The Law Office of Paul Black - February 2020


February 2020

What a Movie Can Teach Us About Life BREAKING OUT OF ‘GROUNDHOG DAY’

“Groundhog Day” is a classic for a reason. The Bill Murray comedy is so unique in its premise and stellar in its execution that the movie has achieved “genericization,” that rare cultural phenomenon where a title or brand ceases to represent a particular manufacturer of a product and is used generically. Just as you might sneeze into a “Kleenex” or “Google” the origins of “Velcro,” doing these actions, again and again, might have you feeling like it’s “Groundhog Day.” In fact, plenty of people who use this expression haven’t even seen the film. For those who missed out on this 1993 rom-com, Murray plays Phil Connors, a smug Pittsburgh weatherman who’s begrudgingly made to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities in the “hick” town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. When a blizzard forces Phil to spend the night in town, he awakens to find himself once again reliving Groundhog Day. He can change events through his actions, but otherwise, the day is exactly identical. Worse still, he can’t seem to break out of the repetitive cycle. We’ve all had that experience at one point or another, in a less supernatural sense.

While you might not get caught in a literal time loop, it’s easy to feel like you’re stuck in a rut — that no matter what you do, the same old hurdles, anxieties, and pitfalls return again and again. I speak to many people who feel this way about their lives and have found myself in this position on multiple occasions. Thankfully, Phil’s story can lend a helping hand. “Groundhog Day” not only gives us the verbiage to label these sticking points in our lives but also the means to escape them. Phil experiences the same day an innumerable amount of times. At first, he uses his circumstances selfishly, committing robbery, drinking, and womanizing without any fear of long- term consequences. Eventually, these indulgences give way to nihilism as Phil realizes just how unfulfilled they leave him. Taking the advice of his producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell), he begins to address his own self-absorbed ways. After learning to open himself up to others and give willingly from his heart, Phil is able to break the spell and move on in his life. Now, I’m not saying all those who are stuck in a rut are selfish or have the same impulses as Phil at the beginning of the

movie. What I am saying, though, is that we all have parts of our lives we avoid. For the fictional weatherman, addressing his lack of empathy is key to moving forward, but for others, it may be any number of things. Even avoiding simple things like doing the dishes piled up in the sink or getting in touch with a distant loved one can create major anxiety. And that anxiety can then seep into other aspects of your life, making it that much harder to find enjoyment or fulfillment in your successes. Left long enough, this ambient anxiety can lead to every day feeling like the same, unchanging drudgery — all because we refuse to confront and change that one aspect of our lives. Doing such a thing isn’t easy; we often try to ignore certain aspects of our lives for a reason. But herein lies the final lesson from “Groundhog Day:” You don’t have to do it alone. It’s only through Rita’s support and influence that Phil finally takes the steps he needs to move on in his life. Sometimes a fresh perspective is all you need to see your day in a different light.

-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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Protect Yourself and Your Money

According to a recent survey by the American International Group (AIG), a majority of Americans over the age of 65 don’t know much about the myriad financial scams circling the globe. Reports show that ignorance of these scams has proven costly for the 65-plus crowd, who are the most frequently targeted demographic. IS IT LOVE? One common shakedown taking seniors and retirees for a ride is the online romance scam. As part of it, a person poses as a potential date or romantic partner and engages in a fake relationship with the victim. The scam usually starts with an online or web-based dating service and progresses to texting or talking over the phone, but it always stops short of an in- person meeting. Instead, after the scammer has gained the trust of their victim, they’ll

claim there’s been some kind of emergency for which they need money fast. The clueless victim usually offers to wire them the money. In many cases, the scammer will continue asking for money for as long as they can get away with it. Then, once the victim figures they’ve been bamboozled and try to retaliate, the scammers vanish — off to find their next target. DID YOU PAY? Another prevalent rip-off is the invoice scam. Again, AIG reports that about 57% of people aged 65-plus aren’t familiar with this sham. In most cases, the victim receives a phone call or email from a representative of a local company, who says they still owe money for a bill or service. For example, the scammer may tell the victim they owe an overdue $50 for their power bill. If the victim says they’ve already paid, the

scammer might respond, “Your payment didn’t process correctly.” The crook’s job is to get the victim to relent and pay up. Then, once they’ve been paid, usually via credit card number or wire transfer, the scammer once again vanishes along with a significant portion of someone’s bank account. Scammers want your money, but if you are aware of today’s hustles, you can better protect yourself and your assets. Luckily, AIG also found that nearly 92% of the 65-plus crowd now ignores phone calls, texts, and emails that request personal information, and 89% of these folks say they avoid clicking links from unknown senders. Be vigilant and remember that if someone calls you and demands personal information over the phone or asks you to wire money, there’s a very good chance it’s a scam. under the guidelines established at Internal Revenue Code Section 2056A. A QDOT allows the non-citizen spouse to receive the marital deduction for federal estate tax purposes, subject to certain very specific requirements. A QDOT does not allow a non- citizen spouse to own the assets in the Trust. Rather, the non-citizen spouse can receive income from the Trust and must be named as the sole beneficiary during that surviving spouse’s lifetime. The trustee of a QDOT must be a U.S. citizen, and if there is more than $2 million in the QDOT, one of the trustees must be a U.S. bank. As a best practice, I recommend that many married couples with a non-citizen spouse include QDOT provisions in a joint Trust or in the citizen spouse’s Last Will and Testament. If the non-citizen spouse does attain citizenship or if the citizen spouse’s estate does not exceed the applicable estate tax exemption amount, the QDOT never needs to be used and the surviving spouse can inherit any property without these restrictions. Please reach out to us if you want to schedule a consultation to discuss the particulars of your estate planning needs.

Asked and Answered:

A Legal Advice Column

inherit a substantial sum and still enjoy a $22.8 million federal estate tax exemption. In contrast, a non-citizen spouse would pay 39.6% federal estate tax on any inheritance over the federal estate tax exemption amount for one person (currently $11.4 million, but reverting to $5M+ in 2026), and also cannot receive a gift of more than $154,000 in any given year without paying federal taxes. Why? Because the U.S. government does not want a non- citizen to inherit a lot of money, pay no taxes, and then return to their native country. However, if you attain citizenship by the time the deceased spouse’s estate tax return is due (within nine months of the spouse’s death, with a potential six-month extension, for a total of 15 months), then you can still qualify for the Unlimited Marital Deduction. The United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) maintains a page on naturalization requirements here: citizenship/educators/naturalization-information. 2. USE A QDOT TRUST: If attaining U.S. citizenship is not immediately attainable or a goal for you, and if your spouse has or may accumulate substantial assets, they could instead leave money to a special trust called a Qualified Domestic Trust (“QDOT”), created

Hi Paul, I am still a citizen of another country (England). I am a Lawful Permanent Resident, but I have not decided whether to seek U.S. citizenship yet. I have heard that if my wife predeceases me, she cannot leave me more than a certain amount of money without creating a lot of red tape and taxes. Can you explain this to my wife and me? – Union Jack & Georgia Jill Dear Jack and Jill, Last year (2019), I helped several married couples with a non-citizen spouse complete their estate planning. My advice generally takes two forms: 1. OBTAIN CITIZENSHIP: First and foremost, I always encourage the non-citizen spouse to obtain citizenship if willing and able to do so. If a surviving spouse is a U.S. citizen, they receive the Unlimited Marital Deduction, which means they can

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GIVE THE GIFT OF LIFE Feb. 14 is National Donor Day

JOIN A DONOR DASH. Donor Dash fundraising events pop up all over the country on National Donor Day. These noncompetitive 5K running and walking events are designed to bring donors and recipients together and keep hope alive for those who are currently waiting for a donation. To learn more, or to register for an event, check out PARTICIPATE IN #STARTTHECONVERSATION. Donor Alliance, a nonprofit that works to promote organ donation, began the #StartTheConversation campaign as a way to help spread awareness about organ and tissue donation. Starting the conversation can be as simple as sharing that you registered with your friends and family or as personal as sharing a story about how organ donation has touched your life or the lives of your loved ones. Don’t let another Valentine’s Day come and go in a tide of cellophane, candy hearts, and cheesy cards. This year, get involved in National Donor Day. After all, what better way is there to express the value of love than giving the gift of life?

With all the cards, chocolates, and expensive dinners, it’s easy to get cynical about Valentine’s Day. However, National Donor Day also falls on Feb. 14, and it can refocus our attention back on the real meaning of the day: love. In the U.S., 20 people die each day while waiting for an organ transplant. Losing loved ones is one of the most painful aspects of the human experience, and while it is unavoidable, organ donation offers a pathway to help prevent that loss and keep more love in the world. In the spirit of that love, here are a few ways you can get involved with National Donor Day this Feb. 14. REGISTER AS AN ORGAN DONOR. Signing yourself up is easy and can be done either online or in person at your local Department of Motor Vehicles. You’ll need official identification to register. Registration is not permanent and you will always have the option to change your mind. Once registered, you will not need to carry your donor card with you, as your status exists in the registry.

There’s nothing more comforting than a slice of homemade bread. Settle in with this paleo-friendly version of the ultimate comfort food. PALEO BREAD Homemade

Inspirational MOMENT


• • • • • • • • •

1 2/3 cups almond flour 2 tbsp flaxseed meal 2 tbsp coconut flour

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”

2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp kosher salt

5 eggs

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp agave syrup

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar


1. Heat oven to 350 F, and line an 8x5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. 2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, flaxseed meal, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt. 3. Add eggs, olive oil, agave syrup, and vinegar and whisk until smooth. 4. Pour mixture into prepared 8x5-inch pan and smooth top with a spatula. 5. Bake for 35 minutes or until top is golden. Remove from pan and slice when cooled.

–Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

Inspired by Delish | 3

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




Lessons From ‘Groundhog Day’


Don’t Let These Scammers Steal Your Money Asked and Answered Give the Gift of Life


Homemade Paleo Bread

Inspirational Moment


A Nature Lover’s Paradise


THE LEN FOOTE HIKE INN A Nature Lover’s Paradise

For those looking for a true escape into the wilderness but still want some of the comforts of home, this is the travel feature for you. Known to hikers and nature lovers throughout the world, the Len Foote Hike Inn is one of the most unique experiences in hospitality and a must-visit for any Georgia nature lover. Beyond the beautiful views of the surrounding Chattahoochee National Forest, the inn offers a relaxing, sustainable stay that benefits you and the environment.

coming off the Appalachian Trail. Hot meals are served family-style in the main dining area, letting guests come together and socialize without the digital distractions that have come to define modern life. But, of course, the main attraction of the Hike Inn isn’t what’s in the building, but what’s just outside its doors. In fact, the only way to reach this remote inn is by (what else) taking a hike! The 5-mile trek north from Amicalola Falls State Park is easy to moderate in difficulty and features a menagerie of flora along the way. You’ll find strands of mountain laurel and rhododendron growing among the oak and hickory trees as you ascend 500 feet over the course of the hike in. And this is only one trail. The lodge offers plenty of hiking access, including the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. So, whether you’re a veteran hiker looking for a staging point for your next adventure or simply someone who wants to enjoy and protect nature, you owe yourself a trip to the Hike Inn. It’s a rare achievement in wilderness lodging and an unforgettable experience. Visit or call 800-581-8032 for reservations.

Built in 1998, the Hike Inn is a LEED-certified ecotourism facility run by a nonprofit affiliated with the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. With compostable, odorless toilets and solar-powered lights, the facility makes every effort to protect the natural beauty its guests come to enjoy. But make no mistake, a stay at the Hike Inn is far from roughing it. All 20 of the lodge’s private rooms have beds with fresh linens. Guests also have access to solar-heated showers, providing a rare luxury for those thru-hikers

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