If you need to write your will, are considering signing a lease, or need a power of attorney or notarized signature then you need legal assistance, and best of all military servicemembers and their families have access to legal assistance, absolutely free! Veterans are not eligible for these services. Generally, legal assistance is provided to the following groups:
- All members of the Armed Forces on active duty (including members of a reserve component),
- Reservists released from active duty, having served 30 days or more,
- Retirees from all branches of the service, and
- Lawful dependents. Federal civilian employees and their dependents are also entitled to legal assistance in certain circumstances.
However, legal assistance is provided based upon available resources and personnel.
Military Lawyers are called Judge advocates (JAG). JAGs can offer help in legal and non-legal matters ranging from purchasing a car to renting an apartment, buying a home, paying taxes or writing a will. A "judge advocate" is an attorney who has graduated from an accredited law school, and is licensed to practice law by the highest court of a state or by a federal court. Judge advocates assigned to assist individuals with personal legal problems are known as legal assistance attorneys.
Legal assistance offices are located on almost every base, ship and installation. If you have trouble locating legal assistance, you can find the office nearest your location by visiting one of the following websites:
- Armed Forces Legal Assistance Directory: https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil
- Army: http://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil
- Navy/Marine Corps: http://www.jag.navy.mil/legal_services.htm
- Coast Guard: http://www.uscg.mil/legal/la/Legal_Assistance_Find_Lawyer.asp
- DoD Military Installation Directory
Each military service has specific regulations regarding the extent of legal assistance they provide. For further information, contact your legal assistance office.
If a legal assistance attorney is unable to resolve the case or a specialized attorney is needed, the legal assistance attorney will refer you to a civilian attorney, normally through a local lawyer referral service, who can handle the case.
Legal assistance offices can help with the following:
- Serving as advocate and counsel for an eligible client
- Preparing and signing correspondence on behalf of an eligible client
- Negotiating with another party or that party's attorney
- Preparing legal documents, as permitted by the JAGMAN
- When necessary, referring eligible persons to a civilian lawyer
- Drafting powers of attorney
- Drafting wills
- Estate planning advice
- Reviewing contracts and leases (ideally, before you sign)
- Providing notarization
- Personal finance advice
- Family and domestic relations advice (divorce, separation, family support, adoption, custody, paternity and name changes)
- Consumer affairs
- Tax advice on real and personal property and income and in certain locations tax preparation and electronic filing
- Answering questions about landlord-tenant issues (including leases, security deposits and evictions)
- Providing advice on immigration and naturalization issues
Legal assistance attorneys hold all conversations and dealings with clients in strict confidence, as required by rules of professional responsibility.
Military legal assistance offices are located on almost every base, ship and installation. If you need legal assistance you can call or drop in to your local Legal Assistance Office. Visit the DoD Military Installation Directory to find the legal assistance office near you.