The Law Office of Paul Black - January 2020


January 2020

Rethinking Resolutions IT IS ABOUT THE LITTLE THINGS

I am not really one for New Year’s resolutions. This might come as a surprise to some since much of my work involves helping people set goals for their future. But that is exactly why I do not really practice this annual ritual — why wait for January to make a change? Still, I can understand why some like the idea of a fresh start at the top of the year, so I have some advice on how to make those changes stick. Those who remember our May 2019 edition will recall my praise for James Clear’s excellent book “Atomic Habits.” The work advocates making small changes to our routine over time, easing ourselves into good habits rather than trying to make a jarring leap to a different lifestyle. Clear points out how writing these goals for ourselves is easy, but actually doing all the little things to get there is what we struggle with. But I do not think Clear’s approach works on its own. Gradual change can certainly make things easier, but at the end of the day, if you do not really want to do

something, you are not going to achieve anything from it. That is why I like to use a little exercise that Warren Buffet recommends. It is called the 5/25 strategy, and it goes something like this: You write out the top 25 things you want to achieve, be they personal or professional. Then you circle the five you most want to achieve

firm or counting the amount of time I dedicated to spending with my father. It is the great team members we were able to hire, the moments spent chatting with clients, and the meditative drives while going from one speaking event to the next. It is talking to my father about his plans for the day and watching our favorite programs together on TV. What I am trying to say is this: It is the small moments that can really be treasured in the long run. Having gotten married this year, I can say some of my fondest memories of the past 12 months are things like washing dishes together, going on walks, and enjoying the fall weather in the North Georgia mountains. These are not things I could quantify as “goals,” but they mattered to me. We do not live by numbers. So why would we let them blind us from the relationships we have in our life? In my experience, if you put people first, the numbers will follow.

out of that list and forget the other 20. It is a great way to really get yourself to think about what is most valuable (and most motivating) to you. This brings me to my final point: Forget the numbers. Some guides to goal setting will

tell you to set very specific, quantifiable goals — and I used to subscribe to that belief. But last year in particular has taught me that chasing digits is not nearly as motivating as the experiences you can have along the way. When I think back on 2019, what jumps out at me are not the quantifiable things like hitting our growth metrics at the

Happy New Year,

-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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If you are in the appropriate age bracket, Social Security may play a major role in your finances. So, it is important to know how Social Security will be changing in 2020. TRUST FUND 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 KnowWhat Is Changing

COST OF LIVING Low inflation means that Social Security benefits will only see a minor cost of living increase. This year, it is expected to be around 1.6%. It is not major, but if you are 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 are above that income bracket, then 85% of your benefits will be taxable.

If you have not 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 will still be able to start taking some benefits at age 62, but they will be at reduced monthly payments.

Asked and Answered: A Legal Advice Column

Dear Paul, My son suffered a traumatic brain injury last month after being hit by a drunk driver on the way to work. He is 32 years old. He has worked for two tech companies for a total of nine years after college as a computer programmer but is not able to work in that capacity anymore, and his physicians tell me that he may never work again. Can you point me in the right direction about how I should be planning for his future? First and foremost, I am sorry to learn of your son’s accident. But fear not: There is guidance out there for someone in your situation. Believe it or not, you and your son will likely need three skilled attorneys to address his needs. If you have not done so already, you first need to hire a skilled personal injury attorney. I know and trust several and will gladly refer you to –Overwhelmed Dad Dear Overwhelmed,

one. You might think of them as “ambulance chasers,” but you will quickly learn that their job is to maximize the amount of money available to your son to pay for his past, present, and future care needs. Second, if you have not done so, you need to speak with your son’s employer to learn what, if any, short-term or long-term disability insurance benefits are offered. You might be pleasantly surprised at what is available to him. Likewise, you need to review your son’s work history report from the Social Security Administration. If your son worked at all during college and earned at least $1,200 during that calendar year, he can likely show 10 years of work history, such that he might qualify for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), which will also make him eligible for Medicare two years after his initial eligibility date. In contrast, if your son cannot show 10 years of work history, he will instead be applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and immediate Medicaid eligibility. SSI has strict eligibility criteria — your son cannot qualify if he

has more than $2,000 in countable assets in his name. To pursue his SSDI claim, you will need to retain the services of a skilled disability attorney (again, to whom I will gladly refer you). Last but not least, you and your son may need a lot of help putting all of the pieces together. If your son no longer has capacity to speak for himself, you may need to seek guardianship and conservatorship to make health, safety, and financial decisions for him. He may need help establishing a first-party special needs trust with his assets and the proceeds of any verdict or settlement proceeds payable to him. You may need to update your estate planning documents regarding how you will leave any funds to him. All of these tasks can be handled by a skilled estate planning and special needs planning attorney. If my firm can help with any of these tasks, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We have served many clients in similar situations, and we also know how to connect you to the right people and organizations who can help you meet your son’s needs.

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NATURAL REMEDIES FOR STUFFY NOSES Do Not Let Congestion Get the Best of You

MAINTAIN MOISTURE Humidifiers add moisture into the air, creating a more humid environment, and can be especially helpful if you have a forced-air heating system. Try using a humidifier or vaporizer when you sleep. You may also find a warm compress helps ease congestion: Soak a washcloth in warm water mixed with a couple of drops of eucalyptus essential oil (consult the oil distributor for the exact ratio), then place the washcloth over your nose and cheeks for several minutes. Drinking plenty of water and sleeping upright at night can also help ease further congestion. While over-the-counter decongestants can temporarily help ease congestion, they are not intended for long-term use and may further dry out the nasal passage. Adding and maintaining moisture is the best way to prevent or ease sinus congestion. If the problem persists, talk to your doctor.

Nasal congestion can have many different causes, including allergies, colds, or the flu, but the symptoms are often very similar: sinus pressure, headaches, and a stuffed-up nose. This is the result of membranes in your nasal passage becoming irritated and your body responding by producing mucus to try and flush out the irritants. Unfortunately, that response also causes nasal congestion. This is intensified by winter weather when dry air and heaters can further dry out your already irritated nasal passage. So, what is the best way to ease nasal congestion and sinus pressure? Try these at- home remedies that focus on moistening your nasal passage. FLUSH YOUR NASAL PASSAGE Use a saline nasal spray or a nasal irrigator, like a neti pot, to flush and moisturize your nasal passage. These devices flush out allergens and keep your nasal passage moist, easing congestion and preventing further buildup. When using a neti pot or other nasal irrigator, always use sterile, distilled water or water that has been boiled and cooled.

SAUERKRAUT How to Make Your Own

Inspirational MOMENT


• •

2 lbs cabbage

4 tsp fine sea salt


• •


“It is within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell- type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars.”

Lid with airlock

• Something to weigh down cabbage, ideally made of a nonreactive material like glass


1. Remove outer leaves from cabbage. Slice very thinly. 2. In a large bowl, combine cabbage and salt. Let stand for 20 minutes. 3. Squeeze cabbage to release juices. Let the cabbage continue to soak and release juices for another 20 minutes. 4. Transfer to a jar and press down cabbage until completely submerged in its juices. Weigh down cabbage. 5. Seal jar with airlock. Let cabbage sit at room temperature and away from sunlight for one month. Once fermented, transfer to the fridge. Sauerkraut will keep for six months to one year.

–David Foster Wallace

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




New Year’s Resolution Redux


Changes to Social Security in 2020 Asked and Answered Natural Ways to Ease Sinus Congestion


How to Make Your Own Sauerkraut

Inspirational Moment


Discover Parrott, GA



Discover Parrott, GA

It is rare we feature towns as the main attraction in these travel articles — more often we focus on our state’s natural wonders and sweeping vistas. But Parrott, Georgia, is a special kind of place: a town left frozen in time. Located along the South Georgia Parkway, somewhere between Albany and Columbus, you will find this quaint little slice of history. Just do not blink. You might miss it.

John Parrott had been a wealthy landowner who donated the plot which became Parrott’s business district.

The town grew, thanks in large part to the cotton industry. The woods and meadows of the region also attracted many of the state’s wealthiest individuals. Within 50 years of its founding, Parrott claimed to be home to the most millionaires per capita than anywhere in Georgia. This boom would not last, however.

With a population of around 160 people, Parrott is nearly a ghost town. Its rust-colored brick buildings certainly give the impression of a place left derelict. They have an antique shop in town doing a fair amount of business with travelers, a gallery that opens by appointment, and a quirky studio specializing in musical playground equipment. Other than these, the town’s main drag is eerily still. But it did not used to be this way.

The combination of the boll weevil plight that affected much of the United States’ production of cotton, as well as the rise in use of synthetic fibers, quickly made Parrott’s core industry unsustainable. Workers moved away from the city in droves, and by the 1970s, it was nearly deserted.

The exodus from Parrott had one positive effect: Many of the town’s 19th-century buildings have been left undisturbed to this day. In fact, the location became the ideal set piece for the classic 1980 Western “The Long Riders.” If you want to feel like you are stepping into the 1800s yourself, visit this hidden Georgia treasure.

In fact, Parrot used to be the place to be in South Georgia. Originally a Creek village called Chenube, the town was named after John Lawson Parrott after it was incorporated in 1889.

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