When Decoration Day Became Memorial Day, and Why It Still Matters  

Memorial Day is a topic I return to every May because it is important to honor the Americans who gave their lives in service to our great nation. It’s a national holiday with a somber and respectful history, and we need, especially now, to keep that in mind.

Our activities on Memorial Day should include remembering and honoring the lives and sacrifices of our veterans—and their families.

For me, this last weekend of May will always be Decoration Day.

Decoration Day began in 1868 when General John A. Logan called for a holiday to honor the soldiers who died in the Civil War. Women placed flowers on the graves of their husbands, sons, and brothers. On the first Decoration Day, 5,000 people helped decorate the graves of the over 20,000 soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery – both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Similar ceremonies inspired the event in cities around the country. Soldiers would decorate the graves of fallen comrades with flags, wreaths, and flowers. By 1890, every Union state had a Decoration Day.

After World War I, the purpose of Decoration Day expanded to honor all soldiers who died in all American wars. It was considered a day of civic duty to honor the dead and remember why they gave their lives.

In 1971, Congress declared a national holiday on the last Monday in May.

Some civic groups and veterans’ groups continue to honor our servicemen and women by taking the time to attend ceremonies and decorate the graves of soldiers. Flags should be flown at half-mast until noon on Memorial day and a national moment of silence takes place at 3:00 pm.

Here on Long Island, we have two large military cemeteries – Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale and Calverton National Cemetery. We have a large population of veterans and families who know all too well the impact of the ultimate sacrifice their loved ones made for their country.

As the years and wars have come and gone, Decoration Day became Memorial Day. Unlike Veterans Day, which honors all who serve, the traditions of Memorial Day honor those who gave their lives in service to our nation.

I encourage you to find out where your town’s wreath ceremony is taking place and take the time to show your support. On Long Island, ceremonies take place at town halls, fire departments and other civic centers. Your presence will be appreciated.

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Get Your Important Documents, Including Advance Directives, Ready Now

There has never been a time in our lives when the need for an estate plan has been more critical. The sheer numbers of people who have died from COVID-19, in our community and worldwide, is something we have never witnessed. And while it may have seemed at first that the elderly were the most vulnerable, we know better now.

What should you be doing now to protect yourself and your loved ones? At the very least, you need a Will, Power of Attorney, and Advance Care Directive.

Find your most recent Will. If you cannot find it, you need a new one. Now!

Our office is open, and we are working with clients through phone, email, and videoconferences. We take all necessary precautions as recommended by the CDC for anyone who wishes to meet with us in person.

If your Will is over four years old, it probably is out-of-date. Your life may have changed, and it may not reflect new children, grandchildren, spouses, divorces, deaths, etc.

If your Will is out of date, it does not consider the changes in the law that have occurred in recent months. IRA distribution rules for heirs are among many changes that resulted from the SECURE Act (effective January 1, 2020). The CARES Act, passed in response to the economic impact of COVID-19, further modified these rules. What you had intended years ago may not come to pass because of these and other changes.

A will does not take long to create, but not having one creates unnecessary costs and stress for your loved ones.

Power of Attorney – Names a person who manages your finances and may transfer assets in certain situations. A POA allows your designated agent to pay your bills and handle health insurance problems during a medical emergency. Without one, if you are incapacitated, your assets will be inaccessible, and your family will need to undertake a costly Guardianship proceeding.

Healthcare Proxy – Names a person who may make medical decisions if you cannot do so for yourself. Without this document, family members can argue about who should decide what medical care you receive.

Living Will – Tells your health care proxy and family what your wishes are for end-of-life care. Without a Living Will, doctors can keep you alive in a vegetative state for years with no chance of recovery.

Three young women, Karen Ann Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, and Terri Schiavo, became household names as their families battled over whether to keep them alive by artificial means. Even young adults admitted to intensive care units with COVID-19 are often struck suddenly. There’s no time for them to express their wishes.

We can create a plan tailored to your needs to protect your family. Call our office at (516) 307-1236 or email sbsilverberg@sjslawpc.com for a free consultation by phone, video, or in person.

Legislative Update: Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act

The Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act was signed into law on June 5, 2020. The new legislation modifies the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Here are the details:

Extension of loan utilization period. Originally, the PPP required borrowers to spend their full loan within eight (8) weeks after the loan originated. This was called the “Covered Period.” The new law changes the Covered Period from eight (8) weeks to either twenty-four (24) weeks after the loan origination date or December 31, 2020, whichever one is earlier.

The borrower may spend the entire loan proceeds and request forgiveness before the end of the Covered period.

The goal is to help PPP borrowers to weather the crisis by giving them more time to use the PPP loan on forgivable expenses. These include payroll costs, rent, utilities and interest on real property and personal property debt. Restrictions to what the money can be used for have not changed.

Payroll cost spending requirement. The prior PPL required borrowers to spend at least 75% of their loan proceeds on payroll costs, but the new act changes that requirement to 60%. However, all borrowers must hit this percentage if they are to qualify to have the loan forgiven. Any borrower that does not meet the 60% amount cannot have the loan forgiven and will need to pay it back.

Forgiveness reduction based on full time employees. PPL loans are subject to a reduction calculated by multiplying the forgivable loan amount by a fraction. The numerator of the fraction is the average number of full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) during the Covered Period. The borrower decides which of  two denominators works best:  the average number of FTEs between February 15, 2019 and June 30, 2019, or the average number of FTEs between January 1, 2020, and February 29, 2020.

The new law lets the borrower include any employees terminated between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020 who are rehired before June 2020 in the numerator to ensure maximum loan forgiveness. The PPP Flexibility Act extends the rehire provision deadline date to December 31, 2020.

If the PPP borrower meets required conditions, the forgiveness reduction test is eliminated if the borrower is:

1 – Unable to rehire a terminated employee who was an employee of the borrower by February 15, 2020,

2 – Able to demonstrate an inability to hire a similarly qualified employee to replace the terminated employee,

3 – Able to demonstrate an inability to return to the same level of business activity  commensurate with the activity level as of February 15, 2020.

Eliminating the FTE reduction test helped business owners unable to return to full operation because of the coronavirus crisis, but the borrower must still expend at least 60% of the loan on payroll cost, or risk having to pay the loan back.

Payroll tax deferral. The CARES act allows businesses to defer the employer portion of their Social Security payroll tax obligations for 2020 —  one half is due on December 31, 2021 and the second half is due by December 31, 2022. But the CARES act provided that any business receiving PPP loan forgiveness was not eligible to defer Social Security payroll tax obligations. The Treasury Department recently issued guidelines that allow PPP borrowers to defer their Social Security payroll taxes until their forgiveness status was determined.

The new Flexibility Act lets PPP borrowers defer their 2020 Social Security payroll taxes regardless of whether some, part, or all of their PPP loan is forgiven. The employer’s share of the Social Security payroll tax is not treated as a forgivable payroll expense.

Some of the new aspects of the Flexibility Act will be welcome, but the 60% payroll tax requirement remains a challenge for many. If business does not return and permit the borrower to ramp back up before the end of the Covered Period, the loan will not be forgiven, adding another burden to strained businesses.


It’s Time To Have “The Conversation” With Your Loved Ones – Today

If you haven’t had “the conversation” with your adult children, it’s time.  For adult children, this is the conversation that closes a circle that began when your parents had a conversation with you about an important life event.  For aging parents, this is the conversation that you may dread – but you will be giving your children the gift of knowing what you want and alleviating them from a lifetime of second guessing.

The conversation is about death, something we dislike talking about. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the discussion of critical illness and death to our doorsteps, and it’s time for that conversation to take place.

Start with the basics. Is there a will, and if so, when was it last updated? If there is no will, it’s time to get that done. An outdated will could create just as many problems for the family as no will at all.

New York State residents are now allowed to have their wills executed and witnessed though the use of videoconferencing, so you can have this done without leaving your home.

Next, do you have the correct health documents prepared?

  • A health care proxy names a person who may make medical decisions for you if you are not able to do so for yourself.
  • The HIPAA release form allows health care workers to share information about your health care.
  • The living will tells your health care proxy and family what your wishes are for end-of-life care.
  • The DNR – Do Not Resuscitate – is a document that expresses your wishes to not be brought back to life if your heart or other vital functions should stop working.

Here’s an important detail: all of these documents need to be prepared and accessible to family members so they can be used. They also should be as recent as possible; older documents may not be accepted.

We draft all of these documents based not only on our decades of experience, but after conversations with clients when we learn about their family situations, which members of the family they believe will be able to carry out their decisions, which ones should be kept out of any decision making processes, and what their goals are for care and end of life decisions.

For instance:

  • Do you want health care providers to give you pain relief medications?
  • Do you want to have certain life-sustaining options and not others? Some life-sustaining methods include tube feeding, having breathing done for you by a ventilator, kidney dialysis, antibiotics, or CPR, to name a few.
  • How long would you want your life to be sustained by artificial means?
  • Do you want to have any life-sustaining systems removed if your brain is not functioning? Or do you want your heartbeat to be the indicator of life continuing?

These are highly personal decisions, about a difficult subject. But imagine your family faced with making these decisions, without knowing what you wanted to happen? And now, imagine them knowing what you wanted, because you told them in advance.

Our office is open, accepting new clients, and working safely. We welcome your calls and questions.


Governor Cuomo Authorizes Video Conferencing to Witness Legal Documents

In an effort to help New Yorkers who are unable to be physically present to witness the execution of legal documents and to protect the health and safety of the public, Governor Andrew Cuomo has just authorized the use of audio-video technology for witnessing wills, powers of attorney, health care proxies and other estate planning documents.

There are some requirements, but they are reasonable in nature and won’t be difficult to enact.

  • The person requesting that their signature be witnessed must be able to produce a valid photo ID to the witnesses during the course of the video conference, if they are not known to the witnesses;
  • The video conference must allow direct interaction between the person and the witness(es) and the supervising attorney. In other words, this can’t be done via a recorded session.
  • The witness must receive a legible copy of the signature page or pages, which may be sent by email or fax, on the same date that the pages are signed.
  • The witness can sign the emailed or faxed copy of the signature page and send it back to the person; and
  • The witness may repeat the witnessing of the original signature page(s) as of the date of the execution, as long as the witness(es) receive the original signature pages, along with the electronically witnessed copies within thirty (30) days after the date of the execution.

This is a common sense approach to a problem that has been a serious impediment to wills, powers of attorney, health care proxies and trusts being finalized during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our office is open and fully operational, and we look forward to speaking with you.

If you have questions, please send them to sjs@sjslawpc.com or call 516-307-1236.

Congress Waives Required Minimum Distributions

The CARES Act ( the “Act”) waives the required minimum distribution rules for certain defined contribution plans and IRAs for calendar year 2020. This provision provides relief to individuals otherwise required to withdraw funds from such retirement accounts.

This also includes individuals who turned 70 1/2 in 2019 but elected to defer their initial distribution to April 1, 2020. If an individual has taken their RMD, they can redeposit it if sixty days have not elapsed since the date of the distribution.

Hardship IRA/401(k) Withdrawals

The Act will allow coronavirus related withdrawals from their 401(k) and IRA accounts up to $100,000 during 2020 and avoid the normal 10% penalty for those not of the required minimum age of 59.5.

Reasons for Coronavirus related withdrawals include

(1)    An account owner diagnosed with COVID-19, or

(2)    A spouse or dependent is diagnosed with COVID-19, oe

(3)    An individual who experiences adverse financial consequences because of being quarantined, furloughed, laid off, having work hours reduced, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to the coronavirus, or

(4)    closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to coronavirus, or

(5)    or other factors as determined by the Treasury Secretary.

You are still required to pay income taxes but don’t have to pay the full amount in one year. You can spread that tax due over three years. Another option is to redeposit the withdrawn amounts back within three years.

Treatment of Charitable Deductions.

Generally, taxpayers must itemize their deductions to take advantage of charitable deductions. This itemized deduction requirement is eliminated for charitable deductions of up to $300 for most contributions for the 2020 tax year. Note that not all charitable deductions are eligible for this treatment. Specifically, charitable contributions made to a private foundation or donor-advised fund, are not eligible for the above-the-line charitable deduction.

In addition, the limitation that applies to the amount of a charitable deduction that can be claimed by individual taxpayers is based on a percentage of the individual taxpayer’s adjusted gross income is also eliminated for 2020.

Finally, a reminder – if you do not have a healthcare proxy in place, visit our website www.sjslawpc.com and fill in the contact form. We will send you a personalized healthcare proxy with directions. Print it out, insert a date, sign your name on the line indicated in front of two unrelated witnesses. Make sure that the document is readily available in an emergency. We can ONLY do this through the website.

If you have questions, please send them to sjs@sjslawpc.com.

Be safe,

Stephen J. Silverberg, Esq.


We Are Now Offering a Complementary Health Care Proxy

One of the most important estate planning documents, after a Will and a Power of Attorney, is the Health Care Proxy. This is the document that allows you to name someone to participate in discussions with your health care providers if you are not able to do so.

With so many seniors being concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, our office is offering a free Health Care Proxy so parents and their children can have this document.

In New York State, a Health Care Proxy need not be notarized, but it does have to be signed with two unrelated adults serving as witnesses.

We hope that this offer will be taken up by children concerned about their parents and parents concerned about their over 18-year old children. Because of HIPAA regulations (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), parents and adult children have the same legal status as a stranger. Doctors may not speak with parents about their child’s condition, or with children about their parent’s condition.

Parents or adult children have no legal standing to decide about their loved one’s care. The scenario is frightening for anyone.

A Health Care Proxy allows a person to designate another person as an agent or proxy entitled to information about the person’s medical condition, gain access to medical records and most important, make medical treatment decisions on behalf of the person. New York does not allow co-agents; only one person can serve at a time.

We are offering to prepare this document for free to members of our community as we believe it is so important. If we can help one family who otherwise could not make medical treatment decisions for a loved one, the entire effort will have been worth doing.

Your request for a health care proxy must be submitted through our website’s contact page https://www.sjslawpc.com/contact/. We cannot accept requests by phone.

Provide us with your name and address, and the name and address of the person you want to serve as your Health Care Proxy.  We will send you the document via email. Print it out, insert a date, sign your name on the line indicated in front of two unrelated witnesses. Make sure that the document is readily available in an emergency.

If you have questions, please send them to sjs@sjslawpc.com.

Be safe,

Stephen J. Silverberg, Esq.

Documents in New York State May Now Be Signed Remotely – Call for an Appointment

The Law Firm of Stephen J. Silverberg is continuing to provide our clients and their families with all the services they have come to rely on us for. We are using telephone, email and video services to stay in touch with clients and members of our team.

Now that the Governor of New York has issued Executive Order 202.7, we are able to help clients have documents notarized remotely, as long as certain procedures are followed.

If you were in the midst of having Power of Attorney, Deeds, Trusts or other documents prepared and were waiting to have them notarized, please call our office and we can set up a video conference to ensure that they are completed in a timely manner.

Please note that this is something that can only be done between now and April 18, 2020, so call our office at 516-307-1236 to make sure you don’t miss this deadline.

Our office and you will need to be able to interact during the call and you or the person who is signing the document must be physically located in New York State.

Please call us at 516-307-1236 if you have any questions. We are continuing to operate our practice and serve our clients. Be well, and we look forward to hearing from you.

A special message to clients and friends from Stephen J. Silverberg, Esq.

Dear Friends:

We are all worried about the impact of  the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the danger it poses to our community, locally and globally. Here is what our office is doing to ensure the health and safety of our clients and team members.

If you are fine coming to the office, we’d be happy to see you. Know that our office is taking all the prescribed precautions, including frequent hand washing, wiping down surfaces, and using hand sanitizer.

If you are not able to travel to our office during this time, or simply feel safer staying home, we understand. We can still serve you – no need to change your appointment.

We can schedule a phone meeting.  Just let our office know you’d like to change your office meeting to a phone meeting – call us at 516-307-1236 and we’ll make the change.

We are also fully equipped for videoconference appointments. Again, please call our office at 516-307-1236 and we’ll make the necessary arrangements.

In certain cases,  we still make house calls. When circumstances require that document be signed and there’s no other way for you to see us, an attorney will visit you or a loved one within a fifteen mile radius of our office at no extra charge. We don’t this often, but if necessary, we will.

If you are sick, even if you’re feeling just a little under the weather, please call us and we’ll either reschedule or set up a phone or video meeting. We want everyone to stay healthy!

To stay up to date with current news on Coronavirus, we suggest these websites:

Governor of New York State Corona Virus News

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Cleveland Clinic -Preparing for Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Call our office at 516-307-1236 if you have concerns. Helping people is the essence of the firm’s mission and the guiding principle behind everything we do. It’s not just our motto – it’s how we practice law.

We hope you’ll take care of yourself and be well.  Thank you for the trust you place in our firm.



Stephen J. Silverberg, Esq.