Plan ahead with services offered by base legal office

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Visits to the base legal office are sometimes required, however, a variety of services are available for the active-duty members, retirees and dependents of Malmstrom Air Force Base on a daily basis.

"We assist with landlord-tenant issues, wills, estate planning, powers of attorney, divorces, family issues, child custody issues and brief at Right Start," said Capt. Stephen Braunlich, 341st Missile Wing chief of legal assistance and preventative law. "Since the start of 2012, we've seen 129 clients with needs ranging from adoption issues all the way to domestic relations."

Braunlich's duties include ensuring Malmstrom's attorneys are up-to-date on training and also working on improving policies and procedures to generate the most efficient products. The three major products are wills, living wills and durable power of attorney documents.

"There are wills and living wills," Braunlich said. "A regular will manages how property is distributed [after an individual's dealth]; living wills manage the individual's life. For example, the living will states that if an individual is diagnosed with a terminal, incurable disease or condition, and is incapacitated, to continue or not continue life support. That could mean assisted food, breathing, water - any of those things or a combination of them."

Another aspect to a will involves an in-depth description of how items are distributed, and how children and grandchildren are treated.

"We talk to clients about children and grandchildren, and how they want them to be treated 30 years from now," Braunlich said.

Braunlich strongly urges Airmen of all ranks to get a will and to be aware of their resident state regulations.

"We draft a will for each of the different state specifications," he said. "Each state has their own requirements for how things need to be phrased, so it's important to know that different states have certain requirements. Airmen also need to know that if their estate is below a certain threshold, the probate process will be fast, because all that needs to be done is for a clerk of court to sign off on it and the will immediately goes into effect."

Braunlich also advises Senior NCOs to become aware of issues that can arise with estate planning and marital deductions. An estate consists of three buckets - real property, personal property and non-probate assets [life insurance, jointly titled properties and joint bank accounts].

"It's important to know there is a threshold for the amount of property an individual can pass to a spouse without paying any taxes," he said. "Right now, it's $5 million, but in the next few years, it may be lowered to $3.5 million. That seems like a lot, but many people own two homes, have multiple vehicles, have the [Service members Group Life Insurance], and all of a sudden they realize their estate is close to, or is more than $5 million. If an individual's estate is $5.1 million, 35 percent of that $100,000 will be taxed. So it's important to know what the estate law is so the will can be assessed."

Power of attorney
A power of attorney document is another product the legal office can provide.

"A power of attorney says 'I am naming this person to act as my agent,'" Braunlich said. "There are two different types: springing power of attorney and a regular durable power of attorney. A springing one is in effect upon incapacitation. A durable power of attorney means that as soon as the document is signed, it is in effect. A durable power of attorney for healthcare states who is responsible for making medical decisions."

Other services the legal office provides are helping Airmen with a landlord-tenant issue.

"If a landlord refuses to let a tenant out of their lease during a permanent change of station or a deployment, we can help," Braunlich said. "We can draft a demand letter for the tenant to give to their landlord. The letter is something we produce if the individual's rights are violated and is the start to any legal action."

Braunlich encourages anyone who is in need of any legal assistance to contact the legal office.

"There are some things under the law that need to be acted on quickly," he said. "For example, a credit issue can be challenged, but as a general rule, it must be challenged 30 days after the bill is received. If an individual sits on it and comes back three or four years later, then we can't help with that."

For questions or legal assistance, call Braunlich at 731-2812.