Schanker and Hochberg P.C. is a premier Estate Planning law firm. We offer legal services for sophisticated Estate and Gift Tax planning, Decedent Estate Administration and Probate services, Business Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, Special Needs Planning for persons with disabilities, simple Will planning, and all aspects of Elder Law planning including Medicaid planning and applications. Our website, www.schankerandsch.wpengine.com, provides detailed information about our practice and the services we offer. It also is an excellent resource for articles of interest about Estate Planning and Estate and Gift Tax Laws. A copy of each newsletter will always be available on our website.

Estate Planning is so much more than just tax planning. There is a considerable decision-making process. Schanker and Hochberg P.C. has over 30 years of experience in counseling clients for their Estate Planning needs.

As always, we encourage feedback from our readers. If there are any topics you wish for us to specifically address or elaborate on, please email me at: andrea@schankerandsch.wpengine.com.

Extensive Services at Schanker and Hochberg P.C., including:

  1. Complimentary Initial Consultations
  2. Complimentary Annual Review meetings for existing clients
  3. Complimentary Family meetings for existing clients
  4. Tax alert services for existing clients

Thinking Ahead to the Year’s End

  • For 2012, there were over 500,000 Federal Gift Tax returns filed because of the risk that Congress would reduce the Lifetime Gift Tax Exemption from $5.12 million to $1 million. The exemption is now “permanent” (until Congress legislates otherwise) and indexed for inflation so that as of 2013, you have a $5.25 million (or $10.5 million for a married couple) Lifetime Gift Tax Exemption. This means that you have an additional $130,000 (or $260,000 for a married couple) available for gifting this year. Consider making discounted gifts or outright gifts.
  • Alert, any gifts you want qualified as being made in 2013, must also be accepted or the check cashed, in the year 2013, in order to be considered a complete gift.
  • The IRA charitable rollover is still in effect for 2013 allowing for direct distributions from an IRA to a charity to be excluded from gross income (up to $100,000) and to count as part of the required minimum distribution for individuals over the age of seventy.
  • Remember that if you haven’t reviewed your Estate Planning documentation, now is a good time to do so. Review the fiduciaries you have selected and title designation on assets. Make sure that your beneficiary designations are as you intend on retirement plans.

Elder Law and Planning for Individuals with Disabilities

Schanker and Hochberg P.C. has incorporated planning for issues in the ‘aging community’ such as:

  • Helping to evaluate ways to pay for long term care
  • Making sure the correct planning is in place in case of incompetency issues
  • Providing guidance on the best placement for an individual who needs long term care.
  • Helping to identify the best course of action in managing the affairs of a person who has become incompetent to make decisions on their own
  • Article 81 Guardianship Proceedings (how you can represent a mentally incapacitated person who doesn’t have a Durable General Power of Attorney and/or Health Care Proxy).
  • Fine tuning your Estate Planning when a beneficiary has ‘special needs’ or disabilities so that they do not become ineligible for certain Federal benefits.

Our consultations are comprehensive and provide a personalized and detailed evaluation of available options catered to the situation. There is a consultation fee for evaluations concerning Elder Law issues and planning for individuals with disabilities.

Noteworthy Developments

  • On June 26, 2013 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. This means that in States where same-sex marriage is legal, federal laws providing benefits to married couples must also provide those benefits to same-sex married couples. This decision affects benefits such as COBRA, health insurance coverage, pension provisions in ERISA that mentions spouses, and 401(k) plan provisions that mention spouses. Notably, the unlimited marital deduction will be applied for purposes of the Federal Estate Tax and Gift Taxes.
  • New York passed legislation earlier this year to discontinue a partial tax abatement if a Co-Op or Condo was owned by a Trust instead of an individual. This legislation has been amended to preserve the abatement for Co-Ops and Condos owned in Trusts (such as Revocable Trusts).

Schedule an appointment in our NYC office.
767 Third Avenue, 35th Floor.

Contact us at our main telephone number at (631) 424-5400.
Please see our website for our location addresses.

The Schanker and Hochberg P.C. Paralegal Team: Michele McCann, Amy Fiderer, Nikki Willard,
and Ana Rodriguez.

Paralegal Perspective – Amy Fiderer

I HAVE BEEN A PARALEGAL at Schanker and Hochberg, P.C. for seven years where I draft Estate Planning documents pursuant to Attorney supervision. One very important document we prepare for our clients is the Health Care Decisions Declaration. There are two parts to this document; the Living Will and the Health Care Proxy.

The Living Will is a document which provides that, in the event you are comatose and there is no hope of recovery, you would be allowed to die with dignity. A Living Will is not a Do Not Resuscitate order or a “DNR”.

A “DNR” tells medical professionals not to perform emergency CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) if you stop breathing or if your heart stops beating. Unlike a Living Will, a person can elect for a DNR, even if death is not imminent and the performance of CPR would restore the patient to complete health. Our office does not prepare DNRs for our clients.

The Health Care Proxy is a person who is named to act as your Agent and communicate with your doctors in the event you are unable to do so for yourself. It is important to let your Agent know that they have been nominated and discuss your wishes with them.

Our office does not retain signed copies of your Health Care Decisions Declaration, however, we will prepare multiple originals for your distribution. An original of this document should be given to your primary Agent, your Alternate Agent and your primary care physician. Our office not only instructs our clients to do this, but we also effectuate the mailing of the documents to the necessary parties. Should your agents need to act on your behalf, they will need the signed, original document.

We have a location in Manhattan
767 Third Avenue, 35th Fl. (at 48th St.), New York, New York 10017
Telephone: (212)564-3307

Effective Bystander CPR

NEARLY 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur annually. Effective bystander CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and the use of the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) can increase the chance of survival up to 90%.

The law office of Schanker & Hochberg, P.C. is proud to announce their recent CPR and AED training. Additionally, Schanker and Hochberg have implemented the Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) program by purchasing an AED for their office. “It is our mission to provide a safe atmosphere with a staff that is ready to respond in the event of a medical emergency where the skills of CPR and the use of the AED could save a life in the office and in the community”, says Steven M. Schanker, Esq.

If you are interested in implementing your own Public Access Defibrillation program (training and/or equipment) for home or office, please contact Jason Byron at 631-445-6988, Nationwide Instruction for Cardiovascular Education, Inc.

Common Estate Planning Misconceptions


“I will never become incompetent, get sick, or die.”

According to a survey on estate planning conducted by Harris Interactive for Martindale-Hubbell and lawyers.com, more than half (nearly 55%) of all adult Americans do not have a Will.

The reasons for this, the survey finds, include:

  • Not wanting to think about death or incapacity
  • Not knowing who to approach about creating an Estate Plan
  • People mistakenly thinking that they do not have sufficient assets to justify spending the money and time on Estate Planning.

In addition, uncertainty about who to chose as Fiduciaries (Executor, Guardian, Health Care Agent, Power of Attorney, Trustee, etc.) leads to a kind of “Paralysis.” By not doing anything, you leave these decisions in the hands of strangers. These decisions will be made as a result of a special proceeding in the Surrogate’s Court, which can be costly, and may result in the appointment of someone you would never have intended or worse, the Public Administrator becoming the fiduciary. However, there is always an available choice and an experienced Estate Planning professional can assist is resolving these issues.

Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

Without at least a Will, distribution of assets will be directed by the State in which the decedent dies – often times not reflecting that person’s actual desires.

Planning for the inevitable can make a grievous and stressful time for loved ones less so.

Preparing your own Estate Plan or Not consulting with a specialist.

If you were having Cardio-Thoracic problems, would you consult a Cardiologist or a General Practitioner?

Estate Planning is a highly specialized field with its own set of intricate laws and statutes. An experienced Estate Planning Attorney not only counsels with regard to the law but also provides counseling with regard to the “human factor.” The “human factor” includes decisions about who may be appropriate to act as the Estate fiduciaries and what ages and in what manner should distributions be made to beneficiaries.

Incorrect or Inappropriate Beneficiary Designations.

Making the appropriate Beneficiary designation is important for many reasons. Designations affect tax liability, the value of an asset after its owner dies, as well as the management of that asset. For example, Life Insurance (yes, this is an asset) is included in a decedent’s net worth for Estate Tax purposes. However, there are particular designations of ownership and beneficiary which can exclude the death benefit from the taxable estate all together. Depending on the objective and the taxable net worth, beneficiary designations can minimize or eliminate any Estate Tax, as well as protect unfit beneficiaries from unlimited access and control over an asset.

Another good example are Qualified Retirement Benefits such as 401ks and IRAs. These assets have become more prevalent than ever as a substantial portion of wealth. Strategic beneficiary designations maximizes value and can allow the asset to become multigenerational.

Estate Planning is only for the wealthy and I will not be subject to an Estate Tax.

Today, the Federal Estate Tax Exemption is $5.25 million per person. The New York Estate Tax Exemption is $1 million and is an independent tax from the Federal Estate Tax.

Even if an estate will never be taxable (either federally or by the State), estate tax planning is not the only reason to go forward with an Estate Plan. The “human factor” (described above) comes into play when thinking about custodial decisions for minor or special needs children, as well as considering protections against spendthrift tendencies, creditors, and marital considerations.

“The cost of Estate Planning isn’t worth it.”

The Estate Tax is commonly referred to as a “voluntary tax.” There are so many available techniques in Estate Planning which can significantly minimize it or even avoid it all together. Financial planning always includes an Estate Planning analysis.

Probate is no big deal.

Probate is the process of submitting a Will for the Surrogate’s Court review. The Surrogate’s Court requires a “Probate Petition” be filed along with a filing fee (determined by the value of an Estate), commencing this legal proceeding. Ultimately the Court issues “Letters Testamentary” to the named Executor or Executrix in order for him/her to manage the affairs of the Estate. Each statutory distributee must be notified of the proceeding and sign a written consent to the appointment of the Executor or Executrix. Furthermore, Probate is a public proceeding and finally, it incurs unnecessary expenses such as the filing fees and the legal fees. Court intervention is expensive, time consuming, public, and intrusive. A Revocable Living Trust is a document that is commonly referred to as a “Will Substitute” and avoids probate for any assets titled in it at time of death.

Once executing the Estate Planning documents, there is nothing more to do.

An up-to-date asset inventory should be well kept so that the Estate’s representative(s) do not have to search aimlessly through papers to locate records or to track down unknown beneficiaries/fiduciaries.

Fiduciaries (i.e Guardians, Health Care Agents, Attorneys-in-Fact, Trustees, etc.) should know who they are, how to act, and who they can go to for assistance. The Estate Plan is specifically designed to function when you can not, whether in time of incapacity or in time of death. Either way, you are unavailable to act and would obviously not be able to distribute the documents and information necessary for your fiduciaries to act.

Signed documents are not complete. They require the “next step.”

Probate will be avoided by using a Revocable Living Trust to distribute assets only when those assets are already holding in the name of the Trust at time of death.

Beneficiary designations must be effectuated once particular documents are executed.

Gifting Strategies often will require appraisals and assignments once they are documented in order to enjoy the discounts that are available, thus minimizing the taxable estate.

Extensive Services at Schanker and Hochberg P.C.

  1. Complimentary Initial Consultations for Estate Planning, Probate and Estate Administration matters
  2. Complimentary Annual Review meetings for existing clients
  3. Complimentary Family meetings for existing clients
  4. Tax alert services for existing clients

Our main office is housed in an elegantly restored Victorian structure in the heart of Huntington Village. Here, we welcome you and your family into a relaxing, warm setting where we will work together to improve your circumstances and achieve your goals.

To better serve our clients and their families, we also have convenient office locations in Midtown Manhattan and New Jersey; we also offer our services to clientele in Florida.

GENERAL DISCLAIMER: While we hope this newsletter provides useful information, please know that this newsletter does not predict or guarantee the outcome or result in any particular situation and no attorney-client relationship exists or is established as a result of this newsletter or its receipt.

Highlighted S&H Attorney:
R. Mark Hochberg

R. Mark Hochberg received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Rutgers University, a law degree from Brooklyn Law School and a graduate law degree with a concentration in estate planning and taxation from the University of Miami Law School. Mr. Hochberg is a member of the New York, New Jersey and Florida Bars and is admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Mr. Hochberg has lectured and written extensively on estate planning topics. He was an adjunct instructor at Adelphi University for a ten year period of time and he is a former columnist for Financial World Magazine, where he wrote a monthly column on a wide range of issues dealing with personal and estate planning. Mr. Hochberg has been interviewed in the New York Times and other prominent publications and has written articles for The Tax Advisor and The CPA Journal.

His patient and understanding manner is well-suited for the field he has chosen: “I enjoy working with and helping people. This area of the law is not detached and impersonal as some other specialties are. Estate planning is a cooperative process; it is not confrontational in nature.”

Mr. Hochberg resides in Plainview, New York with his wife, a financial consultant, and his two daughters.

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