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Special topics in estate planning: Military honors

When many New Jersey residents consider the need to create a solid estate plan, the topic revolves around the manner in which assets are to be distributed among the loved ones left behind. While this is an important focus within estate planning, there are many other issues that can be made easier by having a solid plan in place. Outlining one's wishes is only part of the process; individuals must also give their loved ones the tools they need to follow through on those instructions.

Take, for example, a member of the United States Armed Forces who wishes to have his or her service integrated into their final arrangements. A range of options exists, including having a military presence at the funeral or being interred within a cemetery reserved for servicemembers. While these are admirable goals, those left behind may have little knowledge of what it takes to actually bring those ideas to fruition.

For instance, being buried at Arlington National Cemetery is a wish held by many who have served their country. However, in order to be considered for that honor, it is necessary to provide documentation of military service to the officials tasked with making such arrangements. Without the ability to provide those records, the body of a loved one must be stored for up to six months while the military completes a records search to establish eligibility. That can lead to serious disputes between family members, and in some cases the individual will be buried elsewhere just to keep the peace among those left behind.

The best way to ensure that one's final wishes are carried out is to create a clear estate plan. Not only should those left behind be given a list of desired outcomes, they should also be given instructions on how to carry those wishes out. For those in New Jersey who are seeking military honors, including all relevant paperwork is a great place to begin, as well as having open discussions with family members about this aspect of one's estate planning efforts.

Source: The New York Times, "There's More to Estate Planning Than Just the Will", , Sept. 5, 2014

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