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Legal help for deployments

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- There are several things individuals have to get in order before deploying. One step in the pre-deployment process is putting paperwork together to ensure personal property, finances and loved ones are taken care of in case anything should happen.

The 48th Fighter Wing Judge Advocate office has legal minds at Airmen's disposal for help with setting up their wills and powers of attorney.

"Preparing a will is easy," said Capt. Benjamin Martin, 48 Fighter Wing legal office military justice programs chief. "We use a computer program that helps us prepare wills for folks from all 50 states. We take the product that's produced, and personalize it to exactly what the folks want specific to their own needs."

Captain Martin said it's important for Airmen to fill out a will worksheet before making an appointment with the legal office.

"Sitting across from an attorney is not the time to figure out who you would want to serve as guardian of your children, or if your siblings are trustworthy enough to inherit a large chunk of money from you," he said.

He explained that people sometimes haven't really grasped the reality of what the legal office is helping them do: they're preparing documents that will take care of their loved ones in the event they're gone.

The legal office will draft documents to the Airman's specifications, no matter how specific the person making the request needs it to be. They also formally execute the document and provide the Airman with advice on what to do next: where to store it, who to tell about it and how to keep it safe, Captain Martin explained.

"We have good folks at the legal office," he said. "Don't be afraid to ask our professional opinion. We'll be open and honest and it stays between us."

Captain Martin suggests a will or power of attorney for anyone, whether or not they're deploying.

"Nobody really knows what tomorrow brings. It's important for everyone to sit down and think about what provisions they have in place to take care of their loved ones when they're gone," he said. He added that after all the heavy thoughts, people should take a break and have some fun with the people they've just been protecting.

Preparation is key for a successful visit to the legal office.

"Our paralegals are experts at identifying problem areas for people deploying," Captain Martin said. "Come in prepared, and the documents you leave with will be exactly what you want."