Get it in order: Military officials advise everyone to regularly update wills, other documents
December 29, 2010
WIESBADEN, Germany - "He would have retired at 42."
This was the future Sudarat Kirby was ready to face until tragedy struck her family and her 31-year-old husband died after falling into a diabetic coma in the spring of 2010.
"We never talked about a will or a DD Form 93 (Record of Emergency Data)," said Kirby as she talked about how her family dealt with the sudden loss of her husband while transitioning to a new duty location.
Because such a scenario happens unexpectedly, military officials urge service members to fill in the forms and review them often, especially as significant life events such as marriage, childbirth or divorce occur.
"We just had way too many incidents where a Soldier had deployed several times since 2006 and their forms were not updated," said Earnestine Hatley, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Military Personnel Division chief, who said she has seen situations where ex-spouses were erroneously still listed on emergency data forms and created unfortunate situations for surviving family members after a Soldier's death. "When it comes to this, take the time and look at your DD 93 and (Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Form)."
Because many tend to think tragedy will most likely happen during a deployment to a combat zone, administrators are urging families to broaden perspectives and consider that it could happen anytime and anywhere.
"People don't realize it could happen today or tomorrow," said Kirby, who said she had a lot of decisions to make regarding her husband's remains and her family's future after his death.
"Everyone wants tragedy to happen in this neat little place ... but it doesn't," said Janine Smith, Installation Management Command-Europe Survivor Outreach Services coordinator. "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best."
And while Record of Emergency Data and SGLI forms record beneficiaries, a will is recommended so that one can designate specific actions.
"A will keeps you in control of how you want your estate distributed among your survivors ... it gives one a voice in the process after you're deceased," said Capt. Scott Petty, 1st Armored Division legal assistance attorney, who explained that through a will one can designate a personal representative to distribute possessions according to one's wishes, how possessions are disposed of, a guardian for children, who inherits personal possessions and how remains are to be handled. "You can be as specific and detailed as you want in a will. We are available to help if Soldiers have any questions."
A significant life event and permanent change of station prompted Chief Warrant Officer 2 Craig Peel to redo his will and emergency data forms.
"The big thing is that I have a few things that I want accomplished if something happens to me," said Peel who said having the requirements on an out-processing checklist was important. "When you have kids, you've got to sit down with the attorneys and figure out what you want (for them)."
Administrators advise service members to go beyond the step of filling in the mandatory forms, and talk with loved ones about how affairs of one's estate should be handled after death occurs.
"I didn't know what to do with him," said Kirby, who said she knew no details about where he wanted to be laid to rest.
Service members who have experienced a significant life event since last updating the Record of Emergency Data, SGLI or will are advised to update the various documents with the appropriate agencies.
Schedule an appointment with legal assistance at mil 337-4725 to draw up a will. Soldiers should visit the Military Personnel Division in Wiesbaden Army Airfield Building 1023E to update personnel records.