Creating a will is an important step in preparing for the future. Everyone needs a will, no matter your age, background, or health. When you create a will, you decide what happens to your assets when your time comes. Beyond that, you also make a plan for your dependents, children, and pets.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Legal Services, Lawyers, or Programs That Offer Free Wills for Veterans
- Online Will Makers or Services That Offer Free Wills for Veterans
- What Types of Estate Planning Do Veterans Need?
However, creating a will from scratch can be intimidating. While there are several online will makers, many of these come with their own price tags. In addition, it can be tricky to know whether your will is legal and secure. If you’re a veteran, you might wonder about your individual needs and how to stay protected.
In this guide, we’ll share the various places that offer free wills or trusts specifically for veterans. These free wills for veterans are designed to make your end-of-life planning easier, no matter your experience levels. Everyone deserves a will that makes them feel secure. Here’s how to get yours as a veteran.
Legal Services, Lawyers, or Programs That Offer Free Wills for Veterans
First, let’s share some of the legal services, lawyers, or programs that offer free wills for veterans. This is if you need more hands-on help throughout the process or if you’re considering a trust or additional plan. Many organizations offer free wills for seniors, but this list refers to free will services for veterans.
1. US Department of Veterans Affairs
VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration makes financial planning and online will preparation services available at no cost to beneficiaries of service members’ group life insurance, traumatic injury protection, family service members’ group life insurance and Veterans’ group life insurance.
VA also offers free legal service clinics at VA centers throughout the country. You can see a list of these legal service clinics on the VA website. You can also contact your local VA department directly or talk to an outreach specialist at a VA Medical Center.
Click here to fill out a power of attorney form for health care, a legal document that designates who you want to make health care decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to communicate. The document includes a living will section, which allows you to write down your wishes about treatment. Additional information can be found here.
In addition, VA offers the Advance Care Planning via Group Visits (ACP-GV) Program to engage Veterans, their families and caregivers in advance care planning by facilitating a group discussion. The discussion elicits personal experiences and encourages participants to identify a “next step” to take in the process of planning for health care needs. Contact your facility’s ACP-GV site lead official to sign up for a group or to learn more, including when groups are offered
2. Military Pro Bono Project
The Military Pro Bono Project is managed by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (LAMP). They accept case referrals on behalf of active-duty military personnel. All guidance from attorneys is offered pro bono, or for free.
3. Protect Our Defenders
For those who have faced discrimination or harassment in the military, Protect Our Defenders offers free legal services, guidance, and aid. Protect Our Defenders helps people of all backgrounds with a variety of different needs, and it’s free to reach out for assistance.
4. American Bar Association Veterans Legal Services
The American Bar Association is the federal program that approves lawyers, and they created a program specifically for veterans to help with a wide range of legal issues. Attorneys from all states volunteer with the ABA to offer legal services for veterans free of charge. To learn more, visit the Military and Veterans Legal Center on the ABA website.
5. National Veterans Legal Services Program
Next, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) has worked since 1981 to ensure that the government offers assistance to the nation’s 22 million veterans. Through individual representation, the NVLSP offers attorney services free of charge for those who qualify. There are also free mentorship and training opportunities for veterans around legal issues.
6. Veterans Justice Project NYC
For veterans living in New York City, New York, the Veterans Justice Project provides legal services to low-income military veterans, service members, and their families. Since 2011, they’ve helped over 14,600 veterans. Their focus is on long-term economic security, including wills and testaments.
7. Stateside Legal
Lastly, Stateside Legal helps military members and their families find legal help on a state level. By indexing the three largest networks of legal aid for families, this comprehensive platform is easy and free to use. Search for legal aid by state, need, and specific issue. Because estate planning varies by state, it’s important to find a qualified lawyer or program in your state.
Online Will Makers or Services That Offer Free Wills for Veterans
If you feel confident making a will on your own without a lawyer's assistance, then it’s time to start making an online will. There are more online will makers than ever before. Some of these are free to all, while others have special discounts for veterans.
8. Cake Online Wills
First, Cake's own will tool is one of the best for creating an inexpensive will in just minutes. Created by attorneys and estate planners, Cake makes it easy to design a will to fit your needs from the comfort of your home. Trusted by 40 million people each year, there's a reason our tools are the most trusted in the end-of-life planning space. Use code THANKSVETS to save $95 on your will, so you only pay $1.
Second, one of the most trusted and well-known online will makers is FreeWill. Always free, this simple tool is created by attorneys to make wills more accessible to all. With specific help for guardianship, pet provisions, charitable donations, and digital assets, this is a great choice. It’s free to update your will online anytime, and you can quickly download a PDF for your records.
GoodTrust is another provider of attorney-crafted wills and advanced directives. Though their premium membership starts at $96, veterans are eligible to get access to GoodTrust Premium for 12 months of free estate planning including a will, medical directive, durable financial power of attorney, funeral directive, pet directives, and secure access to everything in a digital vault. You can use code VETERANSDAY2022 at checkout.
11. Do Your Own Will
A less well-known option is Do Your Own Will. This free tool is easy to understand, and it only requires one simple questionnaire. You can add a living will, durable power of attorney, digital agent, and more, making this very comprehensive. However, though a good (free) value, it isn’t very customizable if you have more specific needs.
Fabric is another provider of online wills that offers a free option. With the additional option to purchase a life insurance policy, this can be a good all-in-one solution. There’s a mobile app available if you’d prefer to create a will on your phone instead. Though it’s very black and white in terms of legal provisions, this is a solid choice.
13. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance
If you’re a beneficiary of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance through the VA, you’re eligible for financial planning and online will preparation for free. This enables beneficiaries to quickly prepare a will from home without using an attorney. You can access these services completely for free online through Financial Point Plus.
What Types of Estate Planning Do Veterans Need?
With that in mind, what specifically do veterans need to do when it comes to their estate plans? Though this can be difficult to talk about, it’s a necessary way to feel confident about the future. It’s important to keep your family and assets protected no matter what happens.
What specific legal plans should you consider? While the specific documents depend on your situation, needs, and family, here are some of the most common ways to protect your assets:
- Legal will: To begin, the most well-known estate planning document is a legal will. As all military families know, life is unexpected. A will describes who will handle your affairs after death, as well as what happens to your assets.
- Powers of attorney: Similarly, a power of attorney legal document establishes who is responsible for making business, legal, and financial decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to handle your own affairs. They might pay your bills, repair your home, or sell assets.
- Guardianship: If you have children, pets, or dependents, you need to make sure there’s a plan in place for them. Within your will document, you can name a legal guardian for these dependents if something was to happen to you.
- Trusts: A trust is similar to a will. It also specifies who gets what when you die. However, this specific legal document protects your assets and property and passes it along quickly. More importantly, it avoids probate court.
- Living will: A living will includes an advance directive, or a healthcare planning document. It shares who will make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to make them yourself in case of injury or disability.
- Life insurance: Lastly, most military veterans access life insurance benefits through the VA. This means there is a payment in place to pay out beneficiaries in case of the veteran’s death.
Which estate planning documents do you need? It’s worth talking to a lawyer or legal representative to consider your specific situation. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s no such thing as being too prepared.
Veterans, It’s Time to Create a Will
Ultimately, there’s no time like the present to create a legal will. Though you might think this is something that’s only for retirees, everyone benefits from having a will in place. A will is an estate planning document that evolves over time, changing with your needs. No matter your list of assets or family status, it’s never been easier to create a will as a veteran.
As you can see, there are a number of legal tools, services, and platforms designed to make legal wills simpler for veterans. It’s important to use the tools available to you, especially since they take veterans’ unique needs in mind.