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  • Feb 24, 2020Norris McLaughlin Welcomes Two New Members to Pennsylvania Office

    The Pennsylvania office of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., is pleased to welcome Christopher R. Gray and the Honorable Rebecca L. Warren (Ret.) as Members of the firm. Gray joins both the Tax, Trust, and Estates Practice Group and the Business Law Practice Group, while Warren will be a part of the Labor & Employment, Litigation, and Business Law Practice Groups.

    “We are grateful to have these two established attorneys join our team and look forward to enhancing our multiple practices at Norris McLaughlin. Our clients will benefit from the additional experience Chris and Rebecca are bringing,” said S. Graham Simmons, III, Administrative Partner of the firm’s Pennsylvania office.

    About Christopher Gray

    Gray focuses his practice in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, and income tax planning.

    In addition, Gray is experienced in corporate matters, business transactions, non–profit issues, health care governance, elder law, and general litigation. He represents high net-worth clients and their businesses in developing estate, gift, income tax, and succession planning strategies.

    Prior to joining Norris McLaughlin, Gray has worked both in private practice and with a financial strategies company advising affluent private clients on business investments, multigenerational estate preservation, and wealth planning.

    A long-time resident of Pennsylvania, Gray is a past officer of the Lehigh Valley Estate Planning Council, and currently serves on the Northampton Community College Foundation Board of Directors, where he is also Chair of its Planned Giving Committee.

    With 25 years of experience, Gray frequently presents on tax law and initiatives, estate planning tools and techniques, and asset protection.

    Gray received his J.D. from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, cum laude, in 1993 and his B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College in 1987. He also earned his LL.M. in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center in 1994.

    “Our Practice Group has witnessed recent and robust growth. We are delighted to welcome Attorney Gray to join our Team at this auspicious time. Chris is a fine asset to our firm and to our clients,” said Judith A. Harris, Co-Chair of the Tax, Trust, and Estates Practice Group.

    About Rebecca Warren

    Warren devotes her practice to labor and employment, business and corporate matters, and general liability litigation.

    As a former in-house corporate attorney and having counseled businesses for over 25 years, Warren is acutely aware of the unique and varied legal needs of business clients. She has created thousands of customized legal documents for corporations, partnerships, LLCs, and sole proprietors. Warren is also well-versed in providing legal strategy and guidance regarding daily business issues and concerns ranging from employment matters to third-party disputes.

    As a former prosecutor, Warren is well-positioned to counsel clients in crisis management, internal and governmental investigations, and regulatory and business compliance. She has represented prominent clients in high-stakes and multi-million-dollar cases at the county, state, and federal levels in multiple states.

    In addition, Warren has extensive experience in insurance defense, white-collar crime, election law, health care, commercial law, estate practice and administration, family law, and real estate.

    Warren handles all aspects of litigation for her clients, having appeared in court on thousands of hearings, proceedings, arbitrations, jury and non-jury trials, and appeals. She was formerly appointed Solicitor for various non-profit organizations and government agencies and had regularly served as a county Arbitration panel member and Chairperson.

    Prior to joining Norris McLaughlin, Warren founded a multi-county law firm and real estate closing company and was a partner in a Philadelphia firm.

    Warren was elected as the first female District Attorney of Montour County by a 3:1 margin. In that role, she designed and implemented an intensive, personalized victim rights program; created the Multi-Disciplinary Investigative Team for child abuse cases to minimize trauma for minor victims; and collaborated with agencies to provide services and treatment for offenders.

    Warren received her J.D. from The Dickinson School of Law in 1991 and her B.A. with honors from Bloomsburg University in 1988.

    “We are excited to see growth within the firm and I am proud to be able to extend our team’s reach in Pennsylvania by adding Rebecca’s many years of experience. Having her in-house perspective, as well as her service as a District Attorney, will be a great addition to our group,” said Patrick T. Collins, Chair of the Labor & Employment Practice Group.

    Posted in: Business Law, Christopher R. Gray, Elder Care & Special Needs Law, Estate Planning & Administration, Hon. Rebecca L. Warren (Ret.), Labor & Employment, Litigation, News, Taxation | Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • Feb 05, 2020The Secure Act and Its Impact on Your Estate Plan

    As the festivities of the New Year have waned and we approach Tax Season, we bring you news of a recent legislative development that warrants your attention and may require changes to your estate plan. During the final weeks of 2019, Congress enacted federal tax legislation known as the “SECURE Act.”

    The SECURE Act

    The law makes important changes to the federal tax code that will impact distributions from retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, 403(bs)s, IRAs, and tax-qualified annuities (referred to in this legal advisory collectively as “Retirement Accounts”). Those changes may affect you during your lifetime and may also affect the way Retirement Accounts are distributed to your beneficiaries after your death. Consequently, the law may also limit your ability to protect retirement accounts from your beneficiaries’ creditors in a tax-efficient manner.

    This legal advisory summarizes the key aspects of the SECURE Act, which is effective as of January 1, 2020, that may affect your estate plan. We hope you find it helpful in understanding certain major changes enacted by this legislation and how they might affect you. However, bear in mind that the law will affect everyone differently. Therefore, we strongly urge you to contact our office to arrange a time for us to discuss this new law in detail, so that we may act to make any necessary revisions to your estate plan as soon as possible.

    Changes Affecting You

    One component of the SECURE Act that will affect many people during their lives is a change in the age at which a person must begin taking distributions from a Retirement Account. Prior to the SECURE Act, most people (except those who were not yet retired) were required to begin taking distributions from Retirement Accounts by April 1st of the year following the year in which they reached age 70 ½. Under the SECURE Act, the age is increased to 72 for those who were not yet required to take distributions under the old law.

    Also, the SECURE Act removes the age cap for funding traditional (non-Roth) IRAs, meaning that qualifying individuals over age 70½ are now eligible to make deductible and nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA (and may, in some instances, present additional opportunities for funding a Roth IRA).

    These changes involve additional detail and nuance beyond the summary provided in this Alert and may present an opportunity for some to take further advantage of the tax-deferred savings offered by Retirement Accounts. Feel free to reach out to any member of the Norris McLaughlin Trust, Estate, and Individual Tax Law Practice Group to discuss those opportunities in coordination with your accountant or financial advisor.

    Changes Affecting Your Beneficiaries

    Perhaps the most significant changes concerning estate planning brought about by the SECURE Act regard how Retirement Accounts are distributed after the account holder’s death to avoid penalties while continuing to defer taxes. Under prior law, it was possible to “stretch” the distribution of inherited Retirement Accounts over the life expectancy of a beneficiary. Beneficiaries were required to take a required minimum distribution each year based on their life expectancy and the undistributed balance of the Retirement Account could continue to grow income tax-free. Better yet, leaving the balance of a Retirement Account to a trust, properly drafted to meet IRS requirement, for the benefit of a beneficiary, could protect retirement benefits from the beneficiary’s creditors and ensure that those benefits remain in the family upon the beneficiary’s death, while still benefiting from income tax-free growth for the undistributed portion of the Retirement Account.

    The SECURE Act has changed those rules so that most beneficiaries will be required to receive the full amount of an inherited Retirement Account within 10 years of the death of the person who funded the Retirement Account. Certain beneficiaries, including your spouse; your minor children (but not grandchildren); and beneficiaries who are disabled, chronically ill, or no more than 10 years younger than you, are exempt from the 10-year rule and are still permitted to take distributions over their expected lifetimes (although, children who are minors at the time of inheritance must now take the full distribution within 10 years of reaching the age of majority). However, Retirement Accounts left to those beneficiaries in trust might not qualify for the life expectancy payout, depending on the terms of the trust. Even special needs trusts might require review, as they must be structured narrowly to ensure that the stretch is preserved. Provisions that allow the trust to benefit another individual might be problematic.

    The good news is that the SECURE Act does not change the method of designating your beneficiaries to receive Retirement Accounts. If you have existing beneficiary designations in place, those designations are still valid. However, the SECURE Act does introduce a host of new considerations that must be taken into account when structuring your estate plan to maximize the benefit of Retirement Accounts and best protect your beneficiaries.

    Unfortunately, Congress gave us little warning that these changes were imminent. Accordingly, estate plans that previously offered a sound approach to planning for Retirement Accounts may no longer provide a good solution.  For example, some of you may have plans in place that leave Retirement Accounts to a trust known as a “Conduit Trust.” All distributions from Retirement Accounts paid to a Conduit Trust must be distributed directly from the Trust to the beneficiary. That might have been a good approach under the old law since distributions could be stretched over the expected lifetime of the trust beneficiary. However, under the SECURE Act, that same Conduit Trust might now require distribution of the entire Retirement Account to the beneficiary within 10 years of the death of the account owner or upon a minor child reaching the age of majority. Depending on the circumstances, under the SECURE Act, other planning techniques might better serve the goals those plans are meant to achieve.

    Take Action

    With the implementation of the SECURE Act effective January 1st of this year, we recommend that we review your estate plan as soon as possible to ensure that it disposes of your Retirement Accounts in keeping with your objectives.  We welcome the opportunity to discuss these changes with you, answer any questions you may have, and make recommendations specifically for you. Please contact our office to arrange a meeting or phone conference at your earliest convenience so that we can help you find the best planning solutions to meet your needs and those of your family.

    Note:  The contents of this letter are for informational purposes only and are not intended to constitute legal advice or form an attorney-client relationship. For information and advice particular to your situation, please contact one of the following attorneys in our Trust, Estate & Individual Tax Practice Group:  A. Nichole Cipriani, James J. Costello, Jr., Shauna M. Deans, Nicholas J. Dimakos, Robert E. Donatelli, Victor S. Elgort, Michelle M. Forsell, Hon. Emil Giordano (Ret.), Christopher R. Gray, Judith A. Harris, Abbey M. Horwitz, Dolores A. Laputka, Jill Lebowitz, Kenneth D. Meskin, Michael T. Reilly, Shana Siegel, Milan D. Slak, Burt Allen Solomon.

    Posted in: A. Nichole Cipriani, Abbey M. Horwitz, Burt Allen Solomon, Christopher R. Gray, Dolores A. Laputka, Estate Planning & Administration, Hon. Emil Giordano (Ret.), James J. Costello, Jill Lebowitz, Judith A. Harris, Kenneth D. Meskin, Michael T. Reilly, Michelle M. Forsell, Milan D. Slak, Nicholas J. Dimakos, Robert E. Donatelli, Shana Siegel, Shauna M. Deans, Taxation, Victor S. Elgort |

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