13 Ways Armed Forces Legal Assistance Can Help You


A service member reading a law book

You and your family can access free legal services and attorney advice through your legal assistance office, whether you need to create a will, use notary services or have a rental agreement reviewed. Although specific services may vary by installation, your legal assistance office can generally help with the following:

1. Powers of attorney — A power of attorney allows one person to legally act in place of another. For example, a power of attorney document can appoint someone to release your household goods shipment if you're leaving before your furniture will ship.

2. Reviewing leases and rental contracts — A lawyer can review your lease or rental contract before you sign it to be sure the terms are acceptable, and that the agreement includes any military rental protection clauses for your state.

3. Wills A will is a legally binding document describing how you want your property distributed after your death. It can also include other matters, such as appointing your child's guardian.

4. Living will You may also want to have a living will, which addresses the use of extraordinary life-sustaining measures if you become seriously ill or injured.

5. Estate planning — Estate planning can include evaluating the transfer of your property after your death, authorized benefits, the terms of your life insurance, the need for retirement income and what to do in case you become mentally or physically disabled.

6. Notary services — Notaries can administer oaths, witness signatures, take acknowledgements, sworn statements and affidavits, and certify copies of important documents (such as a marriage certificate).

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7. Consumer issues — If you're having credit problems, believe you're the victim of a scam or have a dispute over a consumer issue, legal assistance attorneys may help you communicate and negotiate with collection agencies, lawyers or other parties.

8. Tax assistance — Many legal assistance offices operate tax centers or provide income tax return preparation during tax season to help with filing federal, state or local taxes. In addition, MilTax, Military OneSource tax services, has free tax consultant services and free tax software tailored to service members.

9. Family law — You can get legal advice on adoption, child support, marriage, divorce, separation, child custody, alimony, property division, name changes, paternity or legal benefits under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act.

10. Service member rights and responsibilities Legal assistance offices can help you understand the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides specific protections for service members.

11. Misdemeanors and traffic offenses — You can get general legal advice on how to handle these issues.

12. Civil lawsuits — In limited cases, you can get help with the preparation of legal correspondence, documents and pleadings.

13. Immigration and naturalization — You can get support and referrals for immigration, citizenship and naturalization matters, such as alien registration, re-entry permits, passports, naturalization of a surviving spouse and citizenship of children born abroad to U.S. military parents.

The legal assistance office is restricted from providing help and advice in some circumstances, including the following:

1. Providing legal advice to third parties or opposing parties on the same issue

2. Claims against the government

3. Serious criminal matters

4. Citations for driving under the influence

5. Military administrative issues or justice proceedings, such as courts-martial, fitness report rebuttals or Article 138 complaints (varies by service)

6. Legal matters concerning your privately owned business

7. In-court representation

Visit your legal assistance office to find out more about the services offered at your installation.


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