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How to Arrange for a Military Funeral

Posted on Thu Sep 1, 2011, on Funeral Directive


Most Recently Updated November 5th, 2017

From Our “Ask a Question” mailbag: Can you Explain How to Arrange for a Military Funeral So My Wishes are Respected?

How to Arrange a Military Funeral

How to Arrange a Military Funeral

You Need a Plan.

How to Arrange for a Military Funeral?

One of the first calls I received after reporting for duty as a United States Navy JAG in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was from a family in Burlington County, New Jersey. The week before the call the family had buried their Grandfather. The Grandfather had been a WWII Navy vet. After the funeral, they looked at his Will and found that his estate plan included a burial at sea. They wanted to know what to do. It was too late.

The reality of a military funeral is that you have to let people know what you want when you are alive. After your death, with the commotion of traveling family members and the stresses of your death, your written instructions in a Will or in other places are easily misplaced. Once you are buried in the family plot or cremated, it is too late to arrange for an honor guard or burial at sea.

After clearly communicating your burial arrangements, you can also take steps to put the pieces in place, so you get what you want. After all, it is your funeral. If you are on active duty or a military veteran you are eligible for a military-style funeral. Further, you have the right to a national cemetery burial.

Take These Steps.

First, visit the Veterans Administration site for your area.  For example, in Philadelphia, you can find helpful data here.  There you will find information about your eligibility for different types of military services. Most service members are eligible for at least a two-member honor guard, a flag, and the playing of ‘Taps” during the funeral. Other arrangements, such as the firing of honor salutes, might be possible.  Further, each American Legion and VFW Post should have a funeral arrangement officer.  If not, contact your state office.

Second, most arrangements for the military funeral are made through the funeral director. They should know whom to contact since the system is built around the funeral director making the arrangements. Communicate with your funeral director and verify he is familiar with the arrangements.  Preplanning your arrangements can help make sure they take place.

Third, make sure your discharge papers are available and easy to find. Those documents must prove your service and that you were not dishonorably discharged. If you can’t find your discharge papers, list your dates of service, your branch of service, rank, place of service and your service identification number. With this information, the funeral director should be able to confirm your service and type of discharge.

Fourth, discover your eligibility for other benefits.  You may be eligible for a grave marker or funeral funds.

Lastly, include a Funeral Directive in your last will and testament. This Directive appoints a Funeral Representative.  This person has the legal right to make your funeral arrangements.  Your Representative should have a clear understanding of your plan. If there is some disagreement after your death, the Funeral Representative’s opinion will hold. This will prevent possible litigation between family members who may disagree about your funeral arrangements.  For more, read my Article, Funeral Directives: Everything You Need to Know.

How to Arrange for a Military Funeral.

Space here doesn’t allow me to give a great deal of detail. So, if you would like more information I encourage you to read more about estate planning options.

In this Post, I tried to answer the question of How to Arrange for a Military Funeral. Further, I included links to even more detailed information on my website.  So, let me know how I did, comments and questions are welcome!

Furthermore, I would be happy to answer your questions.  If you have any other matters for a Philadelphia Estate Planning Lawyer, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. We try to make the process as painless as possible!

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Author, Peter Klenk, Esq.

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