Lenza Law Firm, PLLC-Estate Planning, Elder Law and Medicaid Planning- Staten Island » Lenza Law Firm, PLLC is estate planning and elder law firm with a focus is Elder Law, Probate, Estate Administration, Estate Planning, and Medicaid Asset Protection in Staten Island, New York. Lenza Law Firm, PLLC Island,is dedicated solely to offering legal advice in estate planning, elder law, Medicaid planning, Nursing Home and estate administration matters

59f9ca4e9d2ac.imageI’ve received many calls and e-mails from clients about whether there is a need to address pre-existing estate plans in the wake of the new changes that were recently signed into law by President Trump. While for most clients no changes will be necessary there are important things to consider.

Under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act most taxpayers “will never pay a federal estate tax,” however with the expanded exemption many reasons exist to engage in estate planning.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 increases the federal estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemptions to $10 million (indexed for inflation) per person beginning on Jan. 1, 2018. Remember that this is NOT a “per couple” exemption, as a married husband and wife this amount is $20 million per couple (again indexed for inflation).

The exemptions are scheduled to sunset effective Jan. 1, 2026, with reversion to current federal law. Of course, possible repeal of the tax law in a subsequent Congress is always on the table, so please keep abreast of any changes that occur and if you have any questions our staff here at Lenza Law Firm, PLLC will be happy to answer any appropriate questions.

But as the law stands now, high-net-worth clients and their advisors should pay close attention to the following areas:

  • Estate planning.  As always, Trusts can provide protection from creditors and divorcing spouses and provide control over how beneficiaries inherit wealth (particularly important for families with spendthrift, mental illness and addiction considerations) and help preserve wealth for generations. it is always important to communicate with your planner about properties held out of state, as some states do have specific estate tax and inheritance tax rules.
  • Portability election. As mentioned above, he portability election, which allows a surviving spouse to use the deceased spouse’s unused federal estate and gift tax exemption, is unchanged. This means a married couple can use the full $20 million exemption (indexed for inflation).
  • Estate tax exposure. For very high net-worth clients who will still have federal estate tax exposure and clients who live or own property in states with their own estate tax, the traditional wealth transfer strategies will still be useful. Clients will want to review their federal estate tax exposure under the new rules.
  • Basis step-up at death. The step-up in tax cost, by which a decedent’s assets obtain a step-up in their tax cost to their fair market value at the date of death, is not changed. With the step-up in tax cost retained and a much higher federal estate tax exemption, income tax planning becomes a much more important element in estate planning and estate administration.
  • Annual exclusion gifts. Individuals will want to consider whether making gifts during their lifetimes is the right tax planning strategy for them. The gift tax annual exclusion amount is $15,000. The gift tax annual exclusion amount remains subject to an inflation adjustment.

So from this practitioner’s humble perspective, in terms of Estate Planning this new law has not changed any of the important strategies and tools used to preserve wealth and ensure the efficient transfer of assets post death and has in fact added an entire new class of people who can utilize some strategies (those with net worth between 10 and 21 million dollars). It is important to note that all laws are subject to repeal and adjustment, so keep an eye in the future on how Congress and the Executive branch handle these issues in the next 5-10 years.


I am proud to announce that I have been granted the absolute honor to be appointed as a Board Member for the Staten Island Center for Independent Living, located here in Staten Island. Through my work with this organization I will  join with those in our community who are strong advocates for the independent living of the disabled population of Staten Island.  For information on this great organization visit The SICIL Website by clicking here

What is Independent Living?

The History of the Independent Living Movement and it’s importance today.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the emerging philosophy of independent living led people with disabilities from around the country to take active roles on local, state, and national levels in shaping decisions on issues affecting their lives. A major part of these activities involved formation of community-based groups of people with different types of disabilities who worked together to identify barriers and gaps in service delivery. To address barriers, action plans were developed to educate the community and to influence policy makers at all levels to change regulations and to introduce barrier-removing legislature. To address gaps in services, a new method of service delivery was conceived–one which emphasizes the role of people with disabilities in determining kinds of services essential to living independently, directing the delivery of these services, and actually providing these services.

The earliest center was formed in 1972 in Berkeley, California, soon followed that same year by centers in Boston and Houston. In 1978, following effective advocacy by people with disabilities and their supporters all over the country, federal legislation was passed that provided funding to establish independent living centers (Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act). Today, there are centers in virtually every state and U.S. territory. In fact, there are 37 Centers in New York State alone.

Independent living is about CHOICE and equal opportunity. We all have the right to make our own decisions -about working, housing, learning, and having fun. People with disabilities have had to struggle for that right-for centuries others thought they knew what was best for them and how they should live. And until the group joined together as a civil rights movement, few people thought of removing barriers-in buildings, in print, in speaking, in attitudes- so that the disabled would have the same OPTIONS as everyone else.



The Staten Island Center for Independent Living, Inc., is a non-residential resource center that offers services to individuals with disabilities of all ages, their families, significant others, teachers, employers, businesses, and those who believe that an individual with a disability has the right to take responsibility for his/her own life.

The center is unique in that it is primarily staffed and governed by professionals who have had a personal experience with a disability and believe that disability does not mean inability. Our services include:



The center has joined other agencies in lobbying for legislation that assists individuals with disabilities. Some of its successes are: The Americans with Disabilities Act; Local Law 59 and the Telecommunications Act.

The Work Incentive Act, Guide Dog Regulations, and Handicapped Parking laws have been enacted this year as a result of our advocacy.

We are about to join with the New York Consortium of Independent Living Centers in New York City and disability advocates throughout the country to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A workshop focusing on transition from school to work for disabled students and a torch ceremony that will include the five boroughs will be two of many celebrations that will occur this year.


Architectural Barrier Consultation

The center assists consumers in making their homes and work places accessible. It has also consulted with Snug Harbor, senior citizens residences, architects, builders, etc.


Benefits Advisement

The center assists consumers in their attempts to receive Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Discounts on utilities, Veterans benefits, etc.

This year it was awarded a contract with the Human Resources Administration titled PRIDE 2000 that assists welfare beneficiaries with disabilities in leaving the welfare roles, finding benefits that will assist them in returning to work with the skills that are needed to give them independence and responsibility.



The center offers personal, peer, individual, and group counseling. Currently there are two groups that meet on a weekly basis. These groups are composed of consumers with a variety of disabilities.

We run a Support/Educational Group for Women with Disabilities that focuses on teaching these women how to identify, prevent, and escape abuse/abusive situations. The group meets once a week for 1 1/2 hours and addresses topics such as the 17 signs of an abusive personality, definitions of abuse focusing on disability-related abuse and coping/healing skills that survivors can implement when handling/leaving an abusive relationship.

We also run a Health and Wellness Group for Women with Disabilities which features topics such as healthy eating habits and individualized exercise plans. The importance of taking charge of one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health is also discussed. The role of vitamins, minerals, and medications in the lives of women with disabilities are covered as well.

These groups are open to women 21 years of age and over with all types of disabilities. It must be noted that these are support and educational groups and not therapeutic groups. If interested, call Michelle at (718) 720-9016.


Housing Assistance

The center attempts to find affordable and accessible housing. It is a member of the Inter-agency Council for the Aging, Councilman Oddo’s Round Table on Housing Issues and was awarded a contract with the office of Housing Preservation and Development to assist individuals in completing applications; assisting at the Housing Court; advising builders of local laws related to the building code; and testifying at hearings about the housing needs of individuals with disabilities.


Transportation Assistance

The center offers limited transportation to the center, other agencies, the Elizabeth Connelly Pool, shopping centers, etc.

It also assists consumers in completing applications for Access-A-ride and Half Fare discounts.


Independent Living Skills

The center offers training in banking, budgeting, cooking, grooming, health, and nutrition. Several board members including Jane Milza, (Food Editor of the S.I. Advance), have conducted classes for disabled consumers.


Community Education

The Executive Director and board members have made presentations to a number of civic organizations, students (with and without disabilities), educators, businessmen and women, and other agency directors.


Transition Services

The staff of SICIL participate in meetings of the NYC Board of Education Transition Linkage groups that plans and analyzes services offered to students with disabilities who are about to graduate and enter the adult world, work, or higher education.

The emotional trauma of an unexpected death often includes a range of financial and legal issues which require timely attention.

It is difficult enough for family members to handle the emotional trauma of a death, let alone taking the steps necessary to get these matters in order.

First, you should secure the tangible personal assets, which means all the things that you can touch such as collectibles, dishes, furniture or artwork as the one who executes or represent the will.

It is more important for you and your family to have time to mourn. Bills which needs payment and other financial matters can wait either a week or two without any real aftermath.

You should meet with a lawyer when you are ready but not almost too late to know the steps necessary to do to organize the will. The exact rules of estate planning differ from state to state, the key actions include:

  • FILE THE WILL – In order to get appointed as executor, you should file the will and petition in probate court.
  • COLLECT ASSETS – Find out about everything the deceased owned and file a list of inventory with the court.
  • PAY BILLS AND TAXES – File an estate tax return due within nine months of the date of death.
  • DISTRIBUTE PROPERTY TO HEIRS – When the period for creditors to make claims is still on the process, executors do not pay out all the estate assets.
  • Lastly, file an account with the court containing all the list of income to the estate since the date of death and all the expenses and distributions of the said estate.

Some of the steps might be avoided through trusts or joint ownership arrangements, whoever is in charge is responsible for payment of all the debts, file tax returns and distribute the property to the rightful heirs.

dt-101As we welcome President-Elect Trump into our lives as a key policy maker for the next four years I feel it wise to write about how his election may impact Estate Planning laws, rules and strategies. While it is too early to know what changes (if any) will actually be made, there are some things worth monitoring.

Start first with the fact that many people believe that the whole concept of Estate Tax is actually in jeopardy. There are a few possibilities about how the Estate Tax laws may be changed. Here are some options. As you may remember from previous blog posts, the Federal Estate and Gift Tax, while two separate things, are very much intertwined when determining total tax liability at guest.

  • Immediately permanent repeal of the gift, estate, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax.
  • Permanent repeal of all transfer taxes to take effect over some phase-out period, for example ten years similar to what occurred in 2001. This would also present the risk that the tax may be changed again during such phase out period as happened in the past.
  • Repeal of the estate tax but retention of the gift tax as a backstop to the income tax.
  • Repeal of the estate tax (with or without a repeal of the gift tax) and carryover basis.
  • Repeal of the estate tax (with or without a repeal of the gift tax) and a capital gains tax on death – a capital gains tax on death, for instance. Or maybe a President Trump would treat inheritances as ordinary income.

Another wrinkle in this whole situation is that if there ARE any changes or repeals to the Estate Tax, nobody knows when they would actually be deemed effective. Could it be January 2018? Could it be made retroactive to January 2017 after Trump takes office? Only time will tell.