The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2016

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