estate planning for veterans

Serving in the U.S. armed forces exposes you to many risks others may never encounter. These risks can make it all the more urgent to plan for what will happen when you are not around. U.S. government programs provide veterans and their families with unique options should the worst happen.

Veterans are rarely strangers to difficult conversations, but planning for the future still comes with many challenges. Between figuring out your options and how to implement them, most people turn to Mississippi estate planning lawyers for help. The Harris Law Firm has decades of experience helping individuals and families. Reach out today to speak with our estate planning lawyer.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning focuses on preparing your legal, financial, and health-related affairs. Estate planning typically involves:

  • Wills,
  • Trusts,
  • Powers of attorney, and
  • Advance directives.

While veterans have additional options, their estates typically involve the same core considerations.


You use a will to direct what should happen to your property after you die. Should you not leave a will, your property is distributed according to state law. Typically, these laws favor spouses and children.

You typically must be 18 or older and of sound mind to create a will. The will must generally be:

  • In writing, 
  • Signed, 
  • Witnessed by two individuals, and
  • Signed by both witnesses.

Military families and veterans may move from place to place more often, so it is essential to ensure your will complies with the laws where you are.


Trusts are a non-probate estate planning asset. As non-probate assets, trusts do not have to go through probate court before your beneficiaries receive it. 

Trusts are flexible tools. You can create a trust while you are living—an “inter vivos” or living trust—or after your death—a testamentary trust. You can also establish a trust that you can revoke—revocable—or one you cannot—irrevocable. 

Different trusts can serve different purposes. You can provide for loved ones, protect assets from creditors, minimize taxes, or leave property to charity. Medicaid trusts, helping you to qualify for Medicaid coverage, are also a common estate planning tool.

Powers of Attorney

Powers of attorney allow you to designate an individual to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated. Two types of power of attorney are common: financial and healthcare. You may appoint the same individual as a health and financial power of attorney or choose different people.

Advance Directives

Advance healthcare directives are also known as living wills. These documents set out your wishes in advance related to different medical possibilities, like whether you would like to receive medical treatments or not. 

What Makes Estate Planning for Veterans Unique?

The U.S. Government provides veterans with special benefits, like:

  • Life insurance,
  • Survivor’s benefits,
  • Burial benefits, and
  • Healthcare coverage.

Many of these programs require you to apply to enjoy their benefits.

Life Insurance

Active duty servicemembers and veterans have many life insurance options. What type of coverage you qualify for depends on whether you have a service-connected disability. 

To maintain your life insurance after separation from service, you can convert from Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI). If you have SGLI, your spouse and minor children can qualify for coverage through Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI).

Survivor’s Benefits

The U.S. Department of Defense sponsors a survivor benefit program that provides military retired pay after the veteran’s death. The program covers your spouse and dependent children, who can receive up to 55% of the veteran’s retired pay.

Burial Benefits

Survivors can also receive assistance with burial costs. If a servicemember dies a service-related death, surviving family members qualify for up to $2,000 toward burial expenses. For non-service-related deaths, the VA will cover up to $796 for burial expenses.


Many veterans are entitled to health coverage through the Veterans Health Administration. To qualify, you must have enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 16, 1981. You must also have served for the entirety of an active duty period or 24 continuous months. If you do not qualify based on your enlistment time, you may still be eligible if you fit into specific categories.

How Can You Protect Your Family After You Are Gone?

Creating a comprehensive estate plan is one of the best ways to feel confident your family will be cared for if you are no longer around. Contact the Harris Law Firm to learn more about veteran estate planning. The sooner you make a plan, the sooner you can get peace of mind.

Author Photo

Noel Harris

W. Noel Harris, founder of Harris Law Firm, PLLC, is a distinguished personal injury attorney with a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law. Since 1981, he has been a dedicated member of the Plaintiff’s bar, specializing in personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and products liability. Known for his profound legal knowledge and tenacious client representation, Noel has over three decades of experience, yielding numerous million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. His commitment to justice is reflected in his memberships in prestigious legal associations, including the Mississippi and Arkansas Bars, Mississippi Association for Justice, American Association for Justice, and the National Trial Lawyers Association. Recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer and holding an AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, Noel’s expertise and ethical standards set him apart as a leading advocate for accident victims in Greenville, MS. Read

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