Are you planning your estate, planning for retirement, or just planning for the future?
Have you considered all the veterans benefits you might be entitled to?
Veterans benefits are essential to estate planning, as the benefits can extend to your surviving spouse and dependents after you are gone. These benefits can strengthen your retirement plan, and help you avoid stress when it comes to living expenses and medical bills.
Let’s take a look at a few ways that you can incorporate veterans benefits into your estate planning.
Veterans Benefits Overview
The VA (The Department of Veterans Affairs) offers a variety of benefits to veterans and their families, including:
- Death Gratuity
- Veterans Funeral Benefits
- Veterans Health and Dental Care
- Pension Programs and Veterans Pensions
- Dependency Compensation
- Retiree Benefits
- Tragedy Assistance Program
- Veteran Disability Compensation
- And a variety of survivor benefits
The VA also provides benefits to veterans’ widows, including: Surviving Family Benefits, Survivor Resources, and Survivor Support Organizations. Perhaps most importantly, the VA provides support to help the surviving widow of a qualifying veteran to take care of his or her family, including:
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
- Death Gratuity
- Death Pension
- Basic Allowance for Housing
- Household Goods Shipping and Storage
- Veterans Burial Benefits
- Gold Star Lapel Button
- ServiceMembers Group Life Insurance
The VA provides pensions to qualifying veterans to help ease the financial stress of daily life. Military Benefits explains the pensions you might be entitled to. In addition to a monthly pension, you may be entitled to the “Aid and Attendance” benefit if you require the aid of another person to perform activities of daily living, if you are blind or have specific visual impairments, or you are a patient in a nursing home because of physical and/or mental incapacity.
According to Military One Source, service members are entitled to life insurance through ServiceMembers’ Group Life Insurance. Depending on the benefit amount you want to provide to your family, you can supplement your SGLI with another life insurance policy. If you die because of an injury or illness incurred or aggravated during your service, your survivors may be entitled to benefits from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some benefits are automatic, but your family must apply for others, which is important to remember while planning your estate.
Burial and Funeral Expenses
The VA pays up to $2,000.00 for burial expenses for service-related deaths on or after September 11, 2001. Some or all of the cost for transportation of the deceased may be reimbursed if the veteran is buried in a Veterans’ National Cemetery.
For non-service-related deaths, the VA pays up to $300.00 for burial and funeral expenses and a $300.00 plot-interment allowance for deaths on or after December 1, 2001. Some or all of the costs for transportation of the remains from a Veterans Affairs nursing home or hospital to a cemetery may be reimbursed.
Veterans and their spouses are entitled to a plot at a National Cemetery and arrangements can be made for a color guard or burial with honors if the veteran is eligible. However, veterans are not required to be buried in a National Cemetery. Veterans may be buried in a location of their choice and their estates may still receive allowances for burial and funeral expenses.
Benefits for Children and Spouses
Veterans and their spouses may have unique estate planning considerations. This is especially important for veterans with children. Children of veterans are also entitled to benefits based on the military service of their parents.
Successfully claiming veterans’ benefits can be complex, but there are ways to make the process easier for your loved ones to receive benefits.
Part of your estate planning process should include supplementing your will with instructions regarding how these benefits can be accessed, along with documentation of your military service. Written instructions should outline the various benefits to which your children may be entitled, including support payments, educational opportunities, and counseling services. From there, the executor of the will or the guardian of your children can begin to do some research to determine what children are entitled to. The VA department called the Office of Survivors Assistance can help with benefit identification and coordination.
In your estate planning documents, you should also provide information on where the executor or guardian can find your records so that claims by your survivors can be processed efficiently.
An elder law attorney can help ensure that your will and other documents are prepared correctly and that the rights of your loved ones are protected.
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