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How much does it really cost?

Recently, in a passing conversation about life and about my time in the military, someone commented to me, “Well, at least you have your benefits.”

I had to process that for a moment, because although I know she didn’t mean it offensively, honestly—it kind of offended me. Seems silly, right?

I spent years serving in the military. Yes, now that I have retired, I receive benefits as a result of my service. I get assistance in paying for further education through the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I have access to medical care through the VA at no cost to me. I get various discounts at some stores or restaurants and even a free parking pass occasionally. We who have served in the military do get benefits—she wasn’t wrong about that. However, the part no one speaks about (at least not in passing conversations like that one) is: How much did we actually pay for those benefits?

Serving in the military means missed birthdays and special occasions. It also means periods of isolation—no family or friends from ‘home’ want to make long trips to visit you unless you’re in a cool place, which we often weren’t. It meant lots of time spent traveling, time away from our families, time we can never get back. It meant forging new families and friendships—and losing some of them due to moves or even death – not just during war time but also due to suicide. It meant being shot at and protested against. Though people know these things intellectually, the reality and sheer gravity of the cost of military service can be difficult to convey.

When recruiters came to my high school years ago, it was clear, to me at least, my high school didn’t really approve of the military as a career option. The recruiters were only allowed to go to certain locations in the school where colleges were allowed pretty much anywhere on campus, and back then, joining the military was viewed as something you only did if you had no future and no other options—if you weren’t “smart enough” to do anything else. The truth is, there are many reasons someone may choose to join the military. Some may say it isn’t worth it; others may say it is. It is difficult to express all the factors at play adequately, to explain what the military life was, and is, like. There are so many nuances, and so many “you just had to be there” type of experiences that words truly fail to capture.

Honestly, the hardest part, sometimes, is realizing that we really can’t adequately explain the military life to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Unless you are military, the true cost of the benefits we receive when we leave service is lost in translation and, at times, can seem woefully inadequate.

As an estate planning attorney, I can’t help but see the connection between this and how often estate planning itself can feel “lost in translation” for my clients. Legal documents can feel like they’re written in a different language, yet the nuances of the wording can be vitally important, especially when it comes to state-specific laws. I’ve often seen that expression of overwhelm on a client’s face, as they struggle to wade through the legal jargon. A client’s end-of-life wishes may end up lost in translation, as well, if the proper legal language and documentation is not in place. But that’s where I can help.

I make sure your estate plan is all in order, and that your documents contain Florida-specific legal language so that if you become incapacitated and/or when you pass away, your wishes are clear and can be carried out without unnecessary complications. I can help you craft the proper language to secure your estate plan ahead of time so that nothing gets lost in translation. That’s a benefit I think we can all agree has tremendous value.

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