In the event that something happens to you, how far do you want doctors to go to revive you? Whom would you prefer to manage your affairs? What do you want to happen to your estate? These are questions that you would no doubt like answered if something unexpected happens and you’re unable to make these decisions.

Why you need estate planning

While everyone can benefit from estate planning, service members understand that military life can be particularly dangerous. Just like in civilian life, it’s not always possible to predict what will come next.

Estate planning allows you to decide what the future will be like for your family should something happen to you. Without the proper arrangements, the distribution of your assets can be somewhat unpredictable. If you make your intentions clear ahead of time, you can determine what happens to your personal assets, property and financial obligations.

This also makes plans for your health care clear should you become unable to make decisions for yourself. Without this, your family could be left with large amounts of debt from medical bills.

In addition to being pragmatic, estate planning can take a large load off your family’s shoulders. With everything arranged ahead of time, neither you nor your loved ones have to worry about certain decisions that would have to be made in the event you become disabled or deceased.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

To help get your affairs in order, use the AFBA estate planning checklist

We’ve created a helpful checklist to assist you with estate planning. Included is a list of necessary steps for successful arrangements, such as:

Draw up a will

First, you’ll need to prepare a document that outlines some very important details. This means naming a personal representative and substitute to carry out your wishes, providing a full list of assets and organizing funeral and burial intentions, among other tasks.

An executor of estate needs to be named in this document. This is the person who’s responsible for ensuring your intentions are carried out. The executor is a very important person and should be carefully considered, as they will work with your attorney, identify and manage your probate assets (bank accounts, property, life insurance etc.) and handle your debts.

Arrange for power of attorney

If you become unable to manage your estate, a loved one or other trusted representative can do it for you. While you can revoke this determination at any time, it otherwise lasts for your lifetime.

Create a “living will”

This isn’t the same thing as a traditional will. The living will decides what health care you do or don’t want should you become unable to make decisions for yourself. For example, to what extent should doctors try to resuscitate you? Do you want to be placed on a ventilator if needed to keep you alive?

Gather necessary documents

Personal documents, bank accounts, income tax information and various other papers and pieces of information need to be consolidated. This includes passwords for your online accounts, especially your banking credentials.

You don’t have to do all of this on your own. These steps can be made easier if you appoint a law firm to help you.

Help your loved ones by making plans for the future

There are many unknowns in life, both for civilians and active duty service members. With estate planning, you can get your affairs in order and be more certain of what happens to you and your loved ones. While you may not be able to predict what the future holds, you can still plan for it.