Memorial Day, this year in 2022, takes place on Monday, May 30th. Almost all of us have a day off of work that day, and we use that time to reflect on the many men and woman of the Armed Forces who have given their lives to protect America and its citizens. The annual holiday is a somber one, and it is very important to understanding the core what makes America what it is today.

The fallen military personnel have left a legacy that will be remembered for years. In this article, we’ll talk about legacies and how they can apply to civilians’ daily lives. 

Estate Planning and the Military 

If you are a military member reading this, you should know that the Armed Forces provides quite a few estate planning services, up to and including the preparation of documents. Military attorneys can help you with functions like power of attorney (both limited and general), wills, healthcare decisions, and more. If you want to start your estate planning process or broaden your current estate plan, you need to talk to a lawyer specific to the military. 

Tools to Leave a Legacy 

Two-thirds of Americans do not have an estate plan, according to CNBC. This shocking fact means that the majority of the population are leaving decision-making up to the state in the event that they die or become incapacitated. The court system is not prepared to handle this many people, and it is important that that number is reduced. 

To start, here are some basic documents that will help you protect your legacy in the event that you die: 

  • Will. This is a final expression of where you want your assets to go after you die. In a will, you can name beneficiaries who will receive your property after you have passed on. Though a will has to go through probate, it is a good start for most estate plans. Dying intestate without a will is very damaging to your family.
  • Trust. A living trust does not need to go through the probate process, and it allows you to transfer title of your assets immediately to a trustee. At a time of your choosing, such as upon your death, the trustee will transfer the asset to the beneficiary. Like the will, this is another way to preserve your legacy by ensuring your heirs get your property when you die. 
  • Power of Attorney. This trusted individual makes decisions on your behalf when you are too sick to do so yourself. If incapacitated, it is important that you have someone who is able to take care of your financial and healthcare wellbeing in a responsible, effective way.
  • Healthcare Directive. A “Do Not Resuscitate” command is a common one seen in a healthcare directive. This legal document lays out your end of life wishes, i.e. whether you want to be resuscitated or not and if you have any specific cultural or religious requests with regards to your healthcare. Even if you cannot verbalize the wishes because you are too sick, the healthcare directive will ensure doctors and nurses honor them. 
  • Guardianship. Your minor kids will need a guardian in the event something happens to you and your spouse, if applicable. Including guardianship papers in the estate plan by selecting a trusted individual who you know will take care of your kids’ day-to-day needs.

Dealing with Familial Disputes

There is no foolproof way to ward against familial disputes about your will or any of the other legal documents within your estate plan. If someone is disappointed, then they may try to challenge. That being said, there are some tips to keeping the process harmonious and challenge-free. Here are some ways to minimize familial disputes during the estate planning process: 

  • Hire a lawyer. A lawyer is the best way to ensure that your will is filled out correctly and in compliance with the law. He or she has also been around the block a few times and will know how to minimize family fights, as he or she has likely had quite a bit experience with estate planning tiffs. 
  • Talk to your family. This one might seem obvious, but it bears mentioning. If a family member is shocked in a bad way, he or she might react by challenging. But, if you keep everyone updated on what you plan to do with your estate plan, they will know ahead of time. They can air their grievances, and the communication will prevent anyone from being caught off-guard.
  • Prove capacity. One of the most common ways that people challenge a will or trust is by claiming someone was not of sound mind. This means that the person allegedly was unable to make sound decisions and understand the effects of those decisions. If you think a challenge to your mental capacity is possible, talk to your lawyer. He or she may suggest you get a full medical workup to answer the question of mental capacity. This evaluation could prevent your relatives from making a challenge based on capacity. 

Have a safe Memorial Day, and remember to contact an estate planning attorney if you have any questions about how to handle your legacy.