Law Office of Paul Black - October 2018


October 2018


T hey say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I disagree. Pictures are vivid snapshots of a single moment in time, but each holds a larger story you can’t see at a glance. I keep a black and white photograph of my grandfather on my desk to remind me of this point. The portrait itself doesn’t give much away — it shows a well-dressed white man standing outside a building, smiling. There’s nothing in the photo to tell you this man just graduated law school. His smiling face doesn’t betray the struggles he endured as a boy growing up in the Great Depression. You cannot see his frostbitten legs or know he got them after lying in the Belgian snow for three days during the Battle of the Bulge. You can’t see the ways he kept quiet about the war for years. I only know these details because I had the good fortune of being able to ask my grandfather and those who knew him about these stories. I didn’t find out about his harrowing survival story in Belgium until I interviewed him for an eighth-grade history assignment. Prior to that moment, I’d barely heard him say two sentences about the war. For one reason or another, he decided that was the time to open up about those long, cold days and nights he spent lying in the wilderness as Nazi troops advanced around him.

I keep this picture of the smiling law graduate on my desk to remind me that everyone is far more than what a snapshot can capture. It’s an important philosophy to have in my line of work. If I meet a client at their home or care facility, I love to ask them about their photographs. I’ve learned that even the most

stories of your life. For younger readers, next time you visit an aging loved one, ask them about their photos, even if you’ve seen surprised where the stories lead you. Ask your loved one if they would be okay with you recording their story to help preserve it for the next generation. them a hundred times before. You might be

simple-looking portraits or landscapes have incredible stories behind them.

Just recently, I asked a client of mine in her 90s about a photograph of her as a young woman seated at a piano. By asking about that one picture, I learned that she’d been a piano teacher for 50 years, and teaching music was one of the few avenues available to her, and that she pursued it out of pure determination to let nothing stand in the way of her higher education. These are the kinds of inspiring stories that need to be preserved. So often in estate law, we talk about leaving a legacy for your loved ones. While I can help preserve last wishes and pass on assets to the next generation, I can’t pass on the greatest treasures of all: your stories. For my older clients, I strongly recommend you work with a loved one to preserve the

If you don’t have a means of making a recording yourself, the Atlanta History Center has partnered with StoryCorps to preserve and share the stories in our community. For more information, visit Stories are one of the most important things we can leave on this earth. Looking at the photograph of my grandfather, I’m so incredibly grateful to have gotten to know the man he was and be inspired by the bravery, dedication, and perseverance that

carried him through his life. Here’s to the storytellers in all of us,

-Paul Black

Do you have estate planning or elder law-related questions? Write to me at with Asked and Answered in the subject line. Your identity will be kept confidential. The opinions offered in this column are not intended to replace or substitute any financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. | 1

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