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58

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2016

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

E

state planning isn’t an easy subject to

talk about, but it is nonetheless essen-

tial. In a

May 13 “Fresh Air” interview

with Terry Gross, here is how journalist

and author Tom Brokaw frames the ben-

efits of addressing these thorny issues:

“All families need to sit down and have

a tough conversation. Who’s going to

be the caregiver? What are the circum-

stances about DNR—do not resuscitate? What do you say to the

medical team if a member of a family goes in and seems not

able to recover easily? …This will reduce the emotional turmoil

a great deal if you talk about that in advance.”

This is especially true of Foreign Service families, given the

vicissitudes and risks of overseas life.

An advance health care directive (also called a health care

FS KNOW-HOW

ESTATE PLANNING FOR THE

Foreign Service

Community

Setting out your end-of-life instructions, including provisions

for medical care and the distribution of assets to the next generation,

is an essential task. This will help you get started.

BY SAM SCHM I TT

Sam Schmitt, an eligible family member and attorney,

is licensed to practice law in Virginia and before the U.S.

Tax Court. Through the EFMLawCompany he founded

in 2014, Schmitt focuses on serving the legal needs of the

Foreign Service community. Before moving to Vilnius,

Lithuania, with his FSOwife, Jillian Schmitt, a consular officer, he prac-

ticed family law in Alexandria, Virginia.

proxy or power of attorney for health care) is one of several docu-

ments that make up an estate plan—the collection of legal paper-

work that sets out your end-of-life instructions, including the way

your assets will pass to the next generation. The person doing this

planning can either hire an attorney or do the work themselves,

following templates (many of them available online).

Regardless of which method you choose, avoid tying yourself

in legal knots by taking time to:

• Determine your goals.

• Assemble existing legal paperwork, including assets and

liabilities, and lists of family members and friends.

• Select the proper estate planning documents.

• Draft and revise before executing the final drafts.

• Guard the originals of your documents.

The simplicity of this process belies the seriousness of the

decisions that must be made. You will need to balance many

competing interests as you decide whether to give property

to your beneficiaries in trust or outright, determine the best

way to support your surviving children fairly and equally, and

select responsible fiduciaries (someone required to act for your

benefit with respect to your estate). Hasty action will reduce the

quality of your choices.

Setting Goals.

This seems so basic that many people skip the

step entirely. But members of the Foreign Service community