News sources everywhere highlight the importance of estate planning, regardless of your age, health or position in life. This advice is especially true for those Wisconsin families with one or more members serving in our nation’s armed forces. Whether you are single, married, have children or are childless, if you are a member of the military, you should take advantage of the benefit that an estate plan can offer.
Servicemen and women with children have an especially wide array of important decisions that an estate plan can clarify. One of these is the matter of guardianship. Through your will, you can designate the person or people you prefer to care for your minor children, should that need arise. Engaging in this form of planning is particularly important if you are the child’s sole parent, or if both of you are in the military.
Another important element of planning may involve your Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) benefits. SGLI benefits are typically paid to the beneficiary you name in writing, but not always. If the named beneficiary is a minor, then the benefits are paid to the beneficiary’s legal guardian. If you have a child with a former spouse or partner, this may present some complication, as you may desire to leave your SGLI benefits to your child, but may not want your “ex” to control that money. In this circumstance, trust planning may offer substantial benefits. You can establish a trust for the benefit of your child and select a person or entity you trust to serve as the trustee of your child’s trust. You can then name your child’s trust as your SGLI beneficiary and the benefits will go to the trustee to manage for the benefit of your child.
In addition to SGLI benefits, a service member who also has a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) should also ensure that the proper forms are completed and up to date regarding death beneficiaries. With both SGLI and TSP, it is essential to ensure that your beneficiary forms are current to reflect your life circumstances. If you’ve recently divorced or married, you should make sure to fill out new beneficiary forms, if necessary, to prevent your ex-spouse for receiving, or your current spouse not receiving, benefits in ways you do not want.