NEWS | Dec. 5, 2013

JBSA-Lackland Legal Office to host Retiree Appreciation Day

By E. Stephanie Hebert and D. Dayne Duff JBSA-Lackland Legal Assistance Attorneys

Have you ever heard the adage, "You can't take it with you?"

If that's true, then what happens to your property when you die? If you've not already planned your estate, you should be asking yourself that question.

Some people prefer not to think about death and dying. Others contemplate death, but never get their affairs in order, even when estate planning documents can be obtained for free at their military legal office.

If you've not yet planned for the future, now there's a one-day incentive.

The JBSA-Lackland Legal Assistance Office will host Retiree Appreciation Day Dec. 6 with same-day estate planning.

Between 8:30 a.m. and noon on Dec. 6, retirees and their dependents can meet with an attorney and obtain their estate planning documents on the same day. No appointments are necessary nor will be given that day. Services are first come, first served.

The JBSA-Lackland Legal Assistance Office has dedicated Dec. 6 for retirees to emphasize the important of estate planning.

Having a will prepared is the only way to ensure that your probate property is disposed of as you desire after your death.

Some couples believe that only one will is needed to dispose of their community property, but that's a common misconception. Each spouse must have a will to dispose of their community and separate property.

Although some legal offices discourage both spouses from meeting with the same attorney, the JBSA-Lackland Legal Assistance Office permits the practice as long as there is no apparent conflict and each spouse waives their attorney-client privilege of confidentiality.

Having a will is also important to manage your estate. A will allows you to name an executor to serve independently without having to post a bond. If you die without a will in Texas, the state intestacy law determines which family members receive your property and a probate judge will determine who will manage the estate.

In addition, depending upon the type of assets you own at the time of your death, your estate may be subject to "dependent administration," which requires permission from the judge before your property can be sold, leased or distributed to your heirs. Each trip to the courthouse will result in additional legal fees.

Perhaps the most important lesson to learn about estate planning is that once you become mentally impaired, it's too late to have estate documents prepared. This will place you, your spouse and your adult children in a financial, emotional and legal predicament. They will probably have to hire an attorney and file a guardianship proceeding on your behalf, which may remain in effect for the duration of your lifetime.

Even if estate documents have been prepared in the past, it may be time to review them. For example, if the person you named as a beneficiary or an executor has passed away, you may need new estate documents.

Other reasons for a review could be a Power of Attorney has expired or documents have been misplaced. No matter the reason, the JBSA-Lackland Legal Assistance Office will review your estate documents and help determine whether new documents are needed.

Retiree Appreciation Day attendees will be asked to complete an estate planning worksheet for each document needed (Testamentary Will, Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney and General Power of Attorney) upon arrival.

Worksheets can also be accessed online at https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil. Click on the "Legal Worksheets" tab at the top of the screen, then print the resulting summary worksheet(s) and bring them to Retiree Appreciation Day.

If you are unable to print, bring in the worksheet numeric code the computer will assign to the data entered and it can be printed at the office upon arrival.

In addition to estate planning matters, retirees may also discuss other legal matters with their attorney on Retiree Appreciation Day. If you have consumer-related issues, landlord-tenant issues, or family law issues, bring all relevant documents for your attorney to review.

However, the legal office cannot provide advice regarding a particular legal issue if an attorney has already been engaged that matter.

For more information, contact the JBSA-Lackland Legal Assistance Office at 671-3362/3363. Regular office hours for walk-ins are 8:30-9:30 a.m., Monday through Thursday. Additional times are available by appointment.