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Preparing for Deployment: Legal Documents for You and Your Family

When you are getting ready to deploy, there are many things that you must consider. What to pack, who will take care of your at-home responsibilities, and how will you pack some last-minute memories in with your family. One factor that’s easy to overlook, but still incredibly important, is the legal documentation you need. From a Living Will to a Military Power of Attorney, there are several legal documents it’s wise to have in place before your deployment.


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What legal documents should I have ready prior to deployment?

When you are deployed, you may not be readily available to make financial and medical decisions on behalf of your family. There are several documents that are ideal to have in place to give your spouse the freedom to take care of those decisions. These include:

  • Last Will and Testament – Should something happen while you are overseas, this will ensure your assets are distributed how you wish.
  • Living Will – This document gives doctors and your loved ones instructions on how you will be treated if you are incapacitated, including instructions about resuscitation and life-saving treatments.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney – This document gives medical decision-making power to another party, often your spouse, so they can make those important decisions if you are incapacitated.
  • Military Power of Attorney – This gives temporary power to another person to handle your legal and financial matters, including filing taxes or accessing your bank accounts, only while you are deployed.
  • Power of Attorney for Child – If you have children, you can use this document to give their caretaker decision-making power while you are gone. This is important particularly if they will not be in the primary care of your spouse but will be in the care of nannies or grandparents who may not have full legal rights to care for them.

How do I make sure my spouse can make legal decisions for me while I’m away?

Most types of legal decisions can be made by a spouse while a person is deployed, but some cannot. To ensure that your spouse has the power to make those decisions on your behalf, consider a Military Power of Attorney. This document can give them the legal right to buy and sell real estate, access your financial accounts, pay your bills, and even file your taxes, but only for the duration of your deployment. This document protects your family by giving your spouse the right to sign documentation or make financial decisions while you are deployed.

What does my spouse need to know to protect our children in all legal matters?

For most legal decisions, the non-deployed parent has the legal right to make decisions while the military parent is deployed, provided the parents are still married. If the military parent is married to someone who is not the parent of the children, a Power of Attorney for Child document can give the step-parent legal rights to make decisions for the children. This document should be discussed with the other parent of the children.

A Last Will and Testament can also help you protect your children legally. Should you not return from your deployment, it can ensure that your assets are properly given to your spouse or to your children the way you wish them to be.

How do I make sure my healthcare choices are carried out in case I’m not able to communicate my wishes myself? 

There are two documents that can ensure a military service member’s health-related wishes are upheld in the event that they are incapacitated and cannot voice them. The first is a Living Will. This document outlines what end-of-life and life-saving treatments an individual wants, and family members or medical professionals should follow them. The other is a Healthcare Power of Attorney. This document names someone as the person in charge of such medical decisions. You can choose to have both documents, or just one, depending on your desires. These documents can take some pressure off of your loved ones when it comes to making difficult medical decisions for you. They can also reduce strife in the family should you face a medical tragedy.

Preparing for deployment means thinking of many things, including legal matters for your children, spouse, and other family members. If you have further questions about how you can make sure they’re protected, get advice from a lawyer, so you can be confident you have the right protections in place before you deploy.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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