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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama Calls It ‘Victory for America

Posted On: June 26, 2015

According to the ABC News website today:

“In a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that gay and lesbian couples across the country have a constitutional right to marry.

The 5-4 decision caps a long and often contentious battle over what many have called the “defining civil rights challenge of our time.”

While the ruling, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, recognizes a centuries-old “understanding” of marriage as “a union between two persons of the opposite sex,” it says “the history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.”

“That institution — even as confined to opposite-sex relations — has evolved over time,” the Supreme Court’s ruling says.

“Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.”

At least 36 states plus the District of Columbia currently recognize gay marriage in some form. The other states, meanwhile, passed state laws banning same-sex marriage.

Read the full story here: Supreme Court Ends Same Sex Marriage Ban


Living in Places Such as 55-Plus Condos

Posted On: June 05, 2015
55+ Lifestyle communities offer convenience,
affordability, security, and peace of mind.

The Considerations of Entering a Lifestyle Community or Contemplating Buying One in the Process of Being Built: Living in Places Such as 55-Plus Condos.

The past two decades have seen a rise in the number of 55-plus senior lifestyle and independent living communities in existence. This trend is expected to grow as Baby Boomers retire and search for the most hassle-free way to live. Lifestyle communities offer convenience, affordability, security, and peace of mind. They allow seniors to enjoy freedom and independence, but eliminate many of the responsibilities of traditional home ownership. They also ensure seniors are close to social activities and get to stay active as they age, even if their mobility or health is not what it once was.

If you are considering a lifestyle community for residents 55 and old, what should you know?

Not All Retirement Communities are the Same
Many lifestyle communities only allow people over the age of 55 in the facility, but this does not mean everyone there is in his or her 50s. Living in a community could mean sharing space and social time with people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, something that might not be appealing to those only in their 50s. According to the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), 70 percent of independent living residents were female and the median age was 80.6, with most residents moving in between the ages of 75 to 84.

Another thing to consider is just because you are surrounded by people your own age does not mean you are automatically going to be friends with everyone. Before you choose a community, get an idea for the age range of residents and how the facility organizes activities. This can give you an indication of whether or not you will feel comfortable and fit in as a resident.

Some retirement communities make it a priority to keep residents as healthy and happy as possible with access to plenty of organized activities, but this is not always the case. Ask yourself, “Is this a place where I can feel young while I’m growing old?” If your preference is to lead an active senior lifestyle, look for a community that makes access to social activities easy and plentiful.

Money Matters
Financial considerations are also a factor. Before committing to a senior community, be sure you understand all of the fees involved and what those fees include. Also determine how various payments are made to the community. It is important to have an attorney familiar with retirement and senior living look over any documents before you make a commitment. Fees paid to a senior living community association could be put toward the following:

  • Home maintenance and repair
  • Gardening and landscaping
  • Pools and spas, including maintenance and repairs
  • Fire and theft insurance
  • Golf, tennis, and other sports recreation
  • Snow plow, trash, and other local services
  • Cable television access
  • Home utilities
  • Security services
  • Costs of retrofitting to accommodate aging
  • Commuting costs to activities
  • Home and facility security

Some to-be-built communities ask that residents make financial commitments prior to their development. If you are interested in a planned community that is not yet fully operational, collect all the details available and discuss the opportunity with your family and attorney. It is common for communities to ask for a commitment in advance, but it is important you understand any risks involved.

Planning for the Future
Finally, determine how much assistance a community provides for your future needs. At 55 or 65, you might be just as active as you were in your 30s and 40s (some people are even more active!). However, there will likely come a time that you will need support and assistance with day to day activities. Does the community provide this support? Are there facilities on premises that make it safe and convenient to visit the doctor or dentist, grocery shop, or participate in social activities? If your goal is to make a long-term commitment to a community, you need to be sure it offers what you need now and in the coming years.

Investing in a home within a lifestyle community is a great way to create a secure future. These communities often provide everything you could want during your golden years, including fun perks and opportunities to remain active. However, not every senior community is right for every person. Understanding what a community offers is essential to choosing the one that is right for you.



Same sex marriages: Many Issues to Consider before Tying the Knot

Posted On: May 12, 2015

 Same sex couples face many of the same challenges as
mixed-gender couples when planning for marriage.

Same sex marriages are recognized by Federal law and in many states, including New York, but there are still issues to think about before heading to the alter.

Same sex couples face many of the same challenges as mixed-gender couples when planning for marriage. As laws continue to change and more and more same sex couples decide to legally tie the knot, there are several things they must consider. This is especially true for future spouses established in their careers and financial lives. Like any couple planning to marry, the more assets and possessions you bring to the marriage the more you have at risk. Before taking the marital plunge, discuss with your partner the following:

Same sex marriages: Finances
Most experts agree it is important for same-sex couples to truly take initiative when it comes to financial matters. This is especially the case if they will live in a state that does not yet recognize same-sex marriage. A few of the most important financial questions to ask include:

  • What is our current financial situation and what are our mutual financial goals? Make sure you each understand one another’s debt situation, as well as your general attitudes toward money.
  • What are our retirement plans and what can be done to prepare for retirement? At the moment, social security benefits are available only in states where same-sex marriage is legally recognized, so you should create an alternate plan for income if there is a risk you will not qualify to receive benefits under your spouse. Alternative retirement savings is a smart decision regardless of your state’s specific laws, but even more so when there are no guarantees. Laws are likely to change, but for now it is best to prepare for the worst case scenario.
  • Is marriage the best practical decision? Marriage changes how taxes are filed and might not be the smartest financial option depending on your circumstances. Speak with a tax attorney about how marriage will change your tax situation. Marriage could cause ineligibility for certain benefits, such as financial aid for education.

A prenuptial agreement can be a good tool for avoiding conflicts should your marriage end. Consider the same questions same-sex couples consider when determining if a pre-nup is right for you:

  • Do either of you own substantial property?
  • Is there a significant wealth discrepancy between you and your partner?
  • Do you or your partner own a business?
  • Do you or your partner have children from a previous marriage?

Same sex marriages: Estate Planning
Some of the issues addressed in a pre-nuptial agreement could also be addressed in a will. It is important to create a clear legal plan for your estate that will govern what happens to your assets once you die. You should create a will that states your intentions, regardless how much your estate is worth. Planning your estate also gives you an opportunity to assign power of attorney to your partner and share information about medical directives. Also make sure you have listed the correct beneficiaries for your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

Same sex marriages: Children
If you or your partner has children from a previous relationship, you need to know who will be responsible for the children if something happens to either of you. Some choose to legally adopt their partner’s children to eliminate any questions. If your state does not allow co-parent adoption, consider co-guardianship or co-parenting arrangements.

Same sex marriages: Practical Matters
Whether or not same-sex marriage is legal in your state has little bearing if you are otherwise not eligible to legally marry. In order to marry, you must meet certain age, family relations, and mental capacity criteria. Laws vary from state to state, but in general, you must be of sound mind, legally an adult or emancipated from parents or have parent permission, and not be closely related to your spouse. Individuals must also end previous marriages before they can enter into a new one.

Choosing to marry your partner is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. As tempting as it is to be swept up in romance and the new opportunities unfolding throughout the country, it is important to take smart, well-planned steps on your way to the alter.


Speaking at the NALS of New York Annual Meeting & Educational Conference

Posted On: April 30, 2015

Concetta Spirio, Family & Divorce Attorney speaking at the recent 2015 NALS of New York Annual Meeting & Educational Conference On Divorce: The Differences & Benefits of Mediation and Collaborative vs Litigation.


When to Bring a Real Estate Attorney into Your Home Buying or Selling Process

Posted On: April 22, 2015

Buying and selling real estate is an exciting experience that can be complex, but it is something people do everyday. Some even do it without any official representation, but this can be a risky gamble. At the very least, most work with a buyer’s or seller’s agent when conducting real estate business. However, there is another professional that can provide assistance and protection when participating in a real estate deal.
How can you determine if a real estate attorney is necessary in the buying and selling process?

What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?
You might assume a real estate attorney and real estate agent do the same thing, but this is actually not the case. Real Estate Attorneys oversee the legal aspects of buying and selling. Their job is to ensure the rights of the client they represent are protected. Doing so requires checking the sales contract or buyer commitment, checking the property’s title for liens, reviewing mortgage loan documents, and arranging for the payment of any loans associated with the property.

The difference between an attorney and a real estate agent is that an attorney has no stake in whether or not a property sells. An agent relies on the sale of the property to earn a commission, whereas an attorney will be paid for the hours he or she invests in the deal, whether or not it is completed. The agent has a stake in selling or buying the home, whereas the attorney has an interested in doing what is best for his or her client, even if that means the sale or purchase falls through. Of course, working with an attorney increases the odds a deal will be completed successfully.

The benefit of working with a real estate attorney is that he or she works to protect you from financial loss. There is a variety of ways a buyer or seller could lose money in a real estate transaction, so the attorney takes the time to review everything associated with the purchase or sale to ensure this does not happen. It is possible for a real estate agent or the buyer or seller to accomplish this, but depending on the situation, it is well worth the investment to have an attorney oversee the transaction.

Knowing When an Attorney is Necessary
So how do you know if an attorney is necessary when participating in a real estate transaction?

Essentially, it is up to you and your comfort level with the process. If you believe someone is going to work to protect your best interest and has the full capability to do so, you might forgo an attorney. However, doing so is risky.

This is due in part to the complicated nature of real estate contracts. You should never sign anything that you do not completely understand and with which you are not 100% comfortable, especially when it comes to real estate. If you are unsure of any detail included in a real estate contract, an attorney can review the document and better explain to you what it means.

Even if you have purchased or sold real estate in the past, it might be a good idea to work with an attorney now. Any time something is even the slightest bit out of the ordinary, you need the added protection of an attorney. Likewise if you are a first time buyer, buying investment property, purchasing property for above average value, or purchasing more than one property at the same time.

The bottom line is no two real estate transactions are the same. More than five million homes were sold in 2014 and each situation had its own unique set of details. Working with a real estate attorney offers a significant return on investment that you are not likely to regret.



Why You Need a Will Regardless of the Size of Your Estate

Posted On: March 23, 2015
Failing to plan your estate can create challenges for your
survivors in the long run. That’s why everyone needs
a will regardless of the size of your estate.

Wills are often viewed as tools of the wealthy for ensuring an estate stays intact and assets are distributed to chosen heirs in a particular way. If you are someone with very few assets or assets that are of little to average value, you might assume a will is unnecessary. Unfortunately, failing to plan your estate can create challenges for your survivors in the long run.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than half a million elder Americans are victims of financial elder abuse on an annual basis. This number is expected to increase as the Baby Boomer generation ages and there are more seniors needing care and supervision. If you want to protect your estate, even if it is what you consider average or below average, or you have non-financial assets to protect, you must create a will.

You Need a Will If You are a Parent
First and foremost, no matter your net worth or assets, if you are a parent you need to create a will. This ensures that if you – and your partner if he or she shares parenting responsibilities – are unable to care for your children, a guardian of your choice will be appointed. There is a chance your children will end up in the care of this person anyway, but why risk it? Stating your wishes in a will shortens the legal process and avoids any questions.

In addition to providing instructions regarding the care of your children, a will can also be used to minimize the taxes owed on your estate and potentially avoid the lengthy probate process. Taxes on estates can be as high as 50%, but an attorney experienced in estate planning can help you create an arrangement that protects as much of your estate as possible from Uncle Sam.

You Need a Will Even If You Do Not Own a Home
If you own any possessions at all and you want them to be given to specific people upon your death, you must create a will. Even if your estate amounts to nothing more than a cell phone and a few baseball cards, if you want to appoint an heir, a will is necessary. Without one, the state chooses your heirs and determines how much each receives.

You Need a Will Now, Not When You are Older or Unhealthy
You want to create a will as soon a possible because in addition to protecting your estate, it creates a legally binding plan for your own care. Though you might think a will is not necessary until you are older or a parent, this document is used to guide decisions about your health care in the event of an accident or illness. This is known as durable power of attorney for healthcare and it ensures your wishes are honored if you suffer unexpected injuries or illnesses that prevent you from communicating your wishes in real-time. This includes whether to use life-sustaining measures to prolong your life.

Durable power of attorney can also apply to financial issues. A will allows you to assign power of attorney to a trusted relative, friend, or even your lawyer. He or she will be in charge of making decisions about your money on your behalf.

Not sure where to begin when it comes to creating your will? An attorney can help you with important decisions and the creation of a document that will be accepted by the legal system in your state.

If you want to protect your family, and alleviate your concerns about “what happens”, call Concetta Spirio at 631-277-8844 today to learn about the benefits of having a Trusts, Wills and Estates attorney on your side. This is a no obligation initial consultation with personal service.



Concetta Spirio to speak at the 2015 NALS of NY Meeting

Posted On: March 09, 2015

Concetta Spirio, a highly experienced family and divorce attorney, will be speaking at the 2015 NALS of New York Annual Meeting and Educational Conference, hosted by: NALS of Suffolk County… the association for legal professionals on April 18, 2015. Concetta Will be speaking on the topic of DIVORCE: THE DIFFERENCE AND BENEFITS OF MEDIATION AND COLLABORATION V.S. LITIGATION.



Posted On: March 03, 2015

This press release came our way and the information is so important we wanted to share it with you:

Contact: Neal Patel (Heller): 202-224-6244; Rachel McCleery (Stabenow): 202-224-4822

Senators Heller, Stabenow Introduce Legislation to Eliminate Unfair Tax Bills.
Bipartisan Legislation Will Ensure Mortgage Forgiveness Is Not Taxed as Income.

At present Home owners in foreclosure could face an enormous tax bill if they negotiate a reduction of their debt with the lender. There is now hope that will not be the case for 2015 and 2016 Senators Heller and Stabenow have once again introduced legislation to extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act for another 2 years (covering 2015 and 2016).

According to a recent press release, U.S. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure, when homeowners work with their banks to reduce their mortgage payments, those homeowners will not be hit with a huge tax bill. Without this legislation, homeowners will be required to pay additional taxes when they receive mortgage principal forgiveness on their homes or sell their homes in what are commonly called “short sales.”

“Unless Congress acts, those who are underwater in their homes and have received financial relief for their mortgage could be forced to pay a tax on income they never received. This makes no sense, and the legislation Senator Stabenow and I introduced ensures it won’t happen,” said Senator Dean Heller. “As a member of the Senate Finance Committee I look forward to finding a vehicle to pass this important legislation.”

“It is bad enough that so many families are faced with mortgages that now exceed the value of their home,” said Senator Stabenow. “But to add insult to injury, without this bipartisan legislation, the IRS would require that families willing to work with their lenders pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in additional income tax when they sell or refinance their home. That’s just wrong.”

Declining home prices and rising foreclosure rates have forced many families to sell their homes for less than they paid for them, and sometimes for less than the outstanding debt. The IRS formerly taxed any loan forgiveness provided to homeowners as “income,” meaning underwater families were paying thousands of dollars in income tax for phantom income that wasn’t actual money the family had earned.

While the housing market is beginning to recover, short sales and foreclosures continue. More than one in six (the rate is 16.9%) American homeowners are currently underwater on their mortgages.

Sens. Stabenow and Heller have worked together several times to extend a provision that would protect homeowners from having mortgage relief taxed as income, most recently in the Tax Increase Prevention Act, which extended the tax break through 2014. Their new legislation will extend the current moratorium on taxing mortgage forgiveness through 2016.