New Attorney Catherine E. Malesky Joins the Elder Law Center

August 25, 2010

We are pleased to announce that Catherine E. Malesky has joined the Elder Law Center, P.C. as an associate attorney. She is a graduate of the Chicago-Kent College of Law where she received the CALI Award for Highest Grade in Law, Literature and Feminism and Political Asylum and Refugee Law Seminar. Before joining the firm, Catherine was a staff attorney for the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit in Kane County. 

Catherine’s knowledge and sincerity make her well-equipped to work with our clients and provide them with the best legal representation possible. To reach Catherine, call 630.844.0065, or email her at cem@mickeywilson.com.

Advertisements

Health Reform Law’s Pre-Existing Condition Plan Kicks In

August 13, 2010

Many Americans, including baby boomers too young for Medicare and disabled adults of any age, have been unable to obtain private health coverage at any price because of a pre-existing health condition. As part of the roll-out of the new health reform law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the establishment of a new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan that will offer coverage to these previously uninsurable individuals.

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which will be administered either by a state or by HHS, will provide a new health coverage option for Americans who have been uninsured for at least six months, have been unable to get health coverage because of a health condition, and are a U.S. citizen or are residing in the United States legally.

Created under the new health reform law, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is a transitional program until 2014, when insurers will be banned from discriminating against adults with pre-existing conditions, and individuals and small businesses will have access to more affordable private insurance choices through new competitive insurance exchanges. (In 2014, Members of Congress will also purchase their insurance through these exchanges.)

“For too long, Americans with pre-existing conditions have been locked out of our health insurance market,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “[T]he Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan gives them a new option — the same insurance coverage as a healthy individual if they’ve been uninsured for at least six months because of a medical condition.”

The plan will offer “comprehensive coverage at a reasonable cost,” according to Jay Angoff, director of HHS’s Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. The average monthly premium for participants in the new program will vary by state and will range within states from $140 to $900, according to HHS.

Twenty-one states have elected to have HHS administer the plans, while 29 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to run their own programs. The national Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will be open to applicants in the 21 states where HHS is operating the program starting July 1, 2010. All states that are operating their own Plans will begin enrollment by the end of the summer, if not before.

For more details, including a list of the states in each category, click here. For information on how to apply for coverage, click here.


Steinbrenner Fourth Billionaire in 2010 to Escape Taxes, If Not Death

August 2, 2010

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.