It's Spring!  
After a grueling, long winter, spring is finally here!  Tax Day is behind us, but you should note some important changes to New York State's estate and gift tax laws.  Before heading into the carefree days of spring and summer (some suggested leisure activities below), take a few moments to finish your spring cleaning - get organized, start a filing system now and stay with it to track deductions and make your life easier next year.  Check your withholdings to make sure you are not over-withholding (or under-withholding).  And, of course, make sure all your legal documents are in order.  Otherwise, have fun and enjoy the great weather!  

- Alison 
Significant Changes to New York State Estate and Gift Tax Laws 
The New York State budget passed on April 1, 2014 made significant changes to the state estate and gift tax laws.  While the federal estate tax exemption (the amount that can pass to heirs tax-free) has fluctuated since 2001, rising to $5.34 million in 2014, New York's exemption remained at $1 million per person.  The 2014-15 budget bill raises the New York State estate tax exemption to $2,062,500 per person, with gradual increases over 5 years until the exemption matches the federal exemption. While this appears on its face to help eliminate taxes for many estates, the new tax law is a "cliff", meaning that it subjects the entire estate to taxation if it exceeds 5% of the exemption then in effect, as opposed to just taxing the excess.  It also "claws back" any gifts made by a decedent three years prior to death.  
What this means is that it is as important as ever to review your estate plan - not just your documents but how your assets are structured - to maximize your tax savings.  This is especially true for individuals or spouses with assets in the range of $2 million.  Tax laws are very technical and it is crucial to consult your attorney and accountant before undertaking any planning. 
Celebrity Estate Planning Mishaps 
Fame and fortune do not make celebrities immortal nor immune from legal mistakes.  Two news items illustrate estate planning pitfalls that can happen to anyone and can easily be avoided with proper planning.  

"Law and Dis-Order": Jerry Orbach Plays Post-Humous Starring Role in Estate Dispute

Late "Law & Order" actor Jerry Orbach is playing a starring role in a new legal drama - even though he died 10 years ago, reports The New York Post.  The actor's friend and former accountant is refusing to relinquish control over a Chase bank account belonging to Orbach's company, Mingoya Productions, according to a new Manhattan lawsuit against the Westchester bean counter. The new executor contacted the bank last October to inform them Black must be cut off from the account. But in court papers Chase says Black has "failed and refused to respond" to phone calls and letters regarding the dispute.  Read more...

Philip Seymour Hoffman's 3 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes 


Philip Seymour Hoffman's tragic and untimely death emphasizes the importance of continuing to examine your plan, especially when minor children are involved, or when you and your partner are not actually married

Hoffman's estate plan had significant shortcomings.  He signed his will in 2004, leaving his estate to his "friend and companion" Mimi who is the mother of his three children but is not his spouse. Because they were not married, taxes on his estimated $34 million estate are due now.   While she has the option to "disclaim" part of the bequest into a trust for the benefit of his children, he only had one child in 2004; his other two children were born later and the Will is unclear whether it provides for them as well.  
Issue 5
May 2014
Joke of the Month 

"It's not that I'm afraid of dying.  I just don't want to be there when it happens." 

Woody Allen 
May Dates: 
Cinco de Mayo (May 5th)
Mother's Day (May 11th) 
Armed Forces Day (17th)
Memorial Day (May 26th) 

May Babies:  
May 6, 1961: George Clooney, actor
May 6, 1945: Bob Seger, singer, songwriter
May 10, 1960: Bono, lead singer, U2
May 18, 1970: Tina Fey, Actress, writer, SNL
May 26, 1951: Sally Ride, astronaut, 1st woman in space  
Holiday History

What is May Day, anyway? It is International Workers' Day, and its began right here in the U.S.  

19th-century workers worked 10-16 hour days under severe and unsafe conditions, even children as young as 8 years old. 


Death and injury were common. The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions declared that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886" at its convention in Chicago. More than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses in the U.S. went on strike in the first May Day celebration.  

Learn more

Organ Donor Rejected for Sexual Orientation

Rohn Neugebauer, a healthy 48-year-old, died suddenly of a heart attack on March 16th.  His family knew his wishes to donate his tissue and organs. After the hospital's 20-minute interview of his sister, the hospital asked about her brother's sexual orientation. The hospital said Rohn was not an eligible donor because he was gay.  

Read more....

Enjoy Spring:  Ideas for Enjoying the Good Weather 

Top 5 Spring Flower Spots in Central Park:
  • Conservatory Garden
  • Wisteria Pergola
  • Strawberry Fields
  • The Pond
  • Shakespeare Garden