The Law Office of Paul Black - March 2020


March 2020

Making Room for the Legacy You Leave CLEANING HOUSE

This may sound like a joke, but it’s the absolute truth: I keep a Tyvek coverall suit and respirator in the back of my car. While it may look like a “Breaking Bad” Halloween costume, this hazmat getup is actually an important part of my job. Every year on a handful of occasions, I will be asked to help a client retrieve important documents from homes, garages, and storage sheds that people may not have been through in years. So, with spring- cleaning on the mind, it’s time we talk about, well, stuff. But first, allow me to take a quick detour to ancient Rome. My mother was a Latin teacher, and from her I learned the origins of our modern perception of spring-cleaning. Believe it or not, long before the Colosseum was built, Romans celebrated a festival called Lupercalia. Its focus was on purging evil spirits before the spring began. Sounds a bit like our spring-cleaning today, only it happened in February and involved animal sacrifices. Obviously, there’s no need to sacrifice a goat just to clean out your storage unit, but delving into years of accumulated odds and ends can feel like a sacrificial act. When you’re going through so many

memories attached to such objects, it can be hard to let them go. But believe me, the difficulties you might face getting rid of this excess stuff will only be magnified if cleaning is left to your loved ones. Stuff I am still going through currently occupies half of my garage. And the thing is, these aren’t odds and ends I’ve picked up myself. They’re the belongings of loved ones: stuff from my grandmother, mother, and father. Between the stuff my mother left behind when she passed to the things my father couldn’t take with him after his stroke, I have quite the treasure trove to go through. But not every item is a precious heirloom or deeply sentimental object. But I still need to separate out those dearly beloved objects from the rest of the ephemera. It’s been years, and I’m still sorting through it all because of the physical labor involved and the emotional component. Sometimes holding on to objects can remind us more of what’s been lost than what we saved. During Lupercalia, revelers would whip themselves and others with februa, strips of animal skin made into a purification instrument. My mother taught me how

these whips would eventually give February its name when Julius Caesar organized the Roman calendar, but now I think I better understand the practice: Getting rid of things — even evil spirits — can sting. But cleaning out old, unused items and spaces can also be deeply liberating. It’s much harder to move, travel, or downsize when you have so many items tying you down. Donating clothes and furniture to Goodwill, selling used books online, or just having a good old-fashioned yard sale can all make the process easier than simply tossing things into the trash. Finally, it’s important to remember we can leave behind so much more for our loved ones than objects. Nothing in that pile in my garage could replace my memories of the lessons my mother taught me — her stories of strange Roman festivals and powerful emperors are something I hold dear to this day. When it comes to leaving behind a legacy, it’s all about quality, not necessarily quantity. Here’s to a fresh spring,

-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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3 Places to Retire Internationally

Even if you’ve always planned for a comfortable retirement in the United States, choosing to live internationally could be a smart alternative to improve your standard of living in retirement. International Living Magazine’s Retirement Index has tracked objective retirement metrics — like the cost of living, democratic stability, and health care — for the last 40 years. They also take into account reports of correspondents actively living abroad. Here are some of their top picks for international retirement

it’s easy to see why. In Panama City, you can expect to pay at least $2,600 a month in living expenses, but housing costs are substantially lower outside of major metropolitan markets. Panama also offers excellent discounts, up to 25% off of things like airline tickets, hotels, and energy costs through its Pensionado program. COSTA RICA If it’s a textbook paradise you’re looking for, look no further than Costa Rica. Thanks to a 1948 decision to abolish their military and direct all of those funds to health care and education, Costa Rica is often referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America.” Known for its stable democracy, safety, and socialized health care that’s only available once you’ve obtained residency, Costa Rica also offers climates for just about everybody

— from the lush jungles of the south to the hot, dry beaches of Guanacaste in the northwest. Expect to find large communities of expats to help you acclimate. MEXICO The first things that come to mind for most people when you mention Mexico are margaritas and beach umbrellas, but this country offers a lot more than that. For starters, Mexico features an enticingly low cost of living. International Living estimates a couple could live in Mexico on anywhere from $1,500–$3,000 per month, depending on location, including health care expenses. Once you’ve obtained residency status, you can sign up for national health care plans that offer full coverage for just a few hundred dollars annually.

destinations. PANAMA

Panama ranks No. 2 in International Living Magazine’s list of best places to retire internationally. With its tropical climate, proximity to the United States, excellent health care, and low tax burden,

Asked and Answered: How the SECURE Act Affects Your Retirement

Hi Paul, I am 71, widowed, and about to retire after working in and then running a plumbing supply business for the past 50 (!) years. I have lived cheap and stacked my retirement deep. I have heard a lot of talk about the SECURE Act — particularly that it changes when I should begin taking required distributions frommy individual retirement accounts and how long my daughters (as my IRA beneficiaries) can “stretch” my IRAs after my death. Can you explain these two things to me in plain English? Thank you! Dear Sir, I am grateful for your question because I have been answering this question a lot over the past two months, and now I can do so in writing. First and foremost, the SECURE Act is effective as of Jan. 1, 2020. It makes several changes to rules regarding retirement accounts, but for your query, we are only going to focus on two.

• The age at which you must begin taking your required minimum distributions How a nonspouse beneficiary of your IRA can now choose to take their benefit The required minimum distribution age for retirement accounts is now 72. For decades, the traditional age for beginning required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a retirement account was 70 1/2. That age is based upon life expectancies from the 1960s. Today, since we live longer and often work well into our 60s or even 70s, the SECURE Act now specifies that the RMD age is 72. In your case, however, if you turned 70 1/2 in 2019 or earlier — and I think you did — you should still have taken a required minimum distribution from your retirement account(s) in 2019. Nonspouse beneficiaries now have 10 years instead of the lifetime “stretch” option. As nonspouse beneficiaries of your retirement accounts, your daughters can no longer “stretch” distributions from an inherited IRA over the course of their lifetime. The SECURE Act requires that beneficiaries withdraw ALL assets of an inherited •

account within 10 years. While there are no RMDs during those 10 years, the entire balance must be distributed after the 10th year. Unfortunately, limiting the time frame in which a beneficiary can receive money from an inherited retirement account means they’re receiving more income over a shorter time period and paying more income taxes. Obviously, if you are leaving a Roth IRA to your daughters as beneficiaries, you have already paid income taxes on those retirement funds. But for any traditional IRAs or other qualified retirement accounts you leave, they will have to take all the money after 10 years and pay income taxes on what they distribute. Last but not least, remember that the SECURE Act and RMD rules only apply to qualified retirement accounts, not to nonretirement brokerage accounts or other nonqualified accounts, like savings, checking, CDs, etc. If you leave such assets to your daughters outright after your death, they can access any of these assets as freely as you can.

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ANOTHER SLICE OF PI(E) The Sweetest Ways to Celebrate Pi Day

Break out your calculators and grab your aprons because it’s almost Pi Day! This holiday has gained popularity among mathematicians and bakers alike — two groups that rarely overlap. Pi Day is March 14, which when written numerically is 3/14, the first three digits of the mathematical constant pi. Pi is special because it’s used to calculate the circumference of a circle. This might not sound like a big deal, but pi is used in engineering, construction, GPS, motors, power generation, and even television! If we hadn’t calculated pi, none of these achievements would be possible. Pi is pretty important, and it’s definitely worth celebrating! Here are two ways you can get in on the fun. LEARN TO RECITE PI Pi has fascinated mathematicians for centuries because it’s an irrational number, meaning the digits go on forever. If you want to try your hand at memorizing some of the numbers, here are the first 50 decimal digits of pi (with spaces, so they’re easier to remember!).

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 To make things simple, we often round pi up to 3.14, but many people have challenged themselves to memorize and recite as many digits as possible. In the Guinness Book of World Records, the record is currently held by Rajveer Meena, who recited pi to the 70,000th digit on March 21, 2015. And he did it all while blindfolded! EAT SOME PIE Another popular way to enjoy Pi Day is to bake and eat pie. This dessert is perfect because it’s both a homophone (same pronunciation as “pi” but with a different spelling and meaning) and a circle. Challenge your friends to a pie-baking contest, or buy your favorite pie from the store and have a pie- eating contest. And, while this may be a controversial stance, we believe pizza pie deserves a place in Pi Day celebrations, too. Here’s to Pi Day: the tastiest, nerdiest holiday of the year!

Keep dinner light, simple, and easy with this paleo-friendly recipe. SALMON Orange Glazed

Inspirational MOMENT


• • • • • • • •

2 salmon fillets (10 oz total)

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” –Charles Dickens, “ Great Expectations”

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp ghee

1 tbsp garlic, minced

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Zest from 1 orange

1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

1 tsp tapioca starch

1. Heat oven to 425 F, and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. 2. Salt each fillet with 1/2 tsp salt. Bake for 6–8 minutes. 3. In a saucepan, combine ghee and garlic and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. 4. Add rosemary, zest, and juice. Cook for another 3 minutes. 5. Stir in tapioca starch until lumps disappear and mixture thickens. 6. Plate salmon and top with orange sauce. DIRECTIONS

Inspired by | 3

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




On Spring-Cleaning


Retire in Style Asked and Answered Would You Like Some Pi?


Orange Glazed Salmon

Inspirational Moment


The Chief Vann House


THE CHIEF VANN HOUSE A Beautiful Home With a Checkered Past

One of North Georgia’s oldest remaining structures wasn’t technically built in Georgia at all. The Chief Vann House, a beautiful 2 1/2-story, 19th-century brick home, was constructed within the borders of the Cherokee Nation. Today, it stands just north of Spring Place, Georgia, just shy of a two-hour drive from Atlanta. Beyond its stunning, well- preserved architecture, the Chief Vann House has a fascinating yet violent history.

in a tavern. The house then passed to his son Joseph “Rich Joe” Vann. Rich Joe would continue his father’s enterprises until the Indian Removal Act. After Congress and President Andrew Jackson authorized the forced removal of Native Americans, the Chief Vann House was caught in the crosshairs. Rich Joe unwittingly ran afoul of a new law that stated a Cherokee couldn’t hire white men without a

The house is named for its original owner, Chief James Vann, a Cherokee politician and businessman. Vann had been a veteran of the Cherokee-American wars and strongly advocated European-style education be brought into the nation. He was the proprietor of several taverns and ferries as well as a slaveholder. The Chief Vann House was built as his plantation house. Vann did not get to enjoy it long, however. After construction was completed in early 1804, the chief would only live there for five years before being murdered

permit. For the crime of hiring one man to oversee his estate, Rich Joe and his family were evicted, eventually resettling in present-day Oklahoma ahead of the 1838 Trail of Tears. He would later die when his steamboat exploded in 1844.

Yet, the Chief Vann Home still stands, administered by the Georgia Department of

Natural Resources. Tours of the home are available year-round, save for holidays, and visitors can also walk next door to the Robert E. Chambers Interpretive Center, a museum honoring Cherokee culture.

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