Hogwash Volume 45

Black Bean Enchiladas and the Wisdom of Pooh


Issue #45 ~ January 2016  


Rosi and Gardner

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DIY Estate Planning

Estate planning shouldn’t be that difficult, right?.
“I don’t need a will; everything goes to my kids, equally, and that’s that.”
Going without a will, for a few people, in limited circumstances, might give effect to their wishes.  If you have nothing jointly owned, want to leave things only to your children, and are absolutely certain that there will be no disagreements among them, then intestacy* might, just might, work for you.
“Can’t I just write my own will?”  
Yes, you can write your own will.  A “holographic” Last Will & Testament (one entirely in your own handwriting) is valid in Michigan.  Or, you can simply “fill in the blanks” in Michigan’s statutory will. 
Visit the State Bar of Michigan website for this and related information.
           nbsp; “I have someone else’s name on everything I own, so it won’t go to Probate.”
Title, though, could derail either approach.  If you own something jointly with someone else (their name is on the title or deed also), neither a will nor Michigan’s intestacy laws will control what happens to that asset.  Or, if you have someone designated as a beneficiary or “transfer on death” on an account or asset, that asset doesn’t go into your estate to be distributed or divided according to your wishes; it passes, by operation of law, to the joint owner or named beneficiary.  So, if you have three children, and one of them is named a beneficiary of your retirement account, that child would receive one third of your estate, plus the retirement account.
Real estate can be particularly troublesome.  There are multiple ways to hold title to real estate (as tenants in common, joint tenants, joint tenants with full rights of survivorship, with or without life estates, etc.), and each of them can have different effects on estate planning and distribution.  
Finally, if you marry or divorce after completing any DIY estate plan (or add anyone else to the title to anything you own), it is critical that you review your prior plan.  A surviving spouse has many rights that could override what you write in your will.  And, you probably don’t want an ex-spouse to receive anything under a will that you prepared before your divorce.
Simple?  For a few people, perhaps.  For most people, making sure that your wishes will be carried out after your demise requires some analysis and, well, some planning.
*Intestacy is dying without a will, and letting your estate be distributed according to Michigan law.

Competence Is Not Digital

As a substantial segment of our population moves into a later stage of life, their competence may be called into question in a number of different ways.  Is your mother competent to sign a will?  Can your father validly sign a durable power of attorney?
Legal competence, in many ways, requires less than you might think.  It does not require, for instance, that you completely understand the physiological implications of every possible side effect and outcome of a complex surgical procedure.  It does not require that you fully grasp and understand the bundling of mortgage-backed securities that might underlie the Fannie Mae stock that was in your retirement investments’ mutual funds.  What is does require is that you know who you are, who your family members are, what assets and income you have, in general terms, and a general idea of what is happening in your world.  
For most of us, competence is not digital; it’s not that one day you are fully, legally competent to make all of your decisions, and the next you are fully incompetent, incapacitated, and unable to decide anything for yourself.  Thinking of it as a spectrum may be more useful.  

Near the end of that spectrum with the lowest threshold is legal competence.  As long as you are legally competent, you can execute a valid Last Will & Testament, name someone to act for you with a Power of Attorney and sign a valid Appointment of Patient Advocate (to give someone the authority to make medical decisions for you, if you are unable to make them yourself).  

The Gentle Wisdom of Pooh

With the opening of another year, we are now at the infant stage of 2016. Having been an infant once, perhaps many years ago, each of us may have been exposed, if no subjected to, words encompassed in the beloved children’s books, Alan Alexander (A.A.) Milne, born 134 years ago on January 18, 1882. We were introduced to the several characters of Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Tiger, Roo, and Pooh, all living somewhere within the 100 acre wood near Christopher Robin, and their adventures, trials and tribulation in Winnie The Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Pooh’s friendship with Piglet is a guide for each of us,
            Will we be friends forever? asked Piglet.
            Even Longer, Pooh answered.
A.A. Milne was born in Hampstead, United Kingdom and died: January 31, 1956, Hatfield, United Kingdom. For those who ventured beyond the 100 acre wood, words of his poetry in his books for children, of all ages, When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927), are doubtless ingrained in the memories of many of us. Among my favorites is “What is the matter with Mary Jane?
Throughout the several stanzas of this poem the answer for some is subtly revealed, except, perhaps by those who really like rice pudding.
We all should have a bit of Pooh’s wisdom in our memories:
It’s more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”              
            Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.
            People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.
            “How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
            “You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh

With the start of this New Year, reviewing a bit of Pooh’s philosophy can’t but help to make you smile.

What’s in an App

It’s common knowledge that humans rely heavily on technology to communicate – from building road systems so that messengers could literally run information across the country to the invention of the printing press to Alexander Graham Bell’s famous call for assistance.  And then the Internet came along, and we have converted from dependent to addicted.
Ask the people of Brazil, who experienced a communication breakdown last month when a judge ordered a 48-hour shutdown of WhatsApp, a messaging application for mobile phone devices.  WhatsApp allows users to send text, image, video, or audio messages to other users, via the Internet, using standard cell phone numbers. That way, as long as your phone is connected to the Internet (via Wi-Fi), you may send a text message or recorded voice message to a friend or relative in anywhere in the world, in real time.
Or, in the case of Brazilian users, you can use WhatsApp to dodge some of the highest cell phone plan prices in the world.  Approximately 93 percent of Brazilian Internet users employ WhatsApp as a cheap alternative to keep in touch with friends and family (rather than pricier voice calls or text messages).  Brazil’s telecommunications industry views alternative voice and messaging services delivered over the Internet as a threat to its business model, and has been lobbying the Brazilian government to declare these services illegal.
There are also concerns that the country’s gangs use WhatsApp to plan and commit crimes. Multiple times last summer, Brazilian courts ordered WhatsApp to suspend its service, after failing to disclose user information (details of the underlying case are being kept secret, as permitted under Brazilian law).  At last, on December 16, Judge Sandra Regina Nostre Marques ordered the service blocked on Brazil’s end.
Public outrage ensued, and the immediate outcry led a different court to overturn the ruling and reinstate the service, a mere 12 hours later.  (During the brief ban, Brazilians sought temporary refuge in other communication services. “Telegram” boasted that more than 1.5 million Brazilian users signed up during the 12-hour ban!).  A “tempest in a teacup,” perhaps, but also a telling sign of how reliant humans are on technology.

Who Do You Name as Your Executor?

It’s one of the most important decisions you can make, especially if your spouse predeceases you. Here’s some food for thought on who that person should – or shouldn’t be:
It’s NOT (necessarily) the person you are giving everything to.
It MUST be someone you can trust, rely on to carry out your wishes
Choose someone you can leave many discretionary tasks to, which allows flexibility in carrying out their duties.
And while this may seem simple, it’s really important – your executor needs to be able to follow a handwritten list.
We’ll be writing more on naming your executor in next month’s issue. Meanwhile if you have general questions about choosing an executor send us an email and we’ll try to address it in our article.

January Thoughts

It’s beginning to look a lot like Northern Michigan, finally…. Whether you’re preparing for a day on the slopes, a backwoods adventure on snowshoes or a snowmobile, or preparing to cozy up under a blanket with a hot toddy and a good book, here are a few words and chuckles to get you into the spirit of winter.
Q: What did the icy road say to the truck?
A: “Want to go for a spin?”
Lessons We Can Learn From a Snowman

  • Wearing white is always in style – even after Labor Day.
  • Getting outside in the winter is good for your health.
  • It’s fun just to hang out in your front yard.
  • We’re all made up of mostly water.
  • Accessories don’t have to be expensive.
  • Don’t get too much sun!
  • If you’re a little bottom heavy – hey, that’s okay!
  • Sometimes sweating too much can have disastrous results.
“How cold was it…?”
It was so cold . . .
Grandpa’s teeth were chattering – in the glass!
It was so cold . . .
the politicians had their hands in their OWN pockets!
It was so cold . . .
Richard Simmons started wearing pants!
It was so cold…
we were afraid that Hell WAS actually freezing over!
We end this section with an ode to winter – a poem called Jacky Frost by Lucy Burrow. It begins “When Summers blue sky fades to grey..”
Read the rest of this delightful poem and other odes to the winter season on PoemHunter.com  

Gary’s in the Kitchen!

Black Bean Enchiladas

4 oz butter
2 onions, medium, chopped
1 red sweet pepper, chopped
1 green sweet pepper, chopped
½ head garlic, chopped very fine
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp oregano, dried
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ginger powder
5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
3 cups salsa
1 #10 can black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup sugar
½ cup chocolate (semi sweet)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped very fine
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
White Pepper
  1. Melt butter in large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, peppers, garlic and jalapenos and cook gently until tender.
  3. Add bay leaf and spices.  Continue to cook for about two more minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes.  Cook over medium until just softened, about five more minutes.
  5. Add salsa, beans, sugar and chocolate.  Cook until it begins to bubble.
  6. Add cilantro and vinegar.  Check seasonings.
  7. Remove bay leaf.  Cool. Store.
To serve roll the enchilada filling into soft tortillas and heat in a lasagna dish or heat the filling separately and serve with the hot, soft tortillas.  Top with cold avocado slices
Rolling tortillas around other food dates back to Mayan times.  Enchiladas evolved first as Mexican street food – corn tortillas dipped in sauce (without fillings).   Today enchiladas are done multiple ways with red sauce, with molè, served pizza style.  The many different names for enchiladas reflect the fillings. Other garnishes may include sour cream, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, olives, onions, chopped chili peppers, salsa and fresh cilantro.  This black bean recipe served with avocado is a Gardner house favorite!

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