Elder Law Attorneys Stephen J. Silverberg and Scott B. Silverberg Named to the 2021 Super Lawyers Metro New York Lists — Scott B. Silverberg Named Rising Star 2021

Stephen J. Silverberg has been selected to the New York Metro Super Lawyers list as one of the top New York metro area lawyers for 2021. Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor. Super Lawyers has named Silverberg to its select list of attorneys for fifteen consecutive years, from 2007 to 2021.

Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning and Elder Law. He is a past President of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and was awarded the credential of NAELA Fellow, the highest honor bestowed by NAELA to “attorneys… whose careers concentrate on Elder Law, and who have distinguished themselves both by making exceptional contributions to meeting the needs of older Americans and by demonstrating commitment to the Academy.” Mr. Silverberg is a past President of the New York State chapter of NAELA and was a founding member of the chapter.

He holds the designation of a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA), awarded by the National Elder Law Foundation to fewer than 525 CELAs throughout the United States. Mr. Silverberg is rated AV Preeminent (5.0 out of 5.0), the highest possible designation from Martindale-Hubbell.

Scott B. Silverberg has been named to the 2021 New York Metro Rising Stars list for the second year in a row. To qualify, New York Metro Rising Stars must be 40 years old or younger or have been practicing for less than 10 years. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

He is a member of the National Board of Directors of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and a member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the New York State Chapter of NAELA. Scott is Vice-Chair of the Practice Management Committee of the Elder Law and Special Needs Section Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association.  He is also a member of the Nassau County Bar Association.

Scott has attained the L.L.M. (Master of Laws) in Elder Law from Stetson University School of Law. This rigorous program is offered only to Elder Law practitioners who have provide legal services in elder law matters in highly specific areas of the law. Stetson’s L.L.M. Elder Law program faculty comprises many leading attorneys in Elder Law.

Super Lawyers, part of Thomson Reuters, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from over 70 practice areas who have attained high peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive, and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys. The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

Why it’s Time to Convert Mega-IRAs to Mega-Roth IRAs

Congress is in session, with Democrats working to create a social policy plan with a $3.5 trillion price tag. Where’s the money coming from? CNBC reports that a new type of required distribution from individual retirement plans, based on the account’s value and not the owner’s age, is on a discussion list.

Specifics are meager, but the general idea is to tap “mega” IRAs – tax-deferred retirement accounts over several million dollars, and $5 million is one level under consideration. The number of mega IRAs worth more than $5 million tripled in the past ten years, while the average working American owns barely $39,000.

The goal is to find funds to support the public policy programs. It’s not the first time government funding has put large tax-deferred accounts in its sights. As someone who watches the history of taxes the way other people watch football stats (although I watch those too), I am not at all surprised.

Tax-deferred individual retirement accounts never were meant to be used as tax shelters for the ultra-wealthy. They were created in 1974 to encourage salaried employees to save for their retirement by deferring taxes on contributions. For several years, IRAs were only available to employees without the benefit of an employer’s pension plan. They could contribute up to $1,500 per year and deduct the contribution on their income tax return.

Fast forward to today when multi-billionaires put tax-deferred dollars into IRAs. A Joint Committee on Taxation analysis published in July 2021 showed that over 28,600 taxpayers owned IRAs larger than $5 million in 2019. The mega-IRA accounts hold about $280 billion, according to the Committee report. About 500 people have IRAs larger than $25 million, with the average account about $150 million. As a young lawyer, I worked for the largest pension law firm in New York City. No one contemplated the amount in these mega-IRAs.

These mega IRAs account for less than one-tenth of 1% of the approximately 70 million taxpayers who own traditional or Roth IRAs. A lot of money is sitting in a relatively small number of accounts.  Changing the law and collecting funds from 70 million taxpayers would be more work than an aggressive push to 500 people.

There are many Americans whose IRAs have between $40,000 and $5 million. Regardless of what form this legislation eventually takes, the bottom line is that the money for the social policy program must come from somewhere and that somewhere involves taxes.  The Roth IRA, funded with after-tax dollars, is about to become a lot more popular.

Besides paying taxes upfront, there are (as of this writing) no requirements for withdrawals from a Roth account, and converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA is relatively easy. Income Tax is due upon the conversion, but if income tax rates go up, as we expect, then paying taxes now is a better choice than paying after there are any increases.

For wealthy households concerned with increasing tax levels and the possibility of the government taking bites from a mega-IRA, converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA could be the right move for right now.

May is National Elder Law Month – What Does That Mean?

It began in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy met with the National Council of Senior Citizens and designated May as “Senior Citizens Month” to honor Americans age 65 and older with a Presidential Proclamation. Since then, May has also been designated Elder Law Month by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of legal services for older Americans and individuals with special needs.

In most years, Elder Law Month is recognized by Elder Lawyers who offer educational programs and work with local community groups to support the legal needs of seniors. The goal is to help seniors and their families better understand their legal options regarding Medicaid eligibility, long term and health care planning, special needs planning, elder abuse, and other issues germane to senior Americans.

Two historical events have merged in the last year and a half to make this a timely and important issue. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many Americans to confront their mortality. Millions of families across the country learned first-hand how not having a plan for serious illness and death created more problems, complications, and costs for the survivors.

At the same time, the aging of the Baby Boomer generation and the transfer of boomer wealth has been underway for the past few years. As of this writing, Boomers are 56 to 74, and they are aging. Over the next two or three decades, Boomers will need to plan for increased medical and long-term health care services.

To clarify – Elder Law and Special Needs Law are different from Trusts and Estate law. Elder Law and Special Needs attorneys are more focused on representing seniors and disabled individuals and their families with legal issues while they are living.

Trusts and Estates law is more focused on post-mortem planning, including creating wills, succession planning and tax planning.

Elder law attorneys help clients with estate planning also, but their practices are skilled with issues like:

  • Long Term Care Needs and Medicaid
  • Eligibility for Medicare and Social Security
  • Guardianship and Incapacity
  • Elder abuse recognition and prevention
  • Assisting with placing individuals in long term care facilities and advocating for patients living in these facilities.

New challenges to seniors and their families continue to emerge, as we recover from the worst of the pandemic and prepare for the coming years. An experienced, well-credentialed Elder Lawyer is an invaluable resource for individuals and families in preparing for the future. We celebrate Elder Law month in May, we practice Elder Law every day all year round as we work with clients to protect them and their families.

If you have any questions about Elder Law or estate planning issues, we invite you to call the office at 516-307-1236, visit our website or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.


Estate Planning Tells Them You Really Care

Another box of chocolates, another dozen roses, but after Valentine’s Day has been and done, and these are fleeting moments. What is not fleeting is an estate plan, which may not sound romantic until considering how much an estate plan shows your love.

We’re not kidding.

An estate plan includes a will. That gives your loved ones security, in knowing you have planned for their well-being after you are gone. A surviving spouse will know what your intentions are and, if they are named the executor, be able to put your plan into effect.

Without a will, your surviving spouse and family members must go to court and an extensive process to determine what happens to your assets. The time and expense in settling your estate far exceed the cost of a proper will.

An estate plan also includes trusts. A trust can be either created while you are living or in your will. The use of trusts can prove essential to protecting your family from outside claims such as healthcare costs and marital and creditor claims. It is a great kindness, ensuring that your loved ones can access assets (depending upon the terms of the trust) and have one less pile of paperwork to deal with.

An estate plan addresses taxes. While most Americans do not come near today’s current federal estate tax exemption of $11.7 million per person, odds are the estate tax exemption will soon be reduced to somewhere between $3.5 million to $5 million. This will cause a tenfold increase in taxable estates. And there are state taxes to deal with and taxes on certain inherited assets. Creating a comprehensive estate plan address tax issues, including retirement accounts and real property. Tax planning could make a significant difference in the quality of life for your surviving spouse.

Estate plans include documents that protect you and your family while you are living. A health care proxy will give your loved ones the ability to decide on your behalf if you are severely sick and cannot communicate your wishes. An Advance Directive will clarify your wishes for end-of-life care.

Think of the stress alleviated if your spouse need not play guessing games about what you want to happen. And the years of guilt if they decide in haste and during the high emotions of your illness without knowing what you wanted.

A few other steps to take to complete your estate plan:

  • Review your power of attorney to make sure it is still current and valid.
  • Review your life insurance beneficiary designations.
  • Review all accounts with beneficiary designations to ensure you still want the people named to receive your assets.

You can always go out to dinner or send your true love a gift. But the gift of an estate plan demonstrates love in a much deeper way – by showing your loved ones you care enough about their lives when you are not with them.

Happy Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day – Is Your Estate Plan in a Time Loop?

If you wake up every morning thinking that you need to get your estate plan updated, or worse, created, you might feel like Bill Murray in the classic movie “Groundhog Day.” Actually, a lot of days in 2020 felt like Groundhog Day: a never-ending time loop of working from home, dining at home, working out at home, visiting with friends and family from home, etc.

There’s a way to get out of an estate plan time loop, and it won’t require you to go through endless mornings with a clock radio playing The Beatles’ “Tax Man” song.

If you have been putting off updating your estate plan, it’s time to get it done.

Your estate plan is at risk if it is out of date.

If your estate plan has not been updated since before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of December 2017, there may be estate planning opportunities that you are missing.

If your estate plan has not been updated since the SECURE Act went into effect in December 2019, there may be missed opportunities. There is still time to benefit from the changes.

If you are waiting to see what changes are coming from the new administration and the Democrat-controlled Senate, this is not the time to procrastinate. Whatever changes may be coming in the future are exactly that—in the future.

The new administration and Congress have many large issues to tackle immediately, from addressing a global pandemic to responding to domestic terrorists. President Biden did propose changes during his campaign, including eliminating the basis adjustment for assets and making changes to the federal estate tax exemption, which is likely to change before the planned sunset of 2025.

But there is an exceedingly long stretch between the time a campaign promise is made and what actually becomes law.

Negotiations with the House and Senate, efforts by lobbying groups and the White House staff, take time. And while you are waiting for the law to change, your estate plan may put you or your loved ones in a precarious position.

If your estate plan is stuck in Groundhog Day, call our office at 516-307-1236 and make an appointment to meet with us by phone, video conferencing or in the office. We can get your estate plan updated, and get you out of the time loop. Eventually, Bill Murray got to tomorrow in “Groundhog Day, and the same can happen for your estate plan.

IRS Issues Changes in Revenue Procedure 2020-45

On October 26, 2020,  the IRS issued IRS Rev. Proc-20-45 outlining the changes in the various tax rates, brackets and exemptions, and other income and estate and gift tax exclusions.

Highlights of Changes in Revenue Procedure 2020-45

The Consolidated Appropriation Act for 2020 increased the amount of the minimum addition tax for failure to file a tax return within 60 days of the due date. Beginning with returns due after Dec. 31, 2019, the new additional tax is $435 or 100 percent of the amount of tax due, whichever is less, an increase from $330. The $435 additional tax will be adjusted for inflation.

The tax year 2021 adjustments described below generally apply to tax returns filed in 2022.

The tax items for tax year 2021 of greatest interest to most taxpayers include the following dollar amounts:

The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly for tax year 2021 rises to $25,100, up $300 from the prior year. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $12,550 for 2021, up $150, and for heads of households, the standard deduction will be $18,800 for tax year 2021, up $150.

The personal exemption for tax year 2021 remains at 0, as it was for 2020; this elimination of the personal exemption was a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Marginal Rates: For tax year 2021, the top tax rate remains 37% for individual single taxpayers with incomes greater than $523,600 ($628,300 for married couples filing jointly). The other rates are:

    • 35%, for incomes over $209,425 ($418,850 for married couples filing jointly);
    • 32% for incomes over $164,925 ($329,850 for married couples filing jointly);
    • 24% for incomes over $86,375 ($172,750 for married couples filing jointly);
    • 22% for incomes over $40,525 ($81,050 for married couples filing jointly);
    • 12% for incomes over $9,950 ($19,900 for married couples filing jointly).
    • The lowest rate is 10% for incomes of single individuals with incomes of $9,950 or less ($19,900 for married couples filing jointly).

For 2021, as in 2020, 2019 and 2018, there is no limitation on itemized deductions, as that limitation was eliminated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The Alternative Minimum Tax exemption amount for tax year 2021 is $73,600 and begins to phase out at $523,600 ($114,600 for married couples filing jointly for whom the exemption begins to phase out at $1,047,200). The 2020 exemption amount was $72,900 and began to phase out at $518,400 ($113,400 for married couples filing jointly for whom the exemption began to phase out at $1,036,800).

The tax year 2021 maximum Earned Income Credit amount is $6,728 for qualifying taxpayers who have three or more qualifying children, up from a total of $6,660 for tax year 2020. The revenue procedure contains a table providing maximum Earned Income Credit amount for other categories, income thresholds and phase-outs.

For tax year 2021, the monthly limitation for the qualified transportation fringe benefit remains $270, as is the monthly limitation for qualified parking.

For the taxable years beginning in 2021, the dollar limitation for employee salary reductions for contributions to health flexible spending arrangements remains $2,750. For cafeteria plans that permit the carryover of unused amounts, the maximum carryover amount is $550, an increase of $50 from taxable years beginning in 2020.

For tax year 2021, participants who have self-only coverage in a Medical Savings Account, the plan must have an annual deductible that is not less than $2,400, up $50 from tax year 2020; but not more than $3,600, an increase of $50 from tax year 2020. For self-only coverage, the maximum out-of-pocket expense amount is $4,800, up $50 from 2020. For tax year 2021, participants with family coverage, the floor for the annual deductible is $4,800, up from $4,750 in 2020; however, the deductible cannot be more than $7,150, up $50 from the limit for tax year 2020. For family coverage, the out-of-pocket expense limit is $8,750 for tax year 2021, an increase of $100 from tax year 2020.

For tax year 2021, the adjusted gross income amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning Credit is $119,000, up from $118,000 for tax year 2020.

For tax year 2021, the foreign earned income exclusion is $108,700 up from $107,600 for tax year 2020.

Estates of decedents who die during 2021 have a basic exclusion amount of $11,700,000, up from a total of $11,580,000 for estates of decedents who died in 2020.

The annual exclusion for gifts is $15,000 for calendar year 2021, as it was for calendar year 2020.

The maximum credit allowed for adoptions for tax year 2021 is the amount of qualified adoption expenses up to $14,440, up from $14,300 for 2020.

Click here to read the entire document IRS Rev. Proc-20-45