Your Pre-Deployment Financial Checklist
Preparing to leave for deployment involves a lot of dedicated time and work. Not only is leaving emotionally draining (and to potentially dangerous work environment, no less) it’s also difficult to physically be away from family. On top of all of that, military members also have a lot of legal and financial plans to make before they leave. Assigning a power of attorney, understanding your rights during deployment, creating a plan of action during your absence, and making appropriate plans if the worst were to happen are all important actions to take pre-deployment.
Creating your Financial Checklist
Organizing a plan for your finances is vital when you’re getting ready to deploy. Since the list can be overwhelming, it’s best to create a checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Whether it’s adding a family member to an account, cancelling a contract, gathering documents, or making a company aware you’re deploying, each one is important to remember because once you are gone, it can be extremely difficult to rectify. Although your superiors will try to help you and your family prepare and will provide some helpful documentation, you’ll still need to do some things on your own, and this checklist will help you keep them straight.
- Create a power of attorney
- Update your will and beneficiary paperwork; gather this and all other legal documents and store them in a secure place
- Add your spouse or other family members to financial accounts; create a plan with them for credit monitoring
- Review life insurance
- Set up direct deposit for bills and cancel any services or contracts you won’t be using
- Create a list of passwords for the person taking care of your finances as a precaution (as an authorized user or with a power of attorney they won’t need them, but it’s good to have them just in case)
- Create a monthly bill checklist for your power of attorney
- Confirm medical insurance paperwork for spouse and children
- Keep a deployment binder with important documents such as your birth certificate, social security card, marriage license, important financial documents, list of emergency contacts, etc.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a person to manage your affairs if you become unable to do so. For those that are deploying, a power of attorney is important for a few reasons. Not only is it possible for you to be unreachable while deployed, you’re also at a higher risk for something to happen to you. In those events, your family will be powerless to help if certain documents are only in your name or you become incapacitated in the line of duty. For many military members who are married, the power of attorney is easily transferred to their spouse. You can also use siblings, parents, children, or an attorney depending on your situation.
There are different types of power of attorney as well. A general power of attorney gives your chosen individual almost complete legal authority over your personal and financial affairs unless you die or are incapacitated; however, you can add a clause for the power of attorney to remain in those situations as well. In those situations, the details outlined in your will or health care directive would take over. The other type of power of attorney is limited power of attorney where you list specific tasks and timeframes that the person is allowed to have control over. The power of attorney is important, as the person back home will need it in order to keep track of your credit during deployment as well as the entirety of your finances, they will need it as a step in the moving process if they need to relocate from your home, and any other matters that require your signature.
Knowing your Rights on Deployment
There is a lot that could happen when you’re deployed that could throw a wrench in your life plans. However, it’s important to know that you have certain rights as a deployed service member that can keep some of those wrenches at bay.
While it is a good idea to have someone monitoring your credit and empowered to maintain your finances, it can help to know you have many protections that keep debts or other obligations from becoming delinquent or harming your credit while you are away. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is designed to protect military members called to active duty:
- Reduced interest rate of mortgage payments, which is part of a mortgage perk that military members already get, as well as lower interest rates on credit card debt (another reason why joining the military can help credit and save money).
- Allows service members the ability to terminate a housing lease if relocated to a new location for 90 days or more. In addition, it protects them and their families from eviction while deployed due to nonpayment of rent up to $3451.20 per month.
- Allows military members to terminate cell phone contracts if you’re relocating for 90 days or more. Also allows the termination of a vehicle lease you signed prior to joining if you’re called to duty for 180 days or more.
- Delay of all civil court actions such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or divorce proceedings.
- It keeps military members and families from double taxation, determining a spouse’s tax rate, and allow soldiers to defer owed taxes.
- Health insurance and life insurance termination protection.
Deployment and relocation are stressful times, but there are laws in place so that sudden deployment doesn’t have a negative impact on your finances, credit, and financial standing with establishments when looking to rent, own, or get into a contract in the future. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ensures that you and your family won’t be punished for being called for active duty.
Preparing for the Worst
When preparing yourself and your family for your deployment, it’s not just about dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s in terms of financial and legal obligations in order to get through life obligations without you. Preparation is also important in terms of end of life planning. You’ll want to consider how to handle property you own, if you’d like any money from your estate to go to charity, if your estate is subject to tax, how to avoid disputes among family, and determine who will be responsible for managing your wishes.
Creating health care directives will allow you to document how you’d like your health taken care of if you’re unable to make those decisions. Many of these decisions can be addressed in your will, so be sure to make to update it.
As long as your will, power of attorney, and survivor benefit information is taken care of, your spouse and family should be taken care of by your military status if your deployment results in the loss of your life. Despite this issue being a difficult one for many families to discuss, it’s imperative that it’s taken care of in order for beneficiaries to receive the benefits they are entitled to.
Pre-deployment is a stressful time for many military members and their families. It’s being away from loved ones for an extended period of time. It’s worrying about safety, having limited communication, and getting in as many hugs as you can before you ship out. The added stress of financial and legal planning is just another aspect of the process.
Luckily, checking off your obligations and getting everything taken care of can help the anxiety before deploying. Understanding the need for power of attorney documents, knowing your rights as a deployed active service member, creating a plan to get through your checklist, and making end of life plans are all necessary steps in the process. The better you feel about taking care of the paperwork, the more energy you can spend loving your family before you deploy.
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Chelsy is a writer from Montana who now lives in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys talk radio, cold coffee, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow Chelsy on Twitter @Chelsy5
This post was updated September 13, 2017. It was originally published September 14, 2017.