I’ve been discussing various aspects of military life in my recent posts, and it’s true that military life has a culture all its own. It impacts all aspects of our lives, from making friends to the dynamics of our families and relationships.
There’s a well-known joke in the military that everyone has a starter marriage, just like many folks have a starter home or a starter car: they have it a few years, then trade it in for something nicer.
Joking aside, though, many military individuals do marry more than once, and may have children from the previous marriage. Other times, they get gun shy and decide not to marry at all but may still have children with each other.
What happens, then, if you deploy with a baby at home? Who will have temporary custody of the children, in the event one or both parents are deployed (or, God forbid, something happens to them)?
During my time in the military, it was required that parents have a plan in place for these situations. In my case, my oldest child’s dad was stationed elsewhere but she lived with me most of the time. As a result, I had to have a plan in place for her immediate care and extended care in the event I was unavailable. Even with my current husband, despite being stationed together, the fact we were both on Active Duty meant we also had to have a plan in place for our child.
It’s easy to see why such plans would be necessary in military life, but what about civilian life?
The truth is, in the state of Florida, if you have children with someone and you aren’t married to them, there is a plan in place—it just may not be your ideal plan. There are specific rules for what happens to children after a parent passes on, and also specific rules for those who are not married but have children together and have not established paternity in court. Before anyone gets too upset with me, this is not a persuasive piece for you unwed folks to go out and get the government involved in your relationship. I’m simply saying Florida has a plan for you—and if you don’t have the correct documents in place to ensure that your collective desires are carried out, unintended consequences can happen.
As an estate planning attorney, I would never tell someone in this situation, “You must get married”—but it’s important to at least explore the pros and cons in order to make the decisions which are appropriate for your family.
This isn’t just a concern for those with kids, either—it also applies to property. If you aren’t married but share a home, vehicle, accounts, or other property with someone else, it’s important to ensure you have the right documents in place to protect your estate and make sure your possessions go to the people you intended and stay away out of the hands of the unintended people.
That’s where estate planning attorneys like me come in: we can explain the ins and outs of the state’s default plan, and ensure you have a plan in place that covers all possible contingencies. True, we can’t see into the future so it’s impossible to account for every possible contingency but cover a good amount of them and most of us stand ready to assist you when you review your plans periodically throughout your life.
Whether you’ve had a “starter marriage,” never got married, or just want to ensure you have all the proper documents in place to protect your family, property, and interests, an estate plan can bring the peace of mind of knowing you’re prepared, no matter what happens.