Legal Services FAQ

Legal Assistance

Powers of Attorney

Physical Evaluation Boards - Assistance Available at RLSO NDW (202) 685-5569

Legal Assistance

Q. Will the Navy provide me representation for my divorce case?

A. Usually, no. Divorce is a state matter, not a military or federal matter; therefore, you will more than likely need to seek local counsel in the jurisdiction where you intend to file your divorce case. But all states are different and a Navy attorney can give you general advice about separation and divorce procedures, and advise you on how to find an attorney who can represent you.

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Q. Will the Navy provide me representation for my civil case involving landlord / tenant or any other non-divorce matter?

A. Ordinarily, no. However, under limited circumstances according to the local office’s policy, an attorney may be able to represent you in certain matters. A legal assistance attorney can, however, advise you on the specifics of your case, assist in helping you find counsel or prepare you to represent yourself in small claims court. Please call the local office for an appointment with an attorney if you have a case pending with which you need assistance.

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Q. I have an appointment to have my will done with a Navy attorney. What can I expect at the appointment and what do I need to bring to that appointment?

A. You should bring a completed will worksheet (provided ahead of time by the legal assistance office). You will need a separate completed worksheet for yourself, as well as for your spouse if he will also have a will prepared. At the appointment, you will review all of your information with the attorney and you will have the opportunity to ask questions. After the appointment, you will usually have a second appointment to review and execute the will and any other ancillary documents you and the attorney decide you need. The will worksheet lists other documents you may need to bring to your appointment, such as life insurance policies and deeds to any real estate you own.

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Q. Are there any limitations on estate planning services provided by the Navy legal service office?

A. Yes. If you own an S Corporation or own a working farm (or a share in a working farm), a Navy attorney will not be able to prepare a will for you. This is due to the complicated tax issues that arise with S Corporations and working farms, and therefore it is advisable to seek expert civilian counsel to assist in your estate planning. In addition, if you have extensive assets, there may be a limit to the services the Navy legal assistance office can provide. If you think this may be the case, please contact the office by phone to discuss the matter further and determine whether a Navy attorney can offer you adequate estate planning services.

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Q: Why was I told that I could not be seen by a particular legal assistance office?

A. Attorney ethics rules sometimes prevent a particular legal assistance office from providing legal services to individuals. If your legal assistance office notifies you that you cannot be seen in that office, you will receive information on obtaining an appointment from an alternate legal assistance office. The following website provides a list of legal assistance offices by geographical area:

Powers of Attorney

Q: What is a Power of Attorney?

A. In a "power of attorney" you give another person (called your "agent" or "attorney-in-fact") the legal authority to act in your place and on your behalf in your absence. Every act your agent does within the authority granted in the document is legally binding upon you.

Q: Types of Power of Attorney

A. A power of attorney is usually given by someone who will be unable to be present at a particular time and/or place when important transactions must be conducted. The scope of a power of attorney may be very broad or very narrow, depending on your needs. There are basically two types of power of attorney:

  1. General Power of Attorney: A general power of attorney provides your agent with all the power you possess to act with respect to any matter. It allows your agent the power to do all the things you could do yourself, such as sell or mortgage a home; deposit and withdraw money from accounts; borrow and sign contracts.
  2. Special Power of Attorney: A special, or limited, power of attorney authorizes your agent to do a certain specified act, such as ship household goods or sell an automobile.

Q: Uses of a Power of Attorney

A. You should never grant any power of attorney unless you have absolute trust and confidence in the person to whom you are granting it. A power of attorney is subject to abuse of your trust. You should not grant a power of attorney, particularly a general power of attorney, unless the circumstances require it and your agent is a person whom you are sure will make wise and honest use of the power. When executing a general power of attorney, remember that the agent will not be limited by your judgment concerning the appropriateness of any transaction. In nearly every instance, granting a special power of attorney is not only sounder business practice, but also a protection against error in judgment or outright dishonesty. If a special power of attorney can possibly accomplish your needs, it is advisable to give it rather than the general power of attorney.

Q: Who needs a Power of Attorney?

A. Those persons who are about to become physically separated from their property or their affairs, and whose property or affairs will be needing attention or management during their absence, may need a power of attorney. The document should grant no power greater than that which is needed under the circumstances. A power of attorney should be given for a limited time only. General powers of attorney are written for no more than one year.

Q: Durability Clause

A. Normally a power of attorney becomes null and void if you become disabled. A "durable" power of attorney will allow your agent to continue to act even if you become disabled. Whether your power of attorney needs a durability clause depends on its nature and purpose, the amount of time needed, the degree of trust between you and your agent, and your age and health.

Q: Revocation

A. The authority granted in your power of attorney ends with the death of either you or your agent. The power also terminates at the expiration of the time stated, or may be revoked by providing notice to your agent that you are revoking the power. Revocation will take effect as soon as it is communicated to the agent and to all persons who may have dealt with the agent in reliance on the power of attorney. It is advisable to recover all copies of the document and destroy them so no further use of the power may be made. If the power of attorney has been recorded as part of the public records (for example, with respect to real estate transactions), a properly acknowledged revocation should be recorded to ensure the revocation of the power of attorney is made effective. If you have previously executed a power of attorney which has served its purpose, retrieve it. If you cannot get it back, consult your legal assistance officer concerning the steps necessary to affect its revocation.

When deciding which type of power of attorney to grant, remember that it is extremely difficult to revoke a general power of attorney.

Physical Evaluation Boards

Q. If I have a formal Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) pending, will I have an attorney to represent me at that board?

A. Yes. You will be assigned Navy counsel who will contact you once he has received your case and has a chance to review it. Once you have been assigned counsel, you will be able to discuss your case in detail with him, receive advice, as well as representation at the formal hearing. Please contact RLSO NDW at (202) 685-5569/5580 if you need immediate assistance.

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Q. I am being medically processed out of the service, but I am not at the point where I have a formal PEB pending. Can I still seek advice from counsel?

A. Yes. If you know you are facing medical processing (you have received informal findings from the PEB, for example), you can still discuss your case with a Navy attorney. Please contact RLSO NDW at (202) 685-5569 / 5580 and an attorney will call you back regarding your case.

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