Your to-do list before a deployment may be long, but it’s worth taking the time to go over legal matters with your loved ones. Use the information below to get familiar with key legal items to take care of before deployment. And remember you can access free legal assistance from your installation legal services/JAG office.
1. Designate a power of attorney
A power of attorney designates one or more people who have the authority to act on your behalf for legal or financial issues for a specified time. These issues might include banking transactions, selling or buying property and medical decisions. There are several types of powers of attorney:
General, special or limited powers of attorney
General power of attorney, gives a designated representative(s) the legal right to take any action on behalf of the service member, or grantor. While this can be easier, it also has drawbacks as some institutions may not accept a general POA, or at least not for more than the most basic kinds of transactions.
Special or limited power of attorney, is specific to a certain transaction or business relationship. This may include powers of attorney for specific bank accounts, vehicles or actions such as the sale of a particular property. A special power of attorney should include detailed information. The downside to using special powers of attorney is that you need to have one for every business relationship being covered.
Regular, durable and springing powers of attorney
Another important aspect of a power of attorney is when they take effect and when they terminate:
- Regular: Most regular powers of attorney take effect when they are signed. A regular power of attorney lasts until it expires, until it is revoked, until the grantor becomes incapacitated or until either party dies.
- Durable: A durable power of attorney also usually takes effect when signed and lasts until it expires, until it is revoked or until either party dies. However, a durable power of attorney contains special language that continues the representative’s powers even if the grantor is incapacitated.
- Springing: A springing power of attorney does not become valid until a certain event occurs – a common use is for the power of attorney to become valid if the grantor is incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions. They may or may not have an expiration date.
- Termination: A power of attorney is limited to a specific period of time or around a certain event, such as during the length of a deployment. The POA automatically expires when that time period or event has concluded.
Using the right POA forms
In many cases, the company or organization may require that you use their specific form, that you pre-file the power of attorney with them, or they may have other requirements. Check with your bank, insurance company or other institutions to find out their preferred format and policy for submitting the documents.
Choose your best representative
Choose the best person(s) to act on your behalf for any legal or financial issues that arise. This should be someone you trust, like your spouse/partner, your parents or a close friend.
- Determine which type(s) of power of attorney you need.
- Consult your installation legal services office or a civilian attorney to draft or update the required power(s) of attorney. You can also use the Armed Forces Legal Services Locator to find the nearest legal assistance office.
- Work with the individual you designated as your power of attorney to determine where the power(s) of attorney documentation will be kept. Legal offices are not a repository for powers of attorney or wills. You need to keep your copy safe.
- Set up your power of attorney for the duration of your deployment plus an additional three months in case your deployment is extended.
- Walk through important paperwork, like your Leave and Earnings Statement, insurance documentation, bank account information, etc. with the person(s) you chose so they are prepared to make these decisions should the need arise.
2. Create a living will and a last will and testament:
A living will, also called an advance directive, details which medical treatments you do or do not want if you’re unable to make decisions due to a serious injury or illness.
A last will and testament, known more commonly as a will, is a document that makes sure that you decide what happens to your children, property and belongings in the event of your death. A court may intervene if you do not have this document.
The thought of drafting these documents may be uncomfortable or daunting, but now is the time to make these decisions, and there are people who can help if you need it. Learn more about free military legal resources available to you.
Here are some things to think about and discuss with your spouse, partner or parents before you contact legal services:
- Determine which medical treatments you do and do not want in case of a serious illness or injury. This might include guidance on resuscitation, mechanical ventilation and organ donation.
- Decide who will be your executor (i.e. the person who will make sure that what you say in your will is carried out).
- Decide who will act as guardian for your children.
- Make a list of your assets, debts, and any special gifts.
If you have questions, consult your installation legal services office. They can also help you draft your documents, or you can use a civilian attorney. To find the nearest legal assistance office, you can also use the Armed Forces Legal Services Locator.
- Even if you already have a will, consider meeting with an attorney before your deployment to review and make to make any updates.
- Ensure your address is consistent across all legal documents.
- Make sure a designated person, such as your spouse, partner or parent, knows where your legal documents are kept and how they can access them.
3. Update your Servicemembers Group Life Insurance and DD Form 93
Service members are eligible for Servicemembers Group Life Insurance, and must update or certify their SGLI during in- and out-processing, and/or at least once a year. You can update your SGLI through the milConnect website.
The Record of Emergency Data or DD Form 93 is the military’s official and legal document that designates the beneficiaries of certain benefits and designates decision makers in the event of your death or missing status.
It is very important that you review and update your SGLI and DD Form 93 whenever a life event occurs, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a beneficiary or change in a beneficiary’s address.
Note: Your DD Form 93 is not updated when you update your SGLI and must be updated by accessing it through the Electronic Military Personnel Office, or eMILPO.
4. Understand your protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides financial and legal protection for active-duty service members and their families, including those in the National Guard and reserves. Here are some of the legal protections to take into consideration as you prepare for deployment:
- Postponed civil court matters: If you cannot participate in a civil court action or administrative proceeding because of your military service, you can request a 90-day delay, or stay, in the proceeding. Proceedings may include actions for divorce, child paternity and support cases and foreclosure proceedings. This protection does not apply to any criminal court or criminal administrative proceedings.
- Eviction prevention: You and your family cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent without a court order, regardless of the language of your rental agreement or local laws. This protection applies to residences where the monthly rent is below a certain amount. Contact your nearest legal assistance office for additional details.
- Termination of residential lease agreements: If you entered into a lease and then received orders to deploy for over 90 days, you may terminate your residential lease by delivering a written notice of termination. This protection also applies to agricultural, professional and business leases.
- Termination of automobile leases: You may terminate the lease for your car if you signed a lease agreement before getting your orders to deploy.
- Voting rights in your home state: Your residency for state, federal or local voting purposes is unaffected by your absence from the state due to deployment. Similar protections exist for spouses.
Learn more about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
If you still have questions about legal matters or preparing for deployment, Military OneSource consultants are available 24/7/365 to provide answers and connect you with the resources you need. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS calling options, or schedule a live chat.