The Law Office of Paul Black - May 2020

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May 2020

Celebrating Older Americans Month AN IMPORTANT OBSERVANCE

It may not be printed on everyone’s calendars, but May is Older Americans Month, an observance I believe deserves more attention. As someone who works with many people over the age of 65, I’m well aware of the unique challenges this age group can face and the abuses that are, sadly, often committed against them. These are the seldom-discussed issues that Older Americans Month was intended to highlight. Ironically, one of our nation’s youngest presidents to brought this observance into existence. In 1963, John F. Kennedy met with the National Council of Senior Citizens to discuss issues facing their community. According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), only 17 million Americans lived past age 65 in Kennedy’s day, and many lived in poverty. Recognizing the needs of this underserved group, the 35th president of the United States designated May as Senior Citizens Month, which would later become the Older Americans Month we know today. Yet, despite every president since Kennedy making a note of the occasion, most people still don’t know Older Americans Month exists. This is a shame, since the ACL estimates that 49.2 million Americans were age 65 or over in 2016, and that number has only grown since then. Having a day to celebrate such a significant part of our population is the least we can do. In fact, every year, the ACL assigns Older Americans Day a theme to help focus celebrations and highlight certain issues. This year’s theme is Make Your Mark, selected to “encourage and celebrate countless contributions that older adults make to our communities.” As someone who has been blown away by the achievements, work, and hobbies of his older clients over the years, I couldn’t be happier with this choice. Recognizing the legacy, accomplishments, value, and ongoing

contributions of our elders is deeply important. But beyond this, it’s also crucial that we recognize the unique dangers this group faces. Elder abuse is a rampant yet often unnoticed issue in this country. From those who take advantage of an older person’s physical or cognitive disabilities to those who neglect their physical and/or emotional needs, there are many abusers out there — some who don’t even realize how harmful their actions are. It can be as simple as losing your temper with an elder or failing to fully understand their wishes before acting on their behalf. But regardless of whether the abuse is done intentionally or not, it’s still wrong and is still a crime. Worse, elder abuse can be extremely difficult to spot. Whether because they fear retaliation or because they are physically or cognitively unable to communicate, an older loved one may not bring up the abuse themselves. Still, there are signs if you know where to look. According to the National Institute on Aging, if an elder is depressed, withdrawn, isolated, has unexplained wounds, appears under- or over-medicated, shows signs of neglect (such as bed sores), or has recently changed their spending patterns, you should contact Adult Protective Services or the police. We’ve had to make more than a few of these calls ourselves in the past when we notice our clients are being taken advantage of. We should all do our part to protect our elders from the trauma of abuse. If you do one thing this Older Americans Month, make it familiarizing yourself with these signs and committing to making the world a little safer for those in need. Happy Older Americans Month,

-Paul Black

Do you have estate planning or elder law-related questions? Write to me at paul@georgia-estatelaw.com 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.

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THE PROS AND CONS OF Buying a Home in a 55-Plus Community

Depending on your wants and needs, buying a home in a 55-plus community might be a financially savvy way to set yourself up for retirement. But is it the right decision for you? Here are a few financial pros and cons associated with moving into one of these neighborhoods. PRO: THE HOMES ARE IN EXCELLENT CONDITION. Oftentimes, 55-plus communities provide maintenance services, including housekeeping and landscaping. Also, it’s likely that only a handful of people have occupied the home since it was built, so buying in a 55-plus community means you’ll get a property in excellent condition with less wear and tear. CON: YOU’LL HAVE TO PAY A MONTHLY FEE. Unfortunately, all the great stuff doesn’t come free. Usually, you’ll have to pay an extra monthly bill, similar to a homeowners association fee, to live in a 55-plus community. Some communities include all maintenance and amenities in the monthly rent or mortgage (some even cover utility bills), but make sure you understand what is and isn’t covered before you sign a contract!

PRO: AMENITIES ARE INCLUDED. Most 55-plus communities include amenities like exercise classes and educational programs for their residents. They also invite community organizations and leaders to speak about local issues or upcoming elections. Some even have a clubhouse or dining hall for social gatherings. Save money by taking advantage of these programs instead of paying for a gym membership or a course at the local community college. CON: IT’S A LIMITED BUYER’S AND RENTER’S MARKET. Most people who buy in a 55-plus community plan to retire there. If this is your original intention but your plans change down the road, you might have a harder time selling your home here than in a community that is open to people of all ages. Make sure to budget for those potential holding costs and plan accordingly. Regardless of where you decide to buy, be sure to consult an experienced real estate agent and a financial planner. Here’s to living out your golden years in comfort and convenience!

Asked and Answered: A Legal Advice Column

Hi Paul,

all of the more stringent recommendations for minimizing contact with others. If you live in a facility with other seniors, this choice has likely already been made for you, as visits by friends or family are strongly discouraged if not entirely prohibited. While we worked diligently to get as many document signings completed in February and early March as possible, if a client has an urgent need to sign their estate planning documents, we are employing the following measures:

As for filing documents with courts in Georgia, as of this writing (early April 2020), courts across Georgia are currently open for essential services only. While each county decides for itself what constitutes essential services, all courts with whom we have spoken have a minimum of staff physically present, and contact between the public (or our staff) and court employees is minimal. We do have several types of cases, including guardianship and conservatorship hearings in probate court or Medicaid hearings before an administrative law judge, that will still proceed via videoconference as the relevant courts schedule those. Similarly, we are using videoconference technology (including Zoom) in addition to our usual phone calls and emails to connect with both current and potential clients. We will keep you posted as conditions change, but for now, we encourage everyone to stay home and stay safe!

How do you plan to help us get our estate planning documents signed during the current pandemic? What is your plan for getting our documents filed with the court as appropriate?

–Concerned Client

Dear Concerned,

First and foremost, we recommend that all of our clients follow the guidelines promulgated by the Georgia governor, mayors of their cities, county officials, and health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite wide variation on specific recommendations across these entities, the common denominator is that we should leave our homes only for essential tasks or essential work, and that we should practice appropriate social distancing and proper handwashing. Since most of our clients are seniors 65-plus, we encourage them to follow

No one with cough, cold, or flu symptoms in the office Maintain a minimum of 6 feet between all individuals present during the signing Thorough pre- and post-meeting cleaning of commonly touched surfaces (including desks, chairs, pens, doorknobs, etc.)

Regular handwashing and use of hand sanitizers for all parties present

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ALL ABOUT EPIPHYTES

How to Care for Your Orchids, Air Plants, and Ferns Perched high in the trees in the rainforest, epiphytes reach for the drops of water that splash down from above. The plants take what they need and let the rest drip down to the forest floor. Unlike many plants, epiphytes don’t take in all the water they need from their roots. They also absorb water and nutrients through their leaves. Their roots don’t grow in the dirt,

If you choose to house your orchid or staghorn fern in a pot, use a soil specifically made for them and add some sphagnum moss to keep the roots aerated. Mist your plant every couple days and provide the leaves with a more thorough watering once a week to achieve the level of moisture they would receive in the rainforest while allowing the roots to breathe. You can also mount your epiphyte on a wood panel, as some orchid collectors do. True enthusiasts are very careful to match the wood with the type of tree the plant would grow on in the natural world, but driftwood, cork, and large pieces of bark work well too. Caring for your epiphyte properly will help your plant thrive and allow you to enjoy the tropical beauty of these unique organisms.

either. Instead, they help these plants cling to the trees or other plants they naturally grow on. If you’ve ever seen a tree with another plant growing off of it at a botanical garden in a warmer, humid environment like Florida, that tag-along plant is an epiphyte. Because they are unique, your epiphyte houseplant needs specific care to thrive. Submerge the leaves of smaller air plants in a shallow bowl of water once a week for an hour (times may vary depending on your area’s humidity). Then, remove the plant from the water and let it dry upside down to remove excess moisture.

While these organisms originated in the wild, epiphytes like orchids, air plants, and staghorn ferns have become popular houseplants because of the unique, delicate greenery they bring to your space. Epiphytes are part of the Bromeliaceae family, a group that also includes terrestrial species like pineapples. The leaves of the plants in this family are arranged in a rosette, or circular shape, and they have tiny scales that help the plant absorb moisture and protect itself from harsh sunlight.

Springtime

CACIO E PEPE Nothing is more comforting than a big bowl of cacio e pepe , which is Italian for cheese and pepper. This dish combines a wholesome flavor profile with fresh, seasonal ingredients to satisfy any craving.

Inspirational MOMENT

INGREDIENTS

• • • • • • •

6 oz multigrain spaghetti

8 oz fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tbsp olive oil 1 tsp lemon zest

“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 tsp black pepper 1 cup baby arugula

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 425 F. 2. In a large pot, cook spaghetti until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of water before draining and put spaghetti in a covered pot to keep warm. 3. Line a 15x10-inch baking pan with foil and toss in asparagus and olive oil. 4. Cook asparagus for 5–7 minutes and sprinkle with lemon zest. 5. Add 3/4 cup of the reserved water, Parmesan cheese, and pepper to the spaghetti. Stir until creamy. 6. Toss in asparagus and arugula before serving.

–Thomas Paine

Inspired by Eating Well

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Decatur Office Location: Main Location One West Court Square, Suite 750 | Decatur, Georgia 30030

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INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1

The Elder Holiday You’ve Never Heard Of

2

Is a 55-Plus Community Right for You? Asked & Answered

3

How to Help Your Epiphytes Thrive Springtime Cacio e Pepe Inspirational Moment

4

A Poisonous Shell in the Georgia Woods

GEORGIA TRAVELS

A POISONOUS SHELL IN THE GEORGIA WOODS What Remains of the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory

At a glance, the 10,130-acre Dawson Forest just north of Atlanta looks like a hiker’s paradise of dense hardwoods and winding trails. But what the Georgia Forestry Commission doesn’t mention on its website is the secret at the heart of those woods: a defunct nuclear testing facility that once leeched enough poisonous radiation to drop leaves from the trees and send its human caretakers scurrying underground.

The Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory closed in 1971, and as far as we know, it never got any nuclear airplanes off the ground. That’s likely because the concept of a nuclear aircraft is itself problematic. As The Atlantic puts it in the 2019 article “Why There Are No Nuclear Airplanes,” “Making a nuclear reactor flightworthy is difficult. Shielding it from spewing dangerous radiation into the bodies of its crew might be impossible. During the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear apocalypse led to surprisingly pragmatic plans, engineers proposed to solve the problem by hiring elderly Air Force crews to pilot the hypothetical nuclear planes because they would die before radiation exposure gave them fatal cancers.” Few people know that the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory exists, even in its currently dismantled state, but it has become a destination for a subset of thrill-seeking hikers, history buffs, and horror fans. The overgrown, partly fenced-in ruins look like the set of a zombie apocalypse flick, and even today, radiation is being monitored. If you visit the site, be sure to watch your step — and if you value your life, stay out of the tunnels.

All that remains of the lab today is a concrete pad, a decrepit shell of a building, and a network of ominous tunnels burrowing into tainted soil, but in the early 1950s, it was a bustling hub of activity, the darling of the U.S. Air Force and weapons and aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin. According to Atlas Obscura, the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory was built to house experiments related to creating nuclear-powered airplanes. Using its very own nuclear reactor, the facility’s team would irradiate military equipment and the surrounding forest to find the limits of both.

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