about your wishes for burial, cremation and commemoration as you choose.
You certainly want your loved ones to get the benefits to which your service has entitled them when you’re no longer around. Having experienced legal guidance as you create your estate plan can help ensure that they know about these benefits and that you factor them into the financial picture you envision for them after you’re gone.