4 Northeastern states sue Trump administration

Four northeastern democratic states have sued the Trump administration claiming the new federal cap on the $10,000 cap on local and state taxes is unfair and unconstitutional.

New York, New Jersey, Maryland an Connecticut say the new tax overhaul has upended 150 years of precedent and that the deductions are essential to prevent the feds from abridging constitutional states rights. New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement the new law is a result of “hyper-partisan and rushed process.” A State analysis found that the cap will increase New Yorkers taxes by $14.3 billion in 2018 an another $121 billion from 2019 to 2025.

According to the lawsuit filed yesterday in Manhattan Federal Court, the so-called SALT deduction will make it more difficult for the four states to maintain their taxation and fiscal policies, thus “hobbling their sovereign authority to make policy decisions without federal interference.”

The tax law, passed last December, caused some local governments to revise their rules to help last-minute change in federal tax strategies, while homeowners in states with the highest property taxes quickly began looking to prepay bills ahead of the cap.

In a written statement, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the federal government “went after these states deliberately” in crafting the SALT deductions cap.


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How much is rich?

More people are more rich than at any time in our history. The number of 1 percenters has exploded over the last twenty years. But how much money do you need to have to be considered rich? Bloomberg News has given us an answer: $25 million. And that’s basically “welfare” rich

According to Bloomberg, the elite private banks say $25 million is just get you in the door, rich.  To most $25 million is a non-attainablke dream but to the private bankers, it’s the basic tier.

But don’t get the idea that these bankers turn up their noses at those with just a puny few million. Bloomberg quotes Brent Beardsley of Northern trust Corp. who said 505 of their new clients have assets in excess of $10 million, “but to get to the highest level companies have raised the bar.”

What makes people rich these days has changed in the last 20 plus years. In 1994 what made someone rich was $3 million and now $25 million is high net worth.

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Beware of arbitration clauses

In the last ten years business in the U.S. have turned to arbitration to create an alternate system of justice  where “rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients.”

The change has been swift and virtually unnoticed, even though it has meant that tens of millions of Americans have lost a fundamental right: their day in court.”

“This amounts to the whole-scale privatization of the justice system,” said Myriam Gilles, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “Americans are actively being deprived of their rights.”

What has been happening is that companies, large and small have been adding arbitration clauses to contracts and agreements that take away people’s right to sue in a court of law should the situation arise. These simple clauses can take away a person’s right to sue for medical malpractice, sexual harassment, hate crimes, discrimination, theft, fraud, elder abuse and wrongful death.

The family of a 94-year-old woman at a nursing home in Murrysville, Pa., who died from a head wound that had been left to fester, was ordered to go to arbitration. So was a woman in Jefferson, Ala., who sued Honda over injuries she said she sustained when the brakes on her car failed. When an infant was born in Tampa, Fla., with serious deformities, a lawsuit her parents brought against the obstetrician for negligence was dismissed from court because of an arbitration clause.

Little is known about what goes on in arbitration hearings due to confidentiality provisions and the fact the cases don’t have to be reported to the federal government.

The NY Times reports this disturbing issue

Unfettered by strict judicial rules against conflicts of interest, companies can steer cases to friendly arbitrators. In turn, interviews and records show, some arbitrators cultivate close ties with companies to get business.

Arbitrators aren’t required to follow legal procedures like discovery, which enables you to request information from the defendant. Also, there is no regulation or rule that requires arbitrators to take the law and legal precedent into account in making their decisions. They’re supposed to, but aren’t legally required to do so.

And here is probably the most important aspect of arbitration, most decisions cannot be appealed.

Mandatory arbitration is a lose-lose situation. Don’t deal with anyone who requires a mandatory binding arbitration clause. If you find they do require one, walk away and explain why you are doing so.  Read every contract and look for the clause. The clause isn’t always straight forward. They can say it various ways, such as “dispute resolution mechanism.”

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Long term health care: Medicaid vs. Medicare

Many people get confused between Medicaid and Medicare. So, what’s the difference? While, both programs were federally created, they do different things

Basically Medicare is health insurance for people 65 or older and Medicaid is for people who meet certain income requirements. While Medicare will pay for some rehabilitative services in a nursing home, Medicaid will pay for long-tern care provided you financially qualify. Each state has different requirements. New York has three income limitations to get long term care using Medicaid. 

Most long term care applicants are disabled, aged 65+, or have diagnosed blindness. If you are any of these you are most likely subject to the Non-Magi (Modified Annual Gross Income) standard

  • Income Limitations: If you are single, your income (wages, Social Security benefits, pensions, veteran’s benefits, annuities, SSI payments, IRAs, etc.) must be no higher than $825.00 per month or $1,209 per household if you are a couple.
  • Asset Limitations (Exempt vs. Available) – Medicaid divides assets into two categories: Exempt and Available. Exempt assets are designated under the rules and ownership of an exempt asset by the applicant will not result in a denial of benefits. If an asset is not listed as exempt then it needs to be liquidated and applied toward the costs of nursing home care before the applicant can receive Medicaid benefits. The state has a look back period of 5 years with a penalty for people who sell assets below fair market price, transfer assets to others, or give money and property away.
Exempt Assets for an applicant in New York include:
  • $14,850 or less in cash/non-exempt assets if single. If the assets exceed the limit on the first of the month the applicant is ineligible for the entire month. If married and both spouses reside in a nursing home, the asset allowance for a couple is $21,750.00.
  • One home is exempt (equity limit $840,000) if planning to return, a spouse, a child under 21, or a disabled person resides in it. Whenever an institutionalized person sells a previously exempted residence, the money from the sale becomes a countable asset. The recipient may then lose eligibility for Medicaid until he/she has spent down the money and their countable resources are once again less than the maximum.
  • One car, no equity amount specified. An irrevocable funeral trust, no amount specified.
  • Life insurance policy if the face value of said policy is $1,500 or less. Household goods and personal effects, i.e. jewelry, furniture, heirlooms, etc.

For more information: New York Medicaid Information- New York Department of Health

Managed Long Term Care


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NY Town picks new judge after old one arrested

The upstate Albany County town of Guilderland has replaced their town justice Richard Sherwood, after he was arrested for stealing $4.2 million from a trust fund he oversaw.

Sherwood and a long time associate attorney Thomas Lagan were arrested and charged with two counts of grand larceny and a scheme to defraud. The two were estate planners for the estate of Warren Bruggeman, a top General Electric executive and Albany area philanthropist who died in 2009.

After their arrest in March, Sherwood resigned his position.

Following Bruggeman’s death, Sherwood and Lagan handled the distribution of Bruggeman’s estate for his widow, Pauline Bruggeman; and her two sisters, Anne Urban and Julia Rentz, who were to be taken care of with sub-trusts. According to a news release from the New York Attorney General’s Office, they diverted $2 million from one of the sub-trusts into an irrevocable trust established in Urban’s name for which the two men were named as trustees.

In late April, the town chose a new judge, trial attorney Christine Napierski. Town Supervisor Peter Barber told altamontenterpise.com, Napierski was selected for her depth of experience in trial law, mediation, and negotiations, as well as for her even temperament and her ability to meet the scheduling demands of the job, which requires being available at all hours of the day, every third week.

Robert Tembeckjian, administrator and counsel for the Commission on Judicial Conduct, said, “While the felony charges against Mr. Sherwood have not been adjudicated and he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, by resigning he spared the judiciary and the courts from the spectacle of a judge as criminal defendant.”

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