Issue 03
September 2010
Welcome to the Law Offices of Valerie A. Shivers, P.C. From the purchase of your first home to planning your estate for your grandchildren – we strive to be your family attorney. In this monthly newsletter we will focus on relevant changes in the law that may affect you personally, or your business.  We will help detail how these changes may affect you, how you may take advantage of new changes in the law, as well as provide you with things to consider as you approach different milestones throughout your life. This newsletter will also serve as an outlet to keep you informed on all that is happening with Valerie A. Shivers, P.C.

In This Issue


  1. What's New With VAS, P.C.
  2. Elder Law Spotlight
  3. Estate Planning Spotlight
  4. Real Estate Spotlight

Focus Areas


Elder Law

  • Medicaid Planning
  • Guardianships
  • Veterans Benefits

Estate Planning & Administration

  • Wills & Trusts
  • Will Probate
  • Estate Administration
  • Advanced Directives
  • Special Needs Planning

Real Estate

  • Residential
  • Commercial

About Us


Valerie A. Shivers, P.C. is a full service law firm that specializes in legal issues related to protecting your family assets, as well as growing your personal wealth & real estate.  We pride ourselves in ensuring that there is a plan in place to properly secure your estate and prevent unnecessary tax penalties when acquiring new assets or transferring your current assets to your beneficiaries.

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 What’s New with VAS, P.C.?

Valerie A. Shivers, P.C. gives back...

Two Upcoming Events:

  1. Alzheimer’s Memory Walk - Saturday, September 11 at 8:30am. Old Bethpage Restoration Village, Round Swamp Road, Old Bethpage, NY – to make a donation please click here:
  2. Party For A Cure – Wednesday, September 8, 2010 – 8pm – 12am – Kodiak’s Restaurant and Bar – 1815 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale, NY $10.00 Donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will include 1 free drink and a chance to win great raffle prizes!

 Elder Law Spotlight


Steinbrenner - Fourth Billionaire in 2010 to Escape Taxes, if not Death

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is the fourth known U.S. billionaire to die during 2010, according to Forbes magazine. Why is this significant? Because there is no estate tax in 2010, meaning that the U.S. Treasury has lost billions in tax revenues unless Congress acts between now and the end of the year to reinstate the tax retroactively.

Steinbrenner was worth an estimated $1.5 billion, meaning his heirs could save as much as $600 million in taxes because he died this year. Steinbrenner's wealth -- mostly consisting of the Yankees, a new stadium and a regional cable network -- could pass to his wife tax-free even if the estate tax were in effect, but this year she might have an incentive to disclaim (or turn down) any bequest, which would allow the assets to pass to Steinbrenner's four children free of federal tax. (But, as the Probate Lawyer Blog points out, Steinbrenner's family would have to pay a huge capital gains tax if it were to sell any highly appreciated assets, since along with the disappearance of the estate tax, there is no "step-up" in the cost basis of inherited assets during 2010.)

The other billionaires to die in 2010 are Janet Morse Cargill of the family that founded Cargill Inc. (net worth: $1.6 billion), Texas pipeline magnate Dan Duncan ($9.8 billion), and California real estate mogul Walter Shorenstein ($1.1 billion). By rough calculation, their deaths in 2010 have cost the government some $6.5 billion.

Motivated by the billion-dollar estates passing to heirs tax-free, Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and four co-sponsors have introduced a bill that would return the estate tax to the 2009 exemption level of $3.5 million but add a progressive tax rate structure that would start at 45 percent, rise to a top level of 55 percent, and add a 10 percent surtax on billionaires. The proposal would be retroactive to the start of 2010.

The Responsible Estate Tax Act (S. 3533), introduced on June 24, 2010, is cosponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). According to its sponsors, the proposal would bring in at least $264 billion over a decade while exempting 99.7 percent of Americans from paying any estate tax. The retroactivity provision would likely face a court challenge from heirs of wealthy individuals such as Steinbrenner.

"At a time when we have a record-breaking $13 trillion national debt and an unsustainable federal deficit, people who inherit multimillion- and billion-dollar estates must pay their fair share in estate taxes," three of the senators said in a letter accompanying the bill's release.

The year without an estate tax is a creature of the Bush tax cuts. Under the provisions of a tax-cut bill enacted in 2001, the value of estates exempt from the tax gradually went up over the past eight years while the tax rate on estates was reduced. During 2010, according to the 2001 law, the estate tax disappears entirely, only to be restored in 2011 at a rate of 55 percent on estates of $1 million or more, which is where things stood before the 2001 change.

 Estate Planning & Administration Spotlight

10 Reasons to Create an Estate Plan NOW

Many people think that estate plans are for someone else, not them. They may rationalize that they are too young or don't have enough money to reap the tax benefits of a plan. But as the following list makes clear, estate planning is for everyone, regardless of age or net worth. (For more information on estate planning, see our Estate Planning Section at

1. Loss of capacity. What if you become incompetent and unable to manage your own affairs? Without a plan the courts will select the person to manage your affairs. With a plan, you pick that person (through a power of attorney).

2. Minor children. Who will raise your children if you die? Without a plan, a court will make that decision. With a plan, you are able to nominate the guardian of your choice.

3. Dying without a will. Who will inherit your assets? Without a plan, your assets pass to your heirs according to your state's laws of intestacy (dying without a will). Your family members (and perhaps not the ones you would choose) will receive your assets without benefit of your direction or of trust protection. With a plan, you decide who gets your assets, and when and how they receive them.

4. Blended families. What if your family is the result of multiple marriages? Without a plan, children from different marriages may not be treated as you would wish. With a plan, you determine what goes to your current spouse and to the children from a prior marriage or marriages.

5. Children with special needs. Without a plan, a child with special needs risks being disqualified from receiving Medicaid or SSI benefits, and may have to use his or her inheritance to pay for care. With a plan, you can set up a Supplemental Needs Trust that will allow the child to remain eligible for government benefits while using the trust assets to pay for non-covered expenses.

6. Keeping assets in the family. Would you prefer that your assets stay in your own family? Without a plan, your child's spouse may wind up with your money if your child passes away prematurely. If your child divorces his or her current spouse, half of your assets could go to the spouse. With a plan, you can set up a trust that ensures that your assets will stay in your family and, for example, pass to your grandchildren.

7. Financial security. Will your spouse and children be able to survive financially? Without a plan and the income replacement provided by life insurance, your family may be unable to maintain its current living standard. With a plan, life insurance can mean that your family will enjoy financial security.

8. Retirement accounts. Do you have an IRA or similar retirement account? Without a plan, your designated beneficiary for the retirement account funds may not reflect your current wishes and may result in burdensome tax consequences for your heirs (although the rules regarding the designation of a beneficiary have been eased considerably). With a plan, you can choose the optimal beneficiary.

9. Business ownership. Do you own a business? Without a plan, you don't name a successor, thus risking that your family could lose control of the business. With a plan, you choose who will own and control the business after you are gon.

10. Avoiding probate. Without a plan, your estate may be subject to delays and excess fees (depending on the state), and your assets will be a matter of public record. With a plan, you can structure things so.

Real Estate Spotlight

The Importance of Choosing a Real Estate Attorney that FOCUSES on Real Estate Law...

Could a personal injury attorney represent you in a marital or divorce law matter?  Yes, but WOULD YOU trust the attorney that helped you with a personal injury law suit to represent you when discussing the matters of marital laws and statutes?  Probably not.  

Could a divorce attorney represent you in a criminal case?  Yes, but WOULD YOU ask that same divorce attorney to represent you if you were pulled over for drunk driving?  Again, probably not.  

Although the above questions are rhetorical, the answer should be a resounding NO!  You should not use an attorney that does not specialize in a specific type of law when representing you in an important legal matter, because the lawyer is not practiced in that field and may not stay relevant on the ever-changing laws and statutes that may be relevant to your case.  So why should one of the largest transactions in your life - the purchase of a new home - be any different?

Here is the skinny on a lawyer’s ability to practice a specific type of law.  Anyone that has passed the Bar Exam in NY State to become a NY State Attorney can technically represent you in any legal matter, including your real estate transaction.  This means that your family attorney, family friend, relative or anyone else you may know with a NY State Attorney's License certified by the NY State Bar Association can, and most likely will, take on your real estate transaction as an opportunity to make a 'quick buck’. This doesn’t mean they should however.

Although it may not seem difficult to draft or negotiate a real estate contract, it is important to remember that when signing you name “on the dotted line” you are entering into a legally binding agreement. Your attorney should be able to explain each and every paragraph of the contract to you in a manner that’s easily understood. In addition, it’s important that your attorney advise you of the risks you may encounter by entering into a legally binding agreement.  It’s important that your real estate attorney know how to tailor the contract in a way that will best protect your interests and preserve your ultimate goal of buying or selling a home.

It is highly unlikely that an attorney whose focus does not lie with real estate transactions fails to stay relevant with the ever-changing real estate laws and statutes that govern these types of transactions. Even if the attorney follows the law, the attorney that does not practice in real estate law may not be familiar enough with the process to ask the questions up-front in order to foresee or prevent any roadblocks from killing your deal and protecting your assets - whether those assets include the home you are trying to sell, or the hefty down-payment you may have signed over to the Seller in anticipation of obtaining your mortgage.

A recent article in 'The Real Deal', a popular NY real estate news periodical, specifically targeted these attorneys, calling them 'Deal Killers'.  Check out the snippet from the article entitled, "Deal Killers: Real Estate's Most Wanted" below or follow the link below to read the full article:

Buyers and sellers sometimes don't put much thought into who does their closing, often hiring a family friend or relative. It's also common these days for price-conscious buyers to seek out attorneys with low fees.

But in the current climate, closings are incredibly complicated, and the wrong lawyer can spell doom for the sale.

"There are a lot of attorneys [who] can kill deals," said Kathy Braddock, the cofounder of Charles Rutenberg Realty in Manhattan.

It's important to hire a New York City attorney who "does closings day in and day out," Braddock said. "If you only do one a year, as brilliant as you are in law, you sometimes miss what you should be looking for."

Attorneys need to be able to spot potential problems with a building or apartment, but not get so overzealous in representing their clients' interests that they harp on insignificant details, or try to renegotiate the deal.

"I've had attorneys kill deals based on things that, in my mind, didn't make any sense," said Scott Klein, an associate broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman. For example, in one transaction involving an all-cash buyer (a graduate student with a trust fund), the co-op board asked the buyer to put a year of maintenance in escrow, which Klein thought "was totally reasonable."

But the seller's attorney then asked to increase that to two years, which did not go over well with the buyer. The attorney "almost killed the deal," Klein said. "If the co-op was okay with one year, what does he care? It was ridiculous."

Brokers should always be ready to recommend a good local attorney to clients, Braddock said.


Please feel free to send your issues, questions or concerns to, or submit a question on our website to be addressed in upcoming editions of this newsletter.