Trinity Elder Law & Estate Planning - January 2020

A Fresh Perspective Peace of Mind Post T he start of a new year is a great time to reflect on your overall well-being. During this time, many people choose to focus on their physical and mental health in particular. However, the JANUARY 2020 STARTING 2020 WITH A POSITIVE MINDSET

way we perceive difficult circumstances and situations is a massive factor in our health. So, to reduce your stress levels and start your resolutions strong, adopt and practice a positive mindset. It sounds corny, but I always think about the glass-half full analogy. It’s that notion of gratitude that helps us look at all of our options when we’re feeling stressed. One cold, snowy March morning a few years ago, my father and I were heading to the airport. It was my father’s Christmas present to see old friends in Arizona, so I knew how important it was to him. I quickly rushed to feed the horses before we left the farm. However, when I opened the barn door, I saw the skylight had blown off! There was snow everywhere, and I couldn’t leave the horses in the freezing temperatures. I climbed up on the roof, trying to find it, but in the snow and darkness, I didn’t see the skylight right in front of me, and I slipped right on it! I was irritated and soaked from head to toe. I kept the positives in mind: I had the skylight, it was a quick repair job, and we still had plenty of time. As I took all these into account, I calmed myself and repaired the skylight. We need to be happy we even have a glass, regardless of how full it is. If you feel your concerns getting the better of you, give them the 20-year test. Ask yourself, “Am I going to remember this 20 years from now? If not, why worry about it now?” When those concerns fail the 20-year test, break them down into actionable tasks, then write them down and put those tasks on your calendar to ensure they get done. When I ran for fun, I had a written

training plan. First, I would run 3 miles, then I would add a few more miles to my run every week, working up to my goal distance. Being outside was and still is another way I maintain a positive mindset. I like to jump on one of my horses for a quick ride over the farm, but during the chilly weather, even a brisk walk helps me collect my thoughts. It’s all about perspective. Remember, as Desmond Tutu once wisely reminded us, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” I have a colleague, Dennis Toman, who says, “It’s only a struggle if you think it is.” I have that written on my whiteboard calendar now, so when I write a task, I look at the quote to keep everything in perspective. Do you have any unique ways to say positive? Let me know next time you’re in the office! I’m always looking for new ways to keep a positive attitude and relieve stress.



Positive New Year’s R SMALL WAYS TO IMPROV Many people focus on all kinds of grand New Year’s resolutions and often neglect smaller aspects that can improve their overall well-being. Here are a few positive New Year’s resolutions to give yourself a healthy boost in 2020. Get Enough Sleep If you get less than seven hours of sleep, it’s time to consider your sleeping habits. Practice mindful breathing to clear your mind if stress keeps you up. If you need background noise to sleep, white noise apps can supply gentle, nondistracting noises, such as rainfall or waterfalls. If you need complete silence, invest in noise-canceling headphones. Get Organized Organizing is also a great way to set you up for success. A clear space is a clear mind. To start, break down your files into basic categories. From there, look at each document and either file it away or store it on the cloud. Following this method, I have everything at my fingertips and know exactly where things are. Simple Pancakes From Scratch

I f you’re in the appropriate age bracket, Social KNOW WHAT’S CHANGING Security may play a major role in your finances. So, it’s important to know how Social Security will be changing in 2020. Unless Congress takes some drastic actions in the coming months, the current excess trust fund revenue will be depleted by the year 2034. If that happens, Social Security will only be able to pay 79% of the promised benefits from ongoing payroll taxes. You may need to think about what your financial plan would be like with 21% less income. Retirement Age If you haven’t reached retirement yet, this one is important to consider. If you were born after 1959, the full retirement age is now 67 for you. You’ll still be able to start taking some benefits at age 62, but they’ll be at reduced monthly payments. Cost of Living Low inflation means that Social Security benefits will only see a minor cost of living increase. This year, it’s expected to be around 1.6%. It’s not major, but if you’re living off Social Security alone, every penny is important. Maximum Benefits Those near the top of the Social Security income scale in 2019 will see an increase in their maximum payout in 2020. The maximum payout for an individual will be capped at $2,861 per month. That translates to $34,332 per year, so consider how that may impact your finances. Taxes How much your benefits are taxed depends on your household income levels. For example, 50% of your benefits will be taxed if you make between $25,000– $34,000 individually or $32,000–$44,000 for married couples. If you’re above that income bracket, then 85% of your benefits will be taxable. Trust Fund

Everyone should be able to make pancakes without a boxed mix. This recipe is no-frills fantastic and can probably be made without so much as a trip to the grocery store.


• 2 cups all-purpose flour • 2 tsp baking powder • 1/4 tsp salt • 1 tbsp sugar, optional

• 2 eggs • 1 3/4 cups milk • Unsalted butter or canola oil, to grease skillet


1. Heat a griddle or skillet to medium-low. 2. In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (including sugar if you like a sweeter pancake). In a separate bowl, beat eggs into milk. Gently stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ones. Mix only until flour is moistened. Clumps are fine. 3. Add some butter or oil to the skillet. If the butter foams or oil shimmers, the temperature is correct. Pour in a pancake of any size, cooking until bubbles form, about 2–4 minutes. 4. Flip and cook other side for 2–4 minutes. Serve warm.

Inspired by The New York Times


solutions YOUR LIFE

FAMILY EVENTS IN BUTLER YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS! As we ring in the new year, it’s hard to keep up with the latest community events. These events foster a wealth of family fun and memories for attendees. To make the most of 2020, here are some of the bigger community events you need to check out!

Be Proactive

Schedule your routine dentist and doctor visits for the year, as their schedules fill quickly in January. If you

have a big New Year’s resolution, outline specific goals on a timeline throughout the year. Try to be punctual, too. For example, if you have a meeting at 9 a.m., be there five minutes early instead. Focus on Community Having a focus on community enables you to lean on your loved ones when you need them most. Share your resolutions with your family and let them encourage you throughout the entire process. Donate gently used clothing that doesn’t fit or that you don’t wear anymore to your local Goodwill store. It’s a great way to feel refreshed from the previous year, not to mention a great tax write-off. Resolutions typically don’t work out well for those who charge in headfirst, so it’s important to remember to ease into lifestyle changes and give yourself time to adjust.

Mud on the Mountain, Seven Springs Mountain Resort

On May 9, get muddy with Butler County in beautiful Laurel Highlands. The 7-mile course cuts its way through the most challenging terrain in

Pennsylvania. Participants will traverse muddy waters, scale boulder fields, and so much more! For more information and updates, visit events/mud-on-the-mountain .

Big Butler Fair, Butler Fair Grounds

Join the Butler community to celebrate the largest agricultural fair in Western Pennsylvania from June 28 to July 6. The event draws over 90,000 attendees from Ohio, New York, and Virginia to enjoy nine days of fun! The celebration boasts fireworks, carnival rides, games, demolition derbies, concerts, truck pulls, and the Y108 Freedom Fest. For more information, visit .


Butler Road Race, Downtown Butler

Held on June 29, the Butler Road Race raises funds for our local YMCA’s Annual Support Campaign. The Annual Support Campaign ensures everyone in the area, regardless of income or background, has an opportunity to thrive. Last year, over 400 participants raised $17,000 in the 2K and 5-mile races! There is still some time until the race, so keep your eyes on Road-Race for updates. These are just some of the events to look forward to in 2020. Want more fun

events to do with the whole family? Head over to for more information!

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I N S I D E This Issue


A Fresh Perspective

Changes to Social Security in 2020 Simple Pancakes From Scratch Positive Changes for 2020 Butler Community Events in 2020



The Curious Case of Roy Pearson’s Pants


WHO WEARS THE PANTS? LADY JUSTICE! HOW ONE JUDGE LOST A FRIVOLOUS LAWSUIT AND HIS DIGNITY A fter losing an article of clothing from a dry cleaner, most would say “c’est la vie” and move on. At most, someone might leave a bad review and ask for a few dollars to cover the loss, but for one administrative law judge, that wasn’t enough. He decided instead to launch an all- out legal battle. After the initial allegations, the dry cleaners scoured their business to find the pants and, to their credit, found the judge’s trousers untarnished. Even so, Pearson argued that he didn’t need to prove the pants were lost or damaged to satisfy his “satisfaction guaranteed” claim.

Unfortunately for the judge, the court found his position to be ridiculous and ordered him to pay the dry cleaner’s attorneys’ fees. In response, Pearson sought that his own attorneys’ fees be covered to oppose this motion. In the end, Pearson did pay the dry cleaner’s legal fees, but the case isn’t the only thing he lost. The verdict also cost the judge his job and any semblance of professional dignity. Ten years after the case closed, the District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility sought a 90-day suspension. As the board put it, Pearson “failed to conduct an objective appraisal of the legal merits of his position. He made and continues to make arguments that no reasonable attorney would think had even a faint hope of success on the legal merits.” From a legal standpoint, we’d call this judge’s behavior “dissatisfaction guaranteed.”

Roy Pearson, a Washington, D.C., judge at the time, sought $54 million to cover the loss of his pants after his dry cleaner lost them. He argued that the “same- day service” sign located in the window of the dry cleaners meant that the company had to provide same-day service. However, Pearson never specified a specific time he needed his clothes returned. He also insisted that the “satisfaction guaranteed” sign meant that the cleaners had to satisfy a customer’s wishes without limit. Based on those arguments, he claimed the signs were fraudulent.


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