Dear Mr. Di Costanzo:  Why do I need a Will or Trust if all my accounts have designated beneficiaries?

Beneficiary designations are extremely important and one of the most overlooked tools in an estate plan.  For certain assets, such as retirement accounts, the lack of a designated beneficiary can cause adverse tax consequences.  One of the tangential benefits of beneficiary designations is that upon the death of the account owner, the asset will automatically pass to the designated beneficiaries and avoid the hassle of probate or administration of the estate.  Surprisingly, however, in certain circumstances, designating beneficiaries can lead to unintended consequences. Read more

Dear Mr. Di Costanzo:

Can I act under my father’s power of attorney after he dies?

One of the most important estate planning documents one can prepare is a power of attorney. It allows you to appoint someone else, your agent, to a handle your financial matters. All powers of attorney are durable, meaning that they survive your incapacity. For instance, if you sign a power of attorney appointing your daughter as your agent, your daughter’s authority to act continues even if you lose your mental capacity. If you fail to prepare a power of attorney, or if you have a poorly prepared power of attorney, it is likely that your family will have to contemplate a guardianship proceeding to handle your financial affairs while you are alive but incompetent. Read more

The Secure Act

On December 15th, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed into law legislation substantially amending the New York General Obligations Law, which is the law that governs powers of attorney in New York.  Effective June 13th, 2021, the new law, among other things, modifies the form of a power of attorney.  The new form must be used beginning June 13th, 2021, however, a power of attorney drafted prior to the effective date is still valid.  This article provides a brief overview of the key changes made by the new legislation.

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Dear Mr. Di Costanzo: Should I prepare an estate plan before I leave for college?Congratulations to everyone headed off to college.  My favorite Animal House quote is when Belushi says “seven years of college down the drain”.  Although college should be stimulating from both an academic and social perspective, try not to be there for seven years. Read more

The Perils and Pitfalls of Owning a Co-op

As many of you know, I practice as a tax accountant as well as an elder law and estate planning attorney.  This blog is an example of the interdisciplinary nature of my practice.

On March 11, 2021, President Biden enacted the American Rescue Plan (“ARP”).  Oddly, certain provisions of the ARP relate back to 2020 and may have an impact on your 2020 income tax return.  Under the ARP, the first $10,200 of unemployment compensation, received in 2020, is tax-free so long as your 2020 adjusted gross income is less than $150,000.  If you are married, both you and your spouse may each exclude $10,200.00.

Seeing that two-thirds of the tax filing season has elapsed, this relief creates somewhat of a tax filing headache for those of you who have already filed your 2020 tax returns.  Unfortunately, you will need to amend your 2020 tax returns to obtain this benefit.  If you are in the process of preparing your 2020 tax returns with an accountant, you should remind your accountant that you have unemployment compensation since this is crunch time for accountants and many may be unaware of this retroactive law.

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