Giving control to the right person

27 Oct 2009 | Marine Cpl. Jessica L. Martinez

Most Marines can probably say they’ve heard of a Marine who deployed and left someone they thought they could trust in control of their affairs through a general Power of Attorney. Upon returning home they find everything was either gone and they had no money, or a debt had been run up in their name.

Marines work hard for their money and it is an unfortunate circumstance, that it has been known to happen. The last thing any Marine wants is for it to happen to them.

For this reason the Staff Judge Advocate office with Marine Corps Installations – East and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune hold a will and power of attorney brief .

During the class Marines are briefed not only on wills and power of attorneys, but a variety of topics such as remembering to suspend a cell phone before they leave and figuring out how their bills will be paid during the deployment.

It is important to have these documents, and Marines are especially encouraged by their commands to have a will or power of attorney before deploying.

A will is a legal document that states what happens to a person’s property after their death. It also states who receives the property and how it will be disseminated. A power of attorney is a legal document a person uses to give another person permission to act on their behalf on certain business matters and for a certain length of time.

There many different types of power of attorneys but the most common two used by Marines are the general or special power of attorney.

“Special power of attorneys protect the individual more,” said Capt. Brett Swaim, legal assistance attorney with base legal. “The more specific you can be on these documents the better. A general power of attorney gives all the powers to someone to do things in that persons name, and that can be very dangerous if mishandled or misused.”

Swaim went on to say general power of attorneys are the most common because Marines aren’t sure what may come up while they are deployed, so they want to make sure who they leave the power of attorney with can take care of what is needed.

“When using a general power of attorney two ways to protect yourself is to limit the powers you give someone, and limit the length the power of attorney is good for,” said Swaim.

Power of attorneys are not too complicated to complete and take almost no time at all. In most cases the individual is able to leave with the power of attorney the same day they filled it out. Wills are a little bit more complicated and take approximately two weeks to be completed and given back to the individual.

It’s important to be careful who gets the power of attorney and how much power they get, said Swaim. It needs to be someone they can really trust and someone they know fairly well.

The Marines who attend the brief can choose if they want a power of attorney or will or both.

Lance Cpl. Angel Espinosa, with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Division, filled out a general power of attorney and gave power to his mother.

“I chose my mom because I trust her,” he said. “She’ll take care of my car and payments and make sure I have money when I get home. It’s important to fill these out and give it to someone you trust because you don’t want to just leave it to anyone and have them do a 180 and screw you over.”

The classes are held in Building 66 at 10 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the base theater every Tuesday at 1 p.m. The brief lasts approximately an hour, and is a free service available not only to active duty service members, but retirees, reservist and dependents as well.

For more information on a will or power of attorney, visit or call 451-7085.