Property tax group sues NYC and NY State

An acting Manhattan Supreme Court, Justice Gerald Lebovits denied NYC and New York State’s Governments motion to dismiss a lawsuit by group of renters and property owners called Tax Equity Now NY.

The group filed the lawsuit in April 2017, alleging that New York City’s property-tax system discriminates against low-income homeowners and landlords. The organization includes the Rent Stabilization Association, prominent landlords and social welfare groups such as the NAACP and the Black Institute.

Justice Gerald Lebovits denied the de Blasio administration’s motion to dismiss, but left the State off the hook, finding the group has standing to bring the suit against the City.

They claimed it violated the equal protection clause, Fair Housing Act, and state property tax laws.

The group is being allowed to move forward with all 16 of their claims against the city, including that its property tax system violates the FHA because it disproportionately affects minority neighborhoods and perpetuates racial discrimination in housing.

In the suit, filed in 2017, Tax Equity NY argues the property tax system tends to undervalue condominiums and cooperatives compared with rental apartments, causing more financial hardship for renters in the form of higher property taxes for landlords that are passed along to the tenants.

In a press release, Martha Stark, director of policy for Tax Equity Now wrote “We filed our suit because the current system unfairly burdens homeowners in lower-income and minority communities, primarily in the outer boroughs.”

 

 

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Health Care Proxy. Should you have one?

Under the New York Health Care Proxy Law you can appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make those decisions yourself. That person is considered your health care proxy or agent

A health care proxy is a way to eliminate confusion among your loved ones and health care providers about your health care wishes should you no longer b able t make those decsions yourself. Hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers must follow the agent’s decisions as if they were your own.

Here are a some common questions and answers about health care proxies:

Who can be your health care agent?

Anyone 18 years of age or older, including a family member or close friend can be your health care proxy.

A doctor can act either as your proxy or your attending doctor, but not as both simultaneously. A number of special rules apply to patients or residents of a nursing home, hospital, or mental health facility who want to name a staff member as an agent.

What powers do health care proxies have?

Your proxy can decide how your wishes apply as your medical condition changes, but he or she is legally obligated to always act in your best interest.

The person you select as your health care agent will have as little or as much authority as you want. You may allow your agent to make all health care decisions or only certain ones.

A health care proxy is different from a living will because it does not require that you know in advance all the decisions that may arise. Nevertheless, you may give your agent instructions that he or she must follow and specify on the form the treatments you do or do not want.

Also, note that you can continue to make health care decisions for yourself as long as you’re able. You can also cancel the authority given to your agent by informing him or her or your health care provider orally or in writing.

To appoint a health care proxy, you and your agent must sign a New York health care proxy form in the presence of two adult witnesses. This is best done in an attorney’s office like the Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein. Mr Weinstein is an estate professional and can guide you through what you need to do to insure your wishes are carried out.

Here are some instances when you would need a proxy:

  • You are in a coma from an accident or illness.
  • You are terminally ill and not expected to recover.
  • You have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
  • You are under general anesthesia, when something unexpected occurs.
  • You are in a persistent vegetative state.
  • You suffered from an illness that left you unable to communicate.

 

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The curious case of the homeless millionaire

Colorado’s probate courts have been mired in controversy for years. Two state audits in the last eleven years have found screening and monitoring of guardians and conservators as lacking. There have also been instances of neglect, theft, fraud and a general lack of accountability. Attempts to reform, the system has been moving at a glacial pace.

One person caught up in this mess is homeless millionaire Alan Fantin. That’s right, a homeless millionaire.  Fantin has a net worth in the millions but he has had trouble getting accessing it for years. He has been under a conservatorship that was created thirty years ago after a car accident left him with a severe head injury and partial paralysis.

He owns a house which is mostly paid off. But right now it’s ridden with black mold and there are squatters in the basement who don’t pay rent and won’t leave. And Fantin hasn’t been allowed near the house since he was arrested last month and charged with assaulting his live-in girlfriend. His pre-trial monitoring says he can’t come within one-mile of his alleged victim’s residence, which is also his home, or it it was.

On top of all that he is currently engaged in a legal tussle with the guy who controls his funds, a court-appointed conservator named Scott Christian. Christian was appointed in early 2015. Since then the two have battled constantly over financial matters, ranging from the amount of Fantin’s cable bills to his marijuana use. Christian has described Fantin’s weed smoking as a “substance abuse habit.”

Fantin has had a license to use marijuana for medical purposes since 2001.

In a report in Westword, Fantin says the weed helps him with the seizures he’s bee experiencing since his accident. “When I run out of pot, my seizures are more aggressive and they tend to last longer.”

Westword also reports

…Christian refused to provide any funds for his lodging after he was banned from his house; directed him to use a public defender in his domestic-violence case rather than hire his own attorney; threatened to cut off his phone if he continued to complain; and has been less and less responsive to Fantin’s pleas for help even as his firm’s fees for the conservatorship have steadily increased.

The case offers a rare glimpse behind the closed doors of probate court, where a professional cadre of attorneys, care managers, estate administrators and others are entrusted with guarding the interests and funds of some of society’s most vulnerable people. In many instances, they may be doing just that, protecting the elderly, the sick, the mentally or physically disabled from unscrupulous relatives or neighbors — and sometimes protecting them from themselves.

It’s a fascinating story which we suggest you read. Homeless Millionaire Alan Fantin Wants His Day in Probate Court

 

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Funerals for the rich

A crypt beneath New York’s Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral is available for $7 million. This isn’t just any crypt, It’s one of the last full-body burial spots in Manhattan and can hold nine caskets and 10 cremated remains. And at least three prominent NYC families have already inquired about it.

Today, funerals are becoming the way for the rich to flaunt their wealth. Along with lavish weddings and over-the-top birthday parties,  funerals have become a way for the rich to flaunt their wealth one last time.

William Villanova, general manager of Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, New York’s “undertaker to the stars.” told “Accounting Today, “Whatever we can do that is legal, lawful and in keeping with the integrity of our profession, we will do.”

CEO Nigel Lymn Rose of the U.K.-based A.W. Lymn funeral home said, custom-made Rolls-Royce Phantom VII hearses and a fleet of 25 matching Rolls-Royce sedans are sought-after internationally.

He also told Accounting Today, “I get inquiries from people who have always driven Rolls-Royce’s and want their final journey to be in a Rolls-Royce.  They “want to make a statement: Ride it in life, ride it in death.”

Accounting Today also told of  the recent funeral of a fashion designer they did not name, where they assembled 120 gospel singers who performed as the casket was carried from the hall. A marching band performed at one service, and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall was covered in blue hydrangeas to mirror the deceased’s Hamptons home.

Businessmen and billionaires are often aggressively competitive in life “and that doesn’t end when they think they’re going to die,” said Ted Klontz, a Nashville, Tennessee-based financial psychologist.

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Mattress retailer with 3,400 stores weighs bankruptcy

Mattress Firm, the largest mattress retailer in the United States, is considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it seeks to close hundreds of underperforming stores in order to return to financial stability, according to a report by Reuters. The retailer operates 3,400 stores nationwide.

In September 2016, the company was bought by South African conglomerate Steinhoff International Holdings in a $3.8 billion deal that included Steinhoff assuming more than $1 billion in debt the U.S. retailer had racked up in an expansion move.

Last December, Steinhoff’s president and chairman resigned following the discovery of what the company described as “accounting irregularities.” Also in December, Mattress Firm revealed they planned to close about 200 under-performing stores in 2018.

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