Update These 6 Legal Documents Before You Deploy

Male service member seated at a desk, flipping through a file of documents.

To say that preparing for a military deployment is stressful is a lot like saying Antarctica is cold. Most of your brain is probably dedicated to soaking up time with your loved ones and reviewing your military training, so it's understandable if you aren't as focused as you should be on nitty-gritty details like legal documents.

While ensuring your legal affairs are in order might not be a fun way to spend the weeks before your next deployment, it is one of those must dos.

Which Legal Documents Do I Need to Update?

There are three must-have legal documents you need to update:

  • Power of attorney. This document names one person who has the authority to act on your behalf for any legal or economic issues while you're deployed. This should be someone you trust — like your spouse, parent or a close friend.
    Tip: Set up your power of attorney for the duration of your deployment plus an additional three months, just in case your deployment is extended.
  • Living will. A living will is also called an advance directive. This document details what medical treatments you do or do not want if you are unable to make decisions because of a serious injury or illness.
    Tip: Your living will also allows you to name a decision maker for your medical treatment, so make sure you take the time to discuss your wishes with whomever you choose.
  • Last will and testament. A will ensures that you decide what happens to your children, property and belongings in the event of your death and keeps court from making those important decisions. If you do not already have a will, you are strongly encouraged to prepare a will.
    Tip: Even if you already have a will, you should consider meeting with an attorney prior to your deployment to make sure you don't need to make any changes.

Additional Legal Documents to Have on Hand


with The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel to find a volunteer participating attorney in your area.

While these documents may not need to be updated, it's still a good idea to put them in one place before your deployment so your family will be able to find them:

  • Marriage and family documents. Include any documents that provide legal proof of various life events: birth certificates, marriage certificate, divorce decrees or separation agreements, death certificates for deceased family members, naturalization or citizenship papers, court orders pertaining to support and custody of legal dependents, legal papers, adoption papers and social security cards.
  • Insurance policies. Include policies for life, homeowners, renters and automobile insurance.
  • Property documents. Include all documents related to your property: deeds, account number and contact information for your mortgage, any lease agreements you have, and any automotive titles or loan papers.

The sooner you check these few updates off your to-do list, the sooner you can get back to enjoying your remaining time at home.


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