Difference between Traditional and Military Will

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 What Is a Traditional Will?

A traditional will is a legal document outlining how a person’s assets and properties will be distributed after death. It allows the individual to name an executor, assign guardians for minor children, and detail specific wishes regarding the distribution of assets.

Drafting their will is a process that requires careful thought and planning to ensure that the deceased’s wishes are carried out accurately.

What Is a Military Will?

A military will is a specific type created by an armed forces member. This document has some unique characteristics compared to a traditional will, such as the ability to be created without the presence of a notary or witnesses under certain conditions. Military wills are often put in place before deployment and tailored to meet service members’ needs.

Why Is a Will Important in the Military?

In the military, a will becomes even more critical due to the service’s unique challenges and risks. It provides peace of mind to service members and their families by clearly outlining how assets should be handled in the event of the service member’s death. Contesting a will in the military might be more complicated; , creating a clear and concise military will mitigate potential legal disputes.

Imagine a service member who has drafted a military will before deployment. The military will might include specific provisions related to military benefits, survivorship rights, and the disposition of certain military-related assets or honors.

Upon the service member’s unfortunate death, a family member may disagree with the way the assets were divided or have concerns about the military-specific provisions. They may believe that the will was executed under duress or that others influenced the service member during a stressful time before deployment.

Contesting the will in this scenario might involve navigating complex military laws, understanding specific military benefits, and potentially dealing with multiple jurisdictions if the service member was stationed overseas.

A military will may have been executed without the standard formalities like a notary or witnesses, making it harder to verify its authenticity or argue against its validity.

In this example, creating a clear and concise military will with the guidance of an attorney familiar with military law would mitigate these legal disputes. By properly documenting the service member’s wishes and understanding military-specific legal requirements, the will would be more resilient to challenges and contestations, ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are honored, and potential family conflicts are minimized. It demonstrates the importance of proper legal guidance in the complex world of military wills.

What Is the Difference Between a Traditional Will and a Military Will?

The main differences between a traditional will and a military will lie in the requirements for execution and the flexibility offered to service members. While a traditional will typically requires the presence of a notary and witnesses, a military will often be executed without these formalities in specific circumstances, like deployment.

Example of a Traditional Will Execution

John, a civilian, wants to draft his will. Per the laws in his state, he must follow specific formalities:

  • Presence of a Notary: John’s signature on the will must be notarized, affirming his identity and ensuring he signs voluntarily.
  • Witnesses Required: Typically, at least two witnesses must be present when John signs his will. These witnesses may need to attest to John’s mental capacity and voluntary execution of the document.

Example of a Military Will Execution

Sarah, a soldier in the U.S. Army, is about to be deployed and wants to draft a military will. Military wills have special provisions under the federal law that allow flexibility for service members:

  • No Need for a Notary: Under the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, Sarah can execute her will without needing it notarized. This can be particularly valuable when deployed.
  • Witnesses Not Always Required: Depending on the circumstances and applicable military regulations, Sarah might not need the standard witnesses for her will to be valid. This flexibility can be crucial in a deployment scenario where gathering civilian witnesses may not be practical.


A military will often include provisions tailored to service members’ specific needs and circumstances. These provisions can directly address issues related to military service, going beyond what a traditional will might cover.

  • Survivor Benefits: Military wills may specifically outline the distribution of survivor benefits, including pensions, death gratuities, and other compensation provided to family members after a service member’s death.
  • Disposition of Military Property: Military wills can contain clauses detailing how military-issued equipment, medals, or personal items acquired during service are to be handled.
  • Deployment Considerations: Provisions regarding guardianship of children or management of property may need to be more flexible to accommodate sudden deployments or reassignments.
  • Treatment of Military Incentives and Benefits: Military wills might include considerations for handling various military incentives, such as bonuses, educational benefits, or healthcare considerations for dependents.
  • Power of Attorney Arrangements: Special provisions to assign or revoke powers of attorney, considering deployment or other military-related circumstances.
  • Burial and Memorial Instructions: Detailing preferences for military funerals, burial locations, or other memorial services per military honors and traditions.
  • Instructions for Family Separation Allowance: Guidelines for allocating or managing Family Separation Allowance (FSA) during deployment or other periods of separation.
  • Healthcare Directives: Special healthcare directives considering the unique risks and medical considerations related to military service, including potential combat-related injuries.

Consider a Sergeant in the Marines, James, who is stationed overseas. He drafts a military will that includes the following:

  • Survivor Benefits Allocation: James specifies that his military pension should be divided between his spouse and children in a particular way, reflecting his wishes and military regulations.
  • Guardianship Provision: Knowing that his deployment might leave his children without immediate parental care, James assigns temporary guardianship to a close relative, providing specific instructions to cover various scenarios.
  • Handling of Medals and Military Equipment: James outlines how his medals and personal military equipment should be distributed, providing for sentimental value and legal compliance.

Will Settlement Procedures

The procedures for settling a military will differ from those for a traditional will, as they may involve:

  • Coordination with Military Legal Authorities: Settlement might require coordination with military legal offices or Judge Advocate General (JAG) officers familiar with military-specific laws and regulations.
  • Understanding Military Benefits: Executors and beneficiaries may need specialized knowledge or legal assistance to navigate the complexities of military pensions, benefits, or other assets specific to military service.
  • Different Jurisdictional Considerations: If a service member passes away while deployed, different jurisdictional rules may apply to the will settlement process.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Whether you are drafting a traditional or military will, the legal complexities make it advisable to consult an experienced attorney. Contesting a will or navigating a will settlement can be intricate and challenging.

LegalMatch can connect you with a qualified inheritance lawyer in your area who can guide you through the process, ensuring that your will is valid and aligns with your needs and wishes.

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