Arts & Entertainment

Stock photo

By Nancy Burner, Esq.

Nancy Burner, Esq.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the Act) increased the federal estate tax exclusion amount for decedents dying in years 2018 to 2025. The Act is set to sunset on Dec. 31, 2025. 

The exclusion amount for 2020 is $11.58 million. This means that an individual can leave $11.58 million and a married couple can leave $23.16 million dollars to their heirs or beneficiaries without paying any federal estate tax. This also means that an individual or married couple can gift this same amount during their lifetime and not incur a federal gift tax. The rate for the federal estate and gift tax remains at 40 percent.

There was concern that the sunset of the higher exclusion amount and reversion to the lower amount could, retroactively deny taxpayers who die after 2025 the full benefit of the higher exclusion amount applied to 2018-25 gifts. This scenario has sometimes been called a “claw back” of the applicable exclusion amount. In November, the IRS issued new regulations that make clear that gifts made within the time period of the increased exemption amount used before death will not be “clawed back” into the decedent’s estate and subject to estate tax.

There are no 2020 changes to the rules regarding step-up basis at death. That means that when you die, your heirs’ cost basis in the assets you leave them are reset to the value at your date of death. 

The portability election, which allows a surviving spouse to use his or her deceased spouse’s unused federal estate and gift tax exemption, is unchanged for 2020. This means a married couple can use the full $23.16 million exemption before any federal estate tax would be owed. To make a portability election, a federal estate tax return must be timely filed by the executor of the deceased spouse’s estate. 

For 2020 the annual gift tax exclusion remains at $15,000. This means that an individual can give away $15,000 to any person in a calendar year ($30,000 for a married couple) without having to file a federal gift tax return. 

Despite the large federal estate tax exclusion amount, New York State’s estate tax exemption for 2020 is $5.85 million. This is a slight increase for inflation from the 2019 exemption of $5.74 million. New York State still does not recognize portability.  New York still has the “cliff,” meaning that if the estate is valued at more than 105 percent of the exemption amount ($6,142,500 in 2020) then the estate loses the benefit of the exemption and pays tax on the entire estate. 

New York reinstated its short-lived elimination of the three-year lookback on gifts effective Jan. 15, 2019. However, a gift is not includable if it was made by a resident or nonresident and the gift consists of real or tangible property located outside of New York; while the decedent was a nonresident; before April 1, 2014; between Jan.1, 2019 and Jan. 15, 2019; or by a decedent whose date of death was on or after Jan. 1, 2026.

Most taxpayers will never pay a federal or New York State estate tax. However, there are many reasons to engage in estate planning. Those reasons include long-term care planning, tax basis planning and planning to protect your beneficiaries once they inherit the wealth. In addition, since New York State has a separate estate tax regime with a significantly lower exclusion than that of the federal regime, it is still critical to do estate tax planning if you and/or your spouse have an estate that is potentially taxable under New York State law. 

Nancy Burner, Esq. practices elder law and estate planning from her East Setauket office. 

Studies have shown that eating fresh fruit and cinnamon may be beneficial to diabetics. Stock photo
Fresh fruit and cinnamon may reduce risk

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

What causes Type 2 diabetes? It would seem like an obvious answer: obesity, right? Well, obesity is a contributing factor but not necessarily the only factor. This is important because the prevalence of diabetes is at epidemic levels in the United States, and it continues to grow. The latest statistics show that about 12.2 percent of the U.S. population aged 18 or older has Type 2 diabetes, and about 9.4 percent when factoring all ages (1).

Not only may obesity play a role, but sugar by itself, sedentary lifestyle and visceral (abdominal) fat may also contribute to the pandemic. These factors may not be mutually exclusive, of course.

We need to differentiate among sugars, because form is important. Sugar and fruit are not the same with respect to their effects on diabetes, as the research will help clarify. Sugar, processed foods and sugary drinks, such as fruit juices and soda, have a similar effect, but fresh fruit does not.

Sugar’s impact

Sugar may be sweet, but it also may be a bitter pill to swallow when it comes to its effect on the prevalence of diabetes. In an epidemiological (population-based) study, the results show that sugar may increase the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes by 1.1 percent worldwide (2). This seems like a small percentage, however, we are talking about the overall prevalence, which is around 9.4 percent in the U.S., as we noted above.

Also, the amount of sugar needed to create this result is surprisingly low. It takes about 150 calories, or one 12-ounce can of soda per day, to potentially cause this rise in diabetes. This is looking at sugar on its own merit, irrespective of obesity, lack of physical activity or overconsumption of calories. The longer people were consuming sugary foods, the higher the incidence of diabetes. So the relationship was a dose-dependent curve. Interestingly, the opposite was true as well: As sugar was less available in some countries, the risk of diabetes diminished to almost the same extent that it increased in countries where it was overconsumed.

In fact, the study highlights that certain countries, such as France, Romania and the Philippines, are struggling with the diabetes pandemic, even though they don’t have significant obesity issues. The study evaluated demographics from 175 countries, looking at 10 years’ worth of data. This may give more bite to municipal efforts to limit the availability of sugary drinks. Even steps like these may not be enough, though. Before we can draw definitive conclusion from the study, however, there need to be prospective (forward-looking) studies.

Effect of fruit

The prevailing thought has been that fruit should only be consumed in very modest amounts in patients with — or at risk for — Type 2 diabetes. A new study challenges this theory. In a randomized controlled trial, newly diagnosed diabetes patients who were given either more than two pieces of fresh fruit or fewer than two pieces had the same improvement in glucose (sugar) levels (3). Yes, you read this correctly: There was a benefit, regardless of whether the participants ate more fruit or less fruit.

This was a small trial with 63 patients over a 12-week period. The average patient was 58 and obese, with a body mass index of 32 (less than 25 is normal). The researchers monitored hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C), which provides a three-month mean percentage of sugar levels.

It is very important to emphasize that fruit juice and dried fruit were avoided. Both groups also lost a significant amount of weight while eating fruit. The authors, therefore, recommended that fresh fruit not be restricted in diabetes patients.

What about cinnamon?

It turns out that cinnamon, a spice many people love, may help to prevent, improve and reduce sugars in diabetes. In a review article, the authors discuss the importance of cinnamon as an insulin sensitizer (making the body more responsive to insulin) in animal models that have Type 2 diabetes (4).

Cinnamon may work much the same way as some medications used to treat Type 2 diabetes, such as GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) agonists. The drugs that raise GLP-1 levels are also known as incretin mimetics and include injectable drugs such as Byetta (exenatide) and Victoza (liraglutide). In a study with healthy volunteers, cinnamon raised the level of GLP-1 (5). Also, in a randomized control trial with 100 participants, 1 gram of cassia cinnamon reduced sugars significantly more than medication alone (6). The data is far too preliminary to make any comparison with FDA-approved medications. However, it would not hurt, and may even be beneficial, to consume cinnamon on a regular basis.

Sedentary lifestyle

What impact does lying down or sitting have on diabetes? Here, the risks of a sedentary lifestyle may outweigh the benefits of even vigorous exercise. In fact, in a recent study, the authors emphasize that the two are not mutually exclusive in that people, especially those at high risk for the disease, should be active throughout the day as well as exercise (7).

So in other words, the couch is “the worst deep-fried food,” as I once heard it said, but sitting at your desk all day and lying down also have negative effects. This coincides with articles I’ve written on exercise and weight loss, where I noted that people who moderately exercise and also move around much of the day are likely to lose the greatest amount of weight.

As a medical community, it is imperative that we reduce the trend of increasing prevalence by educating the population, but the onus is also on the community at large to make lifestyle changes. So America, take an active role.

References:

(1) www.cdc.gov/diabetes. (2) PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57873. (3) Nutr J. published online March 5, 2013. (4) Am J Lifestyle Med. 2013;7(1):23-26. (5) Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85:1552–1556. (6) J Am Board Fam Med. 2009;22:507–512. (7) Diabetologia online March 1, 2013.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.      

Lobster Mac and Cheese Casserole

By Barbara Beltrami

It’s that frenzied time of year when the imminent holidays take huge chunks out of not just our wallets but our time. For many of us, preparing complicated and time-consuming meals is out of the question, and it’s either takeout or something quick but hearty that can be shoved in the oven while we scramble around to attack the holiday chores. This is when casseroles can be the answer. They’re meals that the kids enjoy and can even pitch in to help prepare (if you can pry them away from their iPhones and video games). Casseroles can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen, then reheated. Here are a few that are my favorites.

Lobster Mac and Cheese Casserole

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound elbow macaroni

1 stick unsalted butter

½ cup flour

1 quart 2% milk, heated but not boiled

8 ounces Emmenthal (Swiss) cheese, grated

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

4 ounces fontina cheese, grated

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1½ pounds cooked lobster meat

1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for macaroni. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile in a large saucepan, melt all but two tablespoons butter over medium heat; reduce heat to low and, stirring constantly with wire whisk add flour, cook for two minutes, until nicely blended and a pale golden color. Still whisking, add hot milk and cook a minute or two more, until mixture is smooth and thickened; remove from heat and whisk in the cheeses, salt and pepper and parsley until well blended and smooth. Stir in cooked macaroni and lobster; transfer to greased large casserole dish or individual ramekins. Melt remaining two tablespoons butter and combine with breadcrumbs; sprinkle over mac and cheese mixture. 

Chicken, Wild Rice and Mushroom Casserole

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup uncooked wild rice or wild rice and long-grain rice blend

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 shallot, minced

¼ cup flour

1½ cups chicken broth

1½ cups half-and-half

Pinch nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin

3 cups diced cooked chicken

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook rice according to package directions; set aside. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt half the butter, then cook the shallot until opaque but not brown, about a minute or two; sprinkle in flour and whisk until just blended; add broth and half-and-half and over medium heat, vigorously whisk; when smooth, simmer about 5 minutes, and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. In medium skillet over medium heat, saute mushrooms in remaining butter; add, along with chicken and rice, to butter-flour mixture; thoroughly combine and turn into 2-quart greased casserole. Bake about 30 minutes, until bubbly and barely crispy on top and garnish with parsley.  

Bean and Corn Casserole

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 green frying pepper, diced

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon chili powder

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

One 28-ounce can + one 14-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

One 14-ounce can corn kernels, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil; add onion, garlic and frying pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour and chili powder and stir until blended. Stir in tomatoes and their juice and over medium heat, bring to a boil; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in beans, corn, salt and pepper, thyme and parsley, and transfer to greased two-quart casserole. Bake until bubbly, about 40 minutes; sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 more minutes. Garnish with cilantro before serving.

BACKYARD BEAUTY

Karen Kurpetski of Riverhead snapped this gorgeous photo on Nov. 4. She writes, ‘In light of the health report I received today on a positive note, the sunset was just as magical and positive to me.’

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com

 

Michael Tessler

By Michael Tessler

I’m writing this from about 34,000 feet in the air. There’s a great landscape below me: America. This vast and beautiful country feels endless from this vantage point. No matter how old I get or how many times I take the voyage, I’ll never quite get over the fact that you can start your day on Main Street, Port Jefferson and end it on Hollywood Boulevard.

It has been a record amount of time since I’ve had a day off. Not that I’m counting. I’m nearing one month since I’ve had one truly mindless or menial day. I’m not complaining — working in Los Angeles is a blessing. Though it is a constant hustle to survive, this struggle has made me grateful for the many blessings in my life and the many people that have gotten me here. 

It is easy to forget the power of the written word. Being back on Long Island for a few days, I was reminded of its incredible power by my co-worker Liz (you may know her as the bubbly sales representative who is constantly in motion). After reading my column on my weight loss journey, she began a daily routine of walking FIVE MILES every morning. You can imagine my shock, surprise and gratitude when I heard that just a few small printed letters could cause such a positive and lasting impact on someone.

So here I am, hoping I can provide some inspiration to you by sharing some lessons I was reminded of during my few days back with TBR News Media. 

Local news is the beating heart of a community. Most of us take it for granted. Until I worked for the paper, I know I certainly did. That all changed after spending time with our publisher, Leah Dunaief, who at each editorial and sales meeting reminds us of the importance of the work we do and what it means to the community we serve. Leah taught me that anything can become an inspiring and exciting subject, with enough passion and pride. 

There is a sense of belonging and place that comes with the printed word. When we set aside the digital drabble of social media and open the pages of our hometown paper, we’re reminded of how special we are. Whether happy or sad, tragic or celebratory — this publication tells our story and brings us together in the process. 

We write lengthy and ever-amusing responses to the stories we disagree with. With great, rambunctious passion we debate parking meters and zoning laws. It may seem simple or even small, but hovering above the great American landscape I can’t help but think of how beautiful it is, this weekly celebration of us. 

So as I reach the conclusion of an incredibly difficult and humbling stretch of work, riddled with successes, failures, lessons learned both easy and hard, I am reminded of the lessons taught to me by my second family at TBR News Media. Love what you do. Love who you work with. Love the community you call home and love yourself enough to take time off.

To Leah, who has believed in me and provided me with more opportunity than any person I’ve ever known: Thank you. You challenge me constantly to dream bigger, think smarter and cherish the people around me. 

To Kathryn, who taught me the value of hard work and building lasting, meaningful relationships. You gave me my hustle and drive and reminded me to appreciate just how cute the little ones in our life are. 

To Meg, who reminds me that to change a person’s day all you need is a smile and song, you warm every room you enter with your kindness. 

To the entire TBR family, you remind me that home is always waiting for you and filled with love … no matter how far you may roam or how long. 

To the readers who keep this heart beating, I’m thankful. May the love that goes into each page of this paper transcend into your home this holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year from a grateful native son living his Hollywood dream. 

The author is an award-winning film and television producer and CEO of Multihouse Entertainment in Los Angeles.

Photo from Sony Pictures Entertainment

By Jeffrey Sanzel

There is no greater American icon than Fred Rogers — the Mr. Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Generations of children have grown up under the tutelage of the man whose sole quest was to let children be children. His soft-spoken and often simple wisdom has been explored, dissected and parodied for decades. But, ultimately, his pure and honest humanity has shown through.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is inspired by Tom Junod’s 1998 Esquire article “Can You Say … Hero?” Director Marielle Heller and screenwriters Micah Fizterman-Blue and Noah Harpster have chosen the source as a jumping-off place to create the fictional story of an emotionally lost and damaged journalist whose life is altered by profiling the beloved television host.

The film is in no way a biopic of Rogers. If one is seeking an account of Fred Rogers, then the heartfelt 2018 Won’t You Be My Neighbor? documentary explores Rogers with a wealth of archival clips and interviews. It is as both straightforward and as complicated as the man himself and an indispensable contribution to his legacy.

Photo from Sony Pictures Entertainment

Instead, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood draws upon Rogers’ ethos and how it affected and continues to influence the world for good.

Matthew Rhys plays journalist Lloyd Vogel, whose closet full of demons has disconnected him from the world. The story focuses on the dysfunctional relationship with his estranged father (a dimensional Chris Cooper) who walked out on him and his sister when their mother was dying. 

Vogel struggles to communicate with his frustrated wife (the always terrific Susan Kelechi Watson), to face his life as a new father, and to deal with the world in general. At first, he is resistant to the ministrations of Rogers, but gradually, he realizes the power of embracing Rogers’ philosophies. The film is Vogel’s arc, with Rogers a catalyst for change.

Rhys manages the transition from depressed and detached to self-aware and almost reborn with a slow, methodical intensity. It is an unsurprising performance but one in which we can invest. While the resolution is inevitable, his pain is palpable and his growing awareness authentic. 

The surrounding actors are strong and Heller has brought out subtle and absorbing work from the entire company, including Christine Lahti (Ellen, Vogel’s Esquire editor), Enrico Colantoni (Bill Isler, the president of Family Communications), Maryann Plunkett (Joanne Rogers, Fred’s wife), Tammy Blanchard (Lorraine, Vogel’s sister), and Jessica Hecht (Lila Vogel, Vogel’s dying mother). The entire ensemble is fully present, bringing nuance to the action.

However, the heart of the film is Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. There is no actor more suited to don the sweater than Hanks, and he does not disappoint. Eschewing imitation, Hanks evokes the soul of the man, making sure that his Rogers is not a hagiography. We see joy, pain, introspection and a man who struggles but never ceases to search for peace and understanding in a difficult world.  

And while his screen time does not rival Rhys’, Hanks dominates each moment with an open presence that makes him unique among even the greatest movie actors. Whether engaging with his public, watching a playback of a scene he has just shot or voicing the Neighborhood puppets, he is riveting. A scene that focuses on a moment of silence in a Chinese restaurant is as wondrous as a subway car breaking out into the show’s theme song. It is all reflected in Hanks’ understated yet overwhelming portrayal.  

The takeaway from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is that we must face life’s trials and that we can grow from these challenges. It is a message — and a film — of which Fred Rogers would approve.

Frosty, Jenny and the Narrator sing ‘One Friend Is Better Than No Friends’ in a scene from the show.
Interactive show is a big hit with young audiences

By Heidi Sutton

In perfect timing with the frigid weather, the John W. Engeman Theater presents its annual production of “Frosty” through Dec. 29. Directed by Jennifer Collester, the wintry show has become a holiday favorite for many families over the years.

“I’m here to take you on a little adventure,” teases the Narrator (Jessica Gray) as the audience is introduced to the town of Chillsville, “A beautiful town way up north that is always covered with a blanket of fresh snow.” 

The cast of ‘Frosty’

There we meet Jenny (Katie Dolce), a little girl who’s favorite thing to do is to play outside. With help from her mother (Nicole Weitzman), Jenny builds a snowman she names Frosty (played by Dylan Poulos). Once she puts the finishing touches on the snowman, including a hat and scarf, he magically comes to life. Just like the song, Frosty is a jolly, happy soul and wait until you see him sing and dance!

Unfortunately, mean Ethel Pierpot (Sari Feldman), who makes snow shovels, snow blowers and ice scrapers in her factory on the other side of town, has just invented a weather machine that will eventually make all the snow melt in Chillsville so that she can build a bigger factory. Frosty has only a few hours before “He’ll be nothing more than a puddle and a carrot.”

The songs, including “One Friend Is Better Than No Friends” and “Thanks to You,” are playful and fun with the exception of “Pierpot’s Solution,” which is quite sinister! In the grand finale, the audience joins the cast in a rousing rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.”

From the opening number, “Snow!,” the audience is encouraged to clap and sing, help Jenny write a letter and find a way to help save the melting snowman. “How can we save Frosty?” the Narrator asks.
“Put him in a blast chiller!” is one response. “Get the key and turn off the machine!” is another. Of course! 

Frosty and Jenny in a scene from the show.

What will happen to Frosty? Well, you’ll have to see the show to find out. There is a great snowball fight and it will snow in the theater but I’ve already given away too much so I’ll stop. I do recommend taking the kids and heading to Northport to catch a performance of “Frosty” — it will be one of the best presents they’ll receive this holiday season.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program. Running time is 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents “Frosty” through Dec. 29. The theater’s 2019-20 Youth Season continues with Disney’s “Frozen Jr.” from Jan. 25 to March 1. All seats are $15. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photos by Jennifer Collester

Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

No matter which holiday we celebrate this time of year a pet dog or cat makes a great gift. The bond is almost always immediate and lasts a lifetime. Conversely, the thought of losing a pet is terrible. Since the advent of pet microchip identification, many a lost pet has been returned to its owner safe and sound. There are, however, still some lingering doubts about the safety and efficacy of these chips. I hope to clear that up in this article.

A microchip is an identification chip only and does not contain a power source. Once inserted, the chip will not give off any energy that could be harmful to your pet. The chip is passive, or inert. What that means is, when the microchip scanner is waved over it, the chip receives energy similar to a radio antenna. The chip then gives the scanner back the energy in the way of data, or information.  

Pet microchips are very small (about the size of a grain of rice) and can be injected under the skin without any anesthetic. I do not wish to imply that the pets that receive this injection do not feel the needle, but it is far from major surgery. At our hospital we offer to implant the chip at the time of spay or neuter (when the patient is already anesthetized) to reduce the anxiety and discomfort of the pet. These chips do not tend to migrate after implantation and rarely cause any discomfort.

Stock photo

The notion that there is a direct link between microchips and cancer is greatly exaggerated in the media and on the internet. It is true that these chips have been documented to cause a type of cancer called “injection site sarcoma” in lab mice and rats. These animals are very prone to this type of cancer when any material is injected under the skin. To this date there is only ONE documented case of cancer in a dog that was directly linked to the implantation of a microchip.  

Older microchips and microchip scanners were not as successful and there were accounts of pets that were needlessly euthanized as a result. However, in a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) in 2008, the newer chips and scanners reported at least a 90 percent (in some scanners and chips up to a 98 percent) success rate in identifying the chip. Another study published in JAVMA in 2009 approximately 75 percent of dogs and approximately 65 percent of cats that were turned over to shelters were able to be reunited with their owners via the microchip (of those owners that were not reunited 35 percent had disconnected phones and another 25 percent never returned phone calls from the shelter).

If you wish to get a pet this holiday season and wish to find them again if lost, then I would suggest you have a discussion with your veterinarian about microchipping.    

I wish to extend a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year to all the faithful readers of my column. I also wish to thank the editor of the Arts and Lifestyles section, Heidi Sutton, and all the staff at Times Beacon Record News Media for another great year.  

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com to see his answer in an upcoming column.

Stock photo

By Linda Toga, Esq.

Linda Toga, Esq.

THE FACTS: I will be getting married soon. It is a second marriage for both me and Mary. We both have children from our prior marriages. 

THE QUESTION: Is there something I can have Mary sign to ensure that my assets will pass to my children when I die? 

THE ANSWER: If you are only worried about what happens to your assets when you die, you can ask Mary to sign a waiver of her right of election. As long as you have kept your assets separate from Mary’s as opposed to comingling your assets in joint accounts or investing your assets in jointly held property, a waiver should be adequate. 

Under the law, regardless of how assets are held or the wishes memorialized in a will, trust or beneficiary designation form, a surviving spouse is entitled to one-third of his/her deceased spouse’s assets. This entitlement is known as the surviving spouse’s right of election. The types of assets that are subject to the right of election are set forth in Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Article 5. 

Pursuant to Article 5, a surviving spouse’s elective share may include assets owned by the decedent individually but also assets that the decedent owned jointly with others and assets held in retirement and pension plans, to name a few. 

A surviving spouse must exercise his/her right of election within six months of the issuance by the Surrogate’s Court letters testamentary or letters of administration. Although spouses who voluntarily agree to live apart can still exercise their right of election, a spouse who is found to have “abandoned” a decedent is barred from claiming an elective share. 

In order for Mary to waive her right of election, she must sign a document that states that she waives her right of election and all claims against your estate. The waiver must be signed by Mary in the presence of a notary. Of course, if, after Mary signs a waiver, you choose to leave assets to Mary in your will, you can certainly do so. The waiver does not prevent Mary from being a beneficiary of your estate. It simply prevents her from demanding more than you may voluntarily allocate to her.

 It is important to note that a waiver only addresses Mary’s rights to your assets after your death. If you are concerned about what may happen to assets in the event of a divorce, you should discuss with an experienced attorney your options in terms of a pre- or postnuptial agreement. 

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of estate planning and administration, real estate, small business services and litigation from her East Setauket office. Visit her website at www.lmtogalaw.com or call 631-444-5605 to schedule a free consultation.

Photo from DDI

Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI) of Smithtown, the leading service provider for children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities on Long Island, recently announced its Employee of the Year. Catherine Young of Medford accepted the honor at DDI’s 2019 Employee Service Awards event at the Watermill in Smithtown on Oct. 22. 

“Catherine has proven leadership skills and, more importantly, true dedication to the individuals we serve,” said DDI Executive Director John Lessard. 

“She is a caring, innovative manager who always provides fresh new ways to care for individuals and help them reach their full potential. A true inspiration to her peers as well, Catherine serves as a mentor to her colleagues that look for guidance and support. We are fortunate to have her here at DDI,” he added. 

Young began with DDI in 2014 as an assistant manager before being promoted to program manager in 2016 at DDI’s Adult Residential Services Creek Road site in Smithtown where she started the Creek Road Social. This initiative offers individuals from other programs the chance to socialize with each other and includes dancing, playing games and sharing a meal.  

“Catherine’s heartfelt commitment enables DDI to continue its mission to help children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities experience personal growth,” said Lessard.

Pictured from left, Erin Davies, chief human resources officer; Kim Mudano, adult residential services director; Catherine Young, DDI 2019 Employee of the Year and program manager; Larry Boone, vice chairperson of DDI board; and DDI Executive Director John Lessard.