Smart Military Couple’s Guide to Life Planning: Hey Baby, Let’s Plan for the Unexpected Tonight

by Lauren Welch, Guest Contributor

Here is a date night that you might have never thought of. Let your husband or wife know you want some alone time (read: no distractions). This night is just for the two of you because you want to talk about happens when you die.

Wow. That kills the mood AND it might not be the best way to say it, but you need to:

  • plan for the unexpected
  • plan for “just in case”
  • plan for the end

–whatever you want to call it, it is just plain smart for military couples.

Before getting into the nitty gritty of end-of-life decisions, I want to remind you why you should have this date night. If you have kids, then it is a CRUCIAL topic for smart military couples. You have to have  a plan in place in case you are not there to take care of them. In the uncertainty of the military life, having our desires and plans for our children, along with our possessions and funeral arrangements, in writing is even more important. How do you do that? You start with 3 legal documents.  The first one is the Family Care Plan.

Stop Playing the Mental “What If” Game

First: an item the military requires of their families is a Family Care Plan. This document is incredibly useful and “in case of emergency” it details your desires immediately, both short and long term. For instance, when our spouses are deployed there is that “it’s only me” feeling that follows you wherever you go. For me, I feel like I can not get sick and I want to “Spiderman move” any potential bad thing away from my family because I am all we got. What if, I am injured in a car accident while my husband is gone?

A family care plan not only shows the military what you want to happen while you are in the hospital recovering, it helps your family feel a little better about not being Spiderman (shucks). It’s a smart military couple must have.

Safekeeping Suggestion: The Family Care Plan paperwork can be received and returned to the service member’s command. I suggest giving copies of your family care plan to your short- and long-term caregiver as well.

Who Gets the Kids?

After your family care plan is updated, next on your “planning for the unexpected” date night agenda is your last will and testament, which details your desires once you have died and your living will outlines your desires while you are living, but unable to make decisions regarding medical treatment.

For your will, this is where you make the tough decisions of who will get your kids, if both and your spouse die; and if you want to be buried, cremated or donate your body for medical research. Questions to discuss may include: specific items to give to certain beneficiaries, desires for your funeral and if you want to establish a trust for your children.

Your living will outlines what appointed person will make make “life and death” decisions on your behalf in the “worst-case scenarios” where you are unable to make or communicate decisions regarding your medical care.  Questions to discuss may include: do you prefer to die at home or at a hospital, your opinions on life-sustaining treatment and the donation of your tissues or organs.

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Both a will and living will can be accomplished with an attorney at your installation legal offices. With a call to their office, an appointment can be made, directions given and you are on your way. The first time my husband and I put together our wills, we received a legal worksheet that allowed us to detail our desires about: who we wanted to execute our wills, to parent our children and of course, get our belongings. It is more detailed than this, but it gives you an idea of the conversation you will have with your spouse. We brought the completed paperwork to the appointment and they transferred it into our wills, they were notarized, signed and we had our wills.

Safekeeping Suggestion: I suggest keeping a copy of your wills in a fireproof safe and giving a copy to whomever you named as the executor of your will. We also keep a digital copy on an external hard drive (just in case!) Remember we are planning for the unexpected.

Related: MilSpouse Cheat Sheet: Power of Attorney

So, you have completed your family care plan, your wills and living wills. You and everyone else has their copies and they are in safe places. My last safekeeping suggestion is to create a document that explains things like: where and how to get in your safe, phone numbers and addresses for important places, allergies or medication needs for your children, alarm codes and where anything else important might be and of course, give copies to trusted individuals named in your legal documents.

I found the above “date night” conversation with my husband to be pretty intimate, in a beautiful way. It made me feel like we could discuss anything and we were not afraid to talk about the hard stuff.

Now, if only we could agree on what to have for dinner.

When was the last time you and your spouse talked about your wills? Is it time to update your Family Care Plan?

LaurenWelchLauren Welch is a financial counselor and owner of Thrive Financial Counseling, as an Accredited Financial Counselor ®. Lauren received her AS in Food and Beverage Management and BS in Sports, Event and Entertainment Management. Lauren is married to a Marine and has a son– currently living in Virginia. As a mother, Lauren has learned to be patient, show grace and get outside and get dirty.

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