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Veterans' benefits and estate planning

California veterans and their spouses may have unique estate planning considerations. This is particularly true if they have children, who themselves may be entitled to certain benefits based on a parent's military service.

The issue of veterans' benefits can be complex, but there are ways of helping to ensure that descendants are provided for after a veteran dies. Part of the estate planning planning process should include supplementing the will with instructions regarding how these benefits can be accessed, along with documentation of the testator's military service. Specifically, written instructions should outline the various benefits to which the veteran's children may be entitled, including support payments, educational opportunities and counseling services. From there, the executor of the will or the guardian of the children can begin to do some research to determine what children are entitled to. The VA also has a department called the Office of Survivors Assistance that can help with benefit identification and coordination.

The veteran should also provide information on where the executor or guardian can find discharge papers, known as DD Form 214, as well as any corrections to the original discharge recorded on DD Form 215. These papers can help the VA locate the veteran's records so that claims by survivors can be processed efficiently.

Service members past and present who are considering preparing an estate plan may benefit by speaking with an experienced attorney who is familiar with veterans' benefits. This could be important as it could help ensure that the will and other documents are prepared correctly, thus protecting the rights of surviving family members.

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