Attorney Stephen J Silverberg

Stephen J. Silverberg, Esq. Named to 2022 Edition of the Best Lawyers in America© in Elder Law

For the eighth consecutive year, Stephen J. Silverberg has been selected by his peers in the 2022 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® in the practice area of Elder Law. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence.

Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers based on professional expertise and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing.

Since 2007, Silverberg has been included in the Super Lawyer New York metro list and has an AV Preeminent (5 out of 5) rating, the highest possible designation from Martindale-Hubbell. He is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA), bestowed on him by the National Elder Law Foundation, as authorized by the American Bar Association. Although the test started in 1993, there are fewer than 520 CELAs throughout the United States. Silverberg is a graduate of Hartwick College and Brooklyn Law School.  He has been a member of both the New York and Florida Bars for over forty years.

Stephen J. Silverberg is a nationally recognized leader in the areas of estate and tax planning, estate and trust administration, asset preservation planning, and Elder Law.  He is past President of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). In 2003 he was named a 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.” Silverberg is also a former President and is a member of the New York State chapter of NAELA.

In addition, the Law Office of Stephen J. Silverberg, PC has been recognized by Best Lawyers® as a Best Law Firm since 2015.

The Law Office of Stephen J. Silverberg, PC represents clients in matters about estate planning, tax, estate administration, asset preservation planning, Elder Law and related issues. The Law Office of Stephen J. Silverberg, PC is at 185 Roslyn Road, Roslyn Heights, NY 11577, 516-307-1236 and www.sjslawpc.com.

Best Lawyers has earned the respect of the profession, the media and the public as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals. Its first international list was published in 2006 and since then has grown to provide lists in over 75 countries.

Proposed Legislation “For the 99.5% Act” Takes Direct Aim at Estate Taxes

Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders (I, VT) and Senator Shelton Whitehouse (D, RI) introduced the “For the 99.5% Act,” which includes a reduction in the estate tax exemption to $3.5 million per individual and $7 million per couple.  Sanders also introduced a bill to raise the corporate tax to 35% and reduce a corporation’s ability to shelter offshore profits.

We have known for a while there will be changes coming to estate and corporate taxes. Many estate planning attorneys expect this act to become a foundation for the estate, gift, and GST provisions of the 2021 tax bill President Biden presented during his campaign. We do not know which changes Congress will pass, but we know that changes in whatever bill eventually passes will require estate plans to be adjusted.

The changes expected include larger estates being subject to higher tax rates. The proposal calls for the increase of the 40% estate tax rate to 45% for taxable estates less than $10 million, 50% for taxable estates over $10 million, and 65% for taxable estates greater than $1 billion.

The “95.9% Act” calls for eliminating many of the estate planning tools used for the last twenty years. This includes GRATS (Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts), step-up in basis, the grantor trust rules, and eliminating most minority interest discounts and many marketability discounts for passive assets.

The proposed legislation reduces the lifetime gift tax exemption and changes to the Generation Skipping Tax (GST) exemption and rules. It is also possible that Irrevocable life insurance trusts, which own the life insurance policy and shelters the proceeds from estate taxation, may be eliminated.

The expected changes to the estate tax laws may be finding more popular support following the release of a report showing that the top 1% of Americans are managing to not pay far more in income taxes than the IRS’s methods had assumed.

The report from researchers from the IRS, the London School of Economics, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of California, Berkeley, shows the wealthiest 1% of households fail to report 21% of their actual income, and 6% of that stems from “sophisticated evasion” strategies missed by federal audits. The unreported income might be as much as twice as large as the IRS thought.

With declining enforcement staff, the IRA’s rates of audits have declined in the last ten years, when the top 1% of wealthy Americans have become even more skilled at underreporting income. This costs the federal government about $175 billion a year. For a government now seeking revenues to recoup the pandemic’s enormous costs, there is a call for re-investing in the IRS’s ability to go after tax avoiders.

According to The Wall Street Journal’s article, “High-Income Tax Avoidance Far Larger Than Thought, New Paper Estimates,” pass-through businesses and partnerships, offshore tax avoidance, and other sophisticated entities have made it harder for the IRS to uncover income.

An op-ed in The New York Times’ Sunday Review, “How to Collect Unpaid Taxes,” references an IRS report from 2019  that estimated “Billions of dollars in business profits, rent and royalties are hidden from the government each year. By contrast, more than 95 percent of wage income is reported.”

The government’s inability to enforce tax laws is a function of how the IRS has been shrinking over time, with fewer workers. But former IRS commissioner Charles Rossotti says that Congress needs to change the law and create a third-party verification for business income, just as there is a third-party verification for wages. Rossotti proposes that information be collected from banks, requiring them to produce annual account statements totaling income and outflow, similar to the 1099 forms that investment firms must provide to clients. The Times thinks this would increase the taxes paid by those not reporting income by scaring people into compliance. Expect the banking and securities lobbyists to push back against any new requirements.

As someone who has worked in complex tax law for several decades, I have seen how often the IRS and academics have engaged in hand-wringing over how unfair the tax laws are, depending on the times, to the wealthy or American wage earners. But for now, tax law permits these strategies, and it appears any plan in place before a new tax law is signed will be grandfathered in.

We are keeping a close watch on the pending legislation as it winds its way through various committees and will continue to keep you informed on how it may affect your estate plan.

References:

The Wall Street Journal (March 22, 2021) “High-Income Tax Avoidance Far Larger Than Thought, New Paper Estimates”

The New York Times (March 20, 2022) “How to Collect $1.4 Trillion in Unpaid Taxes”

 

Stephen J. Silverberg Named a Top Business Leader by Prominent Nassau Publisher

I am honored to be named to Blank Slate Media’s first Top Business Leaders of Nassau County Award and invite you to join me on Thursday, February 18, at 7 PM for a virtual awards event with Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health as a fellow honoree and keynote speaker.

As if being honored along with Michael Dowling wasn’t enough, I am pleased to find myself in such good company. Other local luminaries being honored that night include:

  • Stuart Rabinowitz, President, Hofstra University
  • Andrew Malekoff, CEO North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center
  • Michael N. Rosenblut, President & CEO, Parker Jewish Institute
  • Jeffrey L. Reynolds, President & CEO, Family and Children’s Association
  • Phil Palumbo, Founder, CEO, Palumbo Wealth Management
  • Jan Burman, President, The Engel Burman Group
  • Edward Blumenfeld, President & Founder, Blumenfeld Development Group
  • Richard Kessel, Chairman, Nassau County IDA/LEAC

We were asked about the business impact of the pandemic in March 2020 when the state placed all but essential services on “pause.”

We transitioned to remote work smoothly, as our firm’s management, document storage, and communications systems were all internet and cloud-based even before the pandemic, allowing attorneys and staff to work in the office, at home, or anywhere. Investing in technology has always been a high value at the firm, and clients benefited from our ability to keep working without interruption. Since returning to the office, we have followed all CDC guidelines, including masks and sterilization requirements.

To see the complete list of honorees and register for this virtual event, click here.

To see the journal for this event, click here.

We hope to “see” you on Thursday, February 18!

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.

Medicare Doesn't Cover Everything

What’s Not Covered by Medicare?

Medicare provides health insurance for retirees, but it doesn’t cover everything. In fact, there’s a lot that Medicare does not cover, and many of these are health care costs that can consume a nest egg. Here are the top five healthcare costs that should be part of your retirement preparations:

Medicare and Long Term Care Costs

Long Term Care is one of the biggest budget busters for retirees. Long term care can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars a month. Medicare does offer some skilled nursing care coverage, but it’s very limited. If you are eligible, in terms of age, health and finances, buy a long-term care insurance. Sometimes a long-term health insurance policy is folded into a life insurance policy. Talk to your insurance broker—this is something you need, as much as an estate plan.

Alternative or Chiropractic Care

If your healthcare includes alternative or chiropractic care, Medicare is not yet fully evolved to pay for these services. The monthly massage that you know keeps headaches or crippling joint pain at bay is not covered, regardless of how effective it is for your well-being. There are some Medigap or Medicare Advantage plans that do cover specific kinds of alternative therapies, so do your research.

Dental and Oral Health

Medicare does not connect your healthy smile with your overall health. Despite studies that clearly demonstrate the connections between good oral health and overall health, especially cardiovascular health, Medicare is not paying for your dental treatment, unless they are “medically necessary” for you before your physician will allow you to undergo covered procedures.

But in most cases, you have to pay for your own dental care. And if you’ve ever needed a crown or root canal work, you know these procedures can cost several thousand dollars. Best to set aside some assets for dental work.

Glasses and Vision Care

The same goes for vision care. The cost of an eye exam, glasses and contact lenses must be paid by you. There are more options today than there were ten years ago (i.e., online, or big box prescription glasses and contact lenses) but it’s still an expense that you need to cover yourself.

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are the bane of many retiree’s financial life. They are extremely expensive, and Medicare doesn’t cover the audiology exam that is needed before you can be fitted for them or the devices themselves, some of which can cost as much as $10,000. A federal law was passed in 2017 that directed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ease the financial barriers to purchasing a hearing aid, but the self-fitted, less expensive devices don’t work for everyone.