Casualty notification officers (CNO) inform military family members when their loved ones have given their all. Military spouses and children are all too familiar with the appearance of a CNO arriving at someone's home. But many servicemembers are not married and have no children; therefore, their parents are the next of kin.
Unless military parents have themselves been in the military, they may not have any idea of what to do or the special challenges that are faced when a military member passes away. If you are the parent of a servicemember who has died while in active duty, here are a few important things you need to know to help you probate their estate.
Benefits of posthumous servicemembers
The military provides several types of benefits to servicemembers. Serviceman's Group Life Insurance, known as SGLI, is a life insurance program that eligible servicemembers are able to have, regardless of their service branch. Every active duty member of the United States Armed Forces is eligible for SGLI. However, servicemembers are permitted to decline SGLI coverage. Your child would have been automatically enrolled in SGLI during their initial military training, which is also when they would have chosen their beneficiaries. He or she may have made changes to their SGLI over time.
The military also offers a death gratuity, which is automatic for all servicemembers who die while on active duty. This is a one time payment of $100,000 that is not taxed. It is meant to help ease the burden of burial and the difficult grieving period. The death gratuity is given to the nearest immediate family member. If your son or daughter never married and never had children, you or their siblings would be the nearest next of kin.
Why this is important: There are no stipulations in how you are supposed to use the money from either of these benefits. However, it's a good idea to use the benefits to help pay off any debt your servicemember accumulated when their estate is probated. Probate is the legal process of establishing a will. If there is no will, the estate is said to be intestate, which means the court will establish how the estate will be distributed.
Assistance from the military and organizations
The casualty notification officer will give you contact information for a casualty assistance center near you where a casualty assistance officer will be assigned to help you gather some of the information you need in order to probate your servicemember's estate. He or she will inform you of your servicemember's home of record as well as their county and state of legal residence if it is different from their home of record. This is important because their legal residence is where you will need to probate their estate in court.
There are also organizations that have been created to assist survivors of deceased military members. One such organization is called Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS for short. TAPS provides assistance that can benefit you and other family members, especially while you go through the probate process in court while you are still grieving. There are grief counselors and retreat getaways that focus on healing so you can better concentrate on making the right decisions regarding your loved one's estate and other affairs.
Why this is important: In the military, brothers- and sisters-in-arms learned to lean on each other at all times. "Got your six," is a saying in the military that means someone has your back as six is referring to your six o'clock position, which is at your back. This same concept is how the casualty assistance center and other organizations will treat you as you go through the grieving process and while you probate their estate.
For more information, visit websites like http://valentineandvalentine.com.