Veterans and their loved ones need to take a number of additional steps when it comes to estate planning. A useful checklist is provided in an article from The Wadena Pioneer-Journal, “What survivors should know; A veteran/retiree checklist.” Think of it as a starting point, and discuss these items with your estate planning attorney, who can guide you further.
- Military File. This should include your retirement orders, your DD 214, separation papers and medical records.
- Military Retired Pay File. Make sure you have the claim number of any pending VA claims, along with the address of the VA office being used, a list of current deductions from benefits, and the name, relationship and address of the beneficiary for any unpaid retired pay at the time of death.
- Annuities File. Be sure to include information about the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP), the Retired Serviceman's Family Protection Plan (RSFPP) and your civil service annuity.
- Personal Document File. This should have your marriage records, divorce decrees, adoption records and naturalization papers.
- Income Tax File. Retain copies of all of your state and federal income tax returns.
- Property Tax File. This should include copies of tax bills, deeds and any other related information.
- Insurance Policy File. Keep your life insurance, property, accident, liability insurance and hospitalization and medical insurance records here.
- Important Contacts. Maintain a list of banking and credit information in a secure location. This should include bank account numbers, the location of all deposit boxes, savings bond information, all stocks, bonds, and any securities, credit card account numbers and mailing addresses and 401(k) accounts.
- Memberships. Keep a membership listing of all associations and organizations with their contact and membership fee information.
- Family and Business Contacts. Create a list of all friends and business associates and their contact information.
After preparing all of this, make sure to address the following:
- Burial. Have a discussion with your next of kin about your wishes for burial and funeral services. Include the cemetery location and type of burial. You should also consider pre-arranging your funeral services at your local funeral home.
- Will. Once your decisions have been made and you’re comfortable with them, have a will prepared outlining specifics by an estate planning attorney.
- Notifications and Document Locations. Make sure to tell select family members where your important documents have been placed to avoid any confusion. The following is a list of the organizations that should be notified in the event of a veteran’s passing:
- Defense Finance and Accounting Service;
- Department of Veterans Affairs (if applicable);
- Office of Personnel Management (OPM);
- Social Security Administration (for death benefits);
- Any fraternal groups of which you are a member; and
- Any previous employers that provide pension or benefits.
Reference: Wadena (MN) Pioneer-Journal (January 21, 2017) “What survivors should know; A veteran/retiree checklist”