Monthly Archives: January 2019

Toyota Rav 4 Headlight Class Action Litigation

The firm is currently litigating a putative class action concerning the projector-beam headlights on 2016 Toyota Rav 4 vehicles. Toyota’s brochures provided that 2016 Rav 4 XLE and XLE Hybrid models were equipped with halogen projector-beam headlights with an “auto on/off feature,” and that 2016 Rav 4 SE models were equipped with LED projector-beam headlights with an “auto on/off feature.” The “auto on/off feature” is a mechanism by which the vehicles’ headlights automatically turn on and off and adjust to ensure proper lighting while being driving through changing light conditions (e.g. tunnel, dusk, etc.). This suit asserts that standard 2016 Rav 4 XLE, XLE Hybrid, and SE models, in fact, did not come equipped with the “auto on/off feature.” The suit seeks coverage for the remedial work necessary to correct and install the missing “auto on/off” feature as well as other damages.

If you have purchased a Rav 4 and wish to speak with the attorney at the firm about this matter, please contact class action attorney Gary S. Graifman, Esq., Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C., 747 Chestnut Ridge Road – Suite 200, Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977 via telephone: (888) 608-9232, fax: (845) 356-4335, or email: ggraifman@kgglaw.com.

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2019 Estate Tax Exemptions: See the Numbers

New York and New Jersey estate lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a founding partner of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman in Rockland County and Bergen County. Mr. Goldhamer is proud to have been honored as a “Super Lawyer” by the legal site Superlawyers.com. When not practicing family and matrimonial law, Paul keeps busy with charitable efforts, lectures, public talks and appearances on radio and television programs. 

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

2019 Estate Tax Exemptions:

Federal:

Single:   $ 11.4 M

Married:  $22.8 M

The Federal Tax Estate rate ranges from 11% to 40%.

New York:

Single-     $  5.49M

Married-  $10.98M

The estate tax rate in New York ranges from 3.06% to 16%.

New Jersey:

Estate tax $0, but,

New Jersey Inheritance Tax:

$0 for spouse, children, grandchildren & charities.

Some close relatives taxed only after $25,00;
Most others – no exemption.

Tax rate – 11 to 16%

All of the above are subject to change. At KGG, we plan estates of all sizes, prepare Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorneys, Healthcare proxies & help with Eldercare planning.

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Brandon Rothstein, Esq. Named a 2018 Hudson Valley Parent Favorite Lawyer

Brandon Rothstein, Esq. from Kantrowitz, Goldhamer and Graifman has been recognized for exceptional legal care.

All year, lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer and Graifman go above and beyond to provide clients with exceptional legal care. This service has been recognized and appreciated by their clients this year with the coveted title of 2018 Hudson Valley Parent Favorite Lawyer.

The lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer and Graifman, PC strive each day to provide expert advice, representation and care.

Their clients nominated and reviewed their services to Hudson Valley Parent to help create a guide of the best of the best in the Hudson Valley’s only Family Law Guide.

All year, those who visit LawGuide.HVParent.com can read reviews about superior legal professionals that other parents love.

2019 Favorite Lawyer nominations are coming this spring!

 

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How Will Divorce Impact My Social Security Benefits?

Social security benefitsSocial Security can be an important benefit for older people because it supplies income once one has retired. In general, people become eligible at the age of 62, although benefits taken then are lower than they will be at full retirement age (FRA). FRA is reached between 65 and 67, depending on the year of their birth. (For people born between 1943 and 1954, for example, the FRA is 66.) The Social Security benefit amount rises roughly 8% per year if you work and contribute longer, up to the age of 70. There is no increase past the age of 70.

Will a divorce impact your Social Security benefits? Yes, there are multiple impacts, depending on your situation. Length of the marriage, whether you have worked, how much you made vis-à-vis your spouse, and remarriage are all factors that can affect your benefits.

If Your Spouse Is Eligible for a Higher Benefit

In general, the higher-earning spouse is eligible for a higher benefit, as Social Security benefits are on a sliding scale based on one’s earnings.

If you are divorced, you may be able to collect Social Security benefits based on the work record of a higher-earning spouse, provided that you 1) are not currently married; 2) were married to the spouse for a minimum of 10 years; 3) both of you are at least 62 years old; 4) they are eligible for Social Security; and 5) you have been divorced for a minimum of two years.

The spouse doesn’t have to have taken Social Security for you to be eligible. If your spouse has remarried, there is no effect on your Social Security benefit rights, or that of the spouse and their new spouse.

Bear in mind that you may receive only half of your divorced spouse’s Social Security benefit if you take benefits before your FRA.

If You Are Eligible for a Higher Benefit

If you are eligible for a higher benefit, you will receive your own Social Security benefit rather than your spouse’s. No one can receive both their own Social Security benefit payments and that of a spouse. You will automatically receive the higher of the benefits.

If You Remarry

If you have remarried since you divorced, you are not eligible for a divorced spouse’s benefit unless your remarriage ends as well. If it does, and both marriages lasted over a decade, you will can receive the larger of the two ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit.

If Your Divorced Spouse Dies

If your divorced spouse dies, you are eligible for survivor benefits as long as your marriage lasted 10 years. If it did not, you are not eligible for survivor benefits.

Survivor benefits are equal to what your ex-spouse would have received had they lived.

If you marry again before the age of 60, you will lose your eligibility unless that marriage ends. Remarriage after you’re 60 has no effect on survivor benefits.

If You Need a Divorce Attorney in New York or New Jersey

Because all these factors are complex and variable, it is a good idea to consult a lawyer to make sure you know what Social Security benefits you are entitled to.

At Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, divorce lawyers have been helping clients in New York and New Jersey for over four decades. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

Additional Resources:

  1. Miller, Jim T. How Divorce Can Affect Your Social Security. Huffington Post. January 23, 2014. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-t-miller/how-divorce-can-affect-yo_b_4251411.html.
  2. Thornton, Russ. How Divorced Women Can Get More From Social Security. Wealthcare for Women. December 4, 2012. https://wealthcareforwomen.com/divorced-women-social-security/.
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New Jersey Landowner Liability in Slip and Fall Accidents

Risk of slipping when climbing stairs in winter.Nationwide, more than 800,000 people per year are injured severely enough to be hospitalized by slip and fall accidents. Twenty percent of these are due to injuries to the head or a broken hip. Tragically, deaths from falls have increased 30% in recent years.

If you or a loved one has slipped or fallen and injured yourself on a landowner’s property in New Jersey, you may be injured. You may be wondering if you can bring a legal case against the landowner. What is the liability of a landowner in New Jersey if you slip, fall, and injure yourself on the landowner’s property? Could you bring a case?

Liability of a Landowner in New Jersey

For a landowner to be liable in New Jersey, several things must be true. First, the landowner must own the property on which you slipped and fell. If you fell on adjacent property owned by someone else, you could not sue the property owner of an adjacent property.

Second, the landowner must have a duty of care to keep the property safe, so that either invited people or people doing business on the landowner’s property do not slip due to unsafe conditions. The classic example of this is a store owner who owns the store. If a carton of milk is spilled on the floor, the landowner must clean up the spill and make the floor safe again.

The landowner must have known that there was an unsafe situation as well, or had sufficient time and opportunity to know.

Plus, the landowner with the duty of care must also have had what a reasonable person would consider a reasonable amount of time to make the area safe again. If you slip on un-shoveled snow on a homeowner’s driveway and fall, for example, during the middle of a snowstorm, a court may find that the landowner did not have a reasonable time or opportunity to make the driveway safe, as snow was still coming down.

You must have had access to the landowner’s property, either because you had business at a place of business or because you were invited in. Note that if you are trespassing on a landowner’s property, or have entered illegally, there is no duty of care under New Jersey law. In fact, you are classified as a trespasser. The only legal requirement a landowner has is to avoid explicitly harming you if you have no intent to commit a crime.

Comparative Negligence in New Jersey

You should know, too, that New Jersey slip and fall cases operate under comparative negligence. That means any financial compensation you receive in court can be reduced by the percentage that the court finds you liable for your own slip and fall. Defendants in a slip and fall therefore often argue that the injured party was responsible.

They may claim that the dangerous area was marked as such, with signs or with tape blocking the area off. They may argue that the danger should have been obvious to you, so proceeding was your responsibility. They can also argue that you were not paying attention to your surroundings or that your shoes caused you to slip – or at least did not prevent a slip.

If You Need a Slip and Fall Lawyer in New York or New Jersey

The seasoned attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have four decades of experience in slip and fall cases in New Jersey. We will fight for fair and just compensation for our clients.

For a complimentary case review with a NJ slip and fall lawyer, call us today toll free!

Additional Information:

  1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important Facts About Fall. https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.
  2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Older Adults Fall. https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/index.html.
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New Year Brings New Alimony Tax Rules

alimony divorce

The new year ushered in big changes in the federal tax law – one that now impact alimony payments. While the change directly affects how alimony is treated, it is expected to indirectly influence the way other settlement and divorce divisions are implemented as well.

Tax burden shifts under new tax law

Historically, the party paying alimony (the higher-earning spouse, who is the man in 97% of divorces) was permitted to deduct the payments for federal income tax purposes. The recipient then received the payments as taxable income. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reversed this, with the payer of the alimony bearing the tax burden and the recipient receiving the payments tax-free.

It is important to note that this change is not retroactive; it only applies to divorce agreements finalized or modified in 2019 or later. The old tax rules still apply to divorce and settlement agreements that were finalized by the end of December 2018. If former spouses who divorced before 2019 wish to proceed under the new tax structure, they may do so if they both agree and enter into a modification agreement.

Widespread effects of alimony tax change

The former tax structure of alimony payments has traditionally played a major role in divorce settlement negotiations. Because the payer received the tax deduction, it typically made it advantageous to both exes for the alimony payments to be higher.

By shifting the tax burden to the paying spouse, on the surface the change may appear to primarily benefit the lower-income spouse (who is more often the woman). However, the shift makes the payment more costly to the payer, and conceivably will lead to lower negotiated alimony payments to the recipient.

Knowing about the tax change in advance, there are other financial planning options that divorcing couples can take to compensate for the effects. For example, changing the way property is treated in the settlement agreement may reduce the impact of the alimony tax. For some couples, the child tax credit may also provide some relief. However, it is hazardous to become creative in your settlement terms without the help of a knowledgeable lawyer; to be treated as alimony, payments must meet certain requirements or they could be characterized as child support or something else.

NY and NJ court response remains to be seen

Many former couples come to an agreement on settlement terms, which are then formally entered by a court. When the couple cannot agree, they may head to litigation and leave it to judges, magistrates, and mediators to hash out. There is no indication yet of whether jurists will factor in the tax changes in issuing spousal support decrees. Having a well-prepared and experienced attorney is the best way to minimize the uncertainty.

Law changes can always cause a period of uncertainty in divorce proceedings. If you are anticipating a divorce in Bergen County, New Jersey, or in Rockland County, New York, trust an experienced divorce lawyer from Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, an established firm that has successfully navigated many changes over the past 40 years. Call today to schedule a confidential consultation.

Additional Resources:

  1. MarketWatch, New tax law eliminates alimony deductions – but not for everyone, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-tax-law-eliminates-alimony-deductions-but-not-for-everybody-2018-01-23
  2. CNBC, How to manage your divorce as new alimony tax rules go into effect, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/18/this-checklist-can-help-you-manage-your-divorce-after-new-alimony-tax-rules-go-into-effect.html
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3 Things You Need To Know About Premarital Agreements

Premarital Agreement with Wedding Rings close upMisconceptions swirl around what premarital agreements, often referred to as “prenups,” are – and what they lead to. Partly, that is because they are often the subject of media stories about celebrities. (Justin Bieber is only the most recent – and that was because he was one of the few mega-celebrities not to have one.) It may also be partly because, if prenups do make media headlines, it is generally because a couple is getting divorced.

A Prudent Plan

But premarital agreements are in fact a prudent way to set forth what a couple has agreed upon regarding their assets. Marriage assets in today’s world are not the relatively simple affairs they were 50 years ago. Both partners may have worked and made considerable assets prior to the marriage, which didn’t use to be the case. Spouses may have children or other dependents from previous unions. Commingling of assets in a marriage can be complicated as a result of these contemporary trends.

While prenups can be used in the event of a divorce, they are used for other reasons as well. If one spouse dies unexpectedly, for example, and has children, a prenup can make clear that person’s plans for their descendants, their spouses, and any former partners vis-à-vis their assets. A prenup can be used as the foundation of an estate plan as well.

The bottom line is this: any lack of a plan for assets carries some risk, either that assets will not be disposed of as their owner would have wished or that there will be conflict involved. Conflict and ill feeling can carry over into other family members and last for generations if not handled properly. Developing a plan minimizes both risks.

Here are three facts to know about prenups.

1. They do not lead to divorce.

While prenups are often associated in media stories with divorce, the fact remains that the greater number are not used in divorces. More than 85% of mental health professionals believe they have no impact upon divorces. Prenups are more akin to wills – a plan setting forth the disposition and division of assets.

2. They need to be fair.

Most jurisdictions require both parties in a prenup to disclose their assets, so they need to be transparent and fair. Both partners generally bring their own attorneys to a prenup. In the event of a precipitating event, such as a divorce or death, a judge may invalid a premarital agreement that seems unfair.

3. They can include any type of asset.

People can include any type of asset in a prenup. Real estate, other property, and investments are standard, but a couple can also decide to include anything important to them, such as pets, or items that could have a financial impact, such as debt.

If You Need a Divorce Lawyer in New York or New Jersey

The Rockland County & Bergen County divorce lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have been assisting clients with solutions in New York and New Jersey for more than four decades.

If negotiation and settlement are not working, we will fight for your rights via litigation.

We are experts in division of marital assets, child custody, child support, visitation rights, alimony and spousal support, parental relocation, modification after divorce, and conservatorships.

Additional References:

  1. Fletcher, Christine. 10 Things You Need to Know About Prenups. Forbes. September 18, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinefletcher/2018/09/18/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-prenups/#56b773f962ba.
  2. Solomon, Kristine. 8 myths about prenups you should stop believing. Business Insider. October 15, 2018. https://www.businessinsider.com/prenup-myths-you-should-stop-believing-2018-10.
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What You Need To Know About Towing Reimbursement from Insurance

Rockland County & Bergen County divorce lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a co-founding partner at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. When not practicing family law in NY & NJ, Mr. Goldhamer maintains a busy schedule with supporting charities, giving lectures, and appearing on radio & TV. Paul was named a “Super Lawyer” by Superlawyers.com in 2014.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

If you have a towing benefit from your credit card company, it usually is limited to a 10 mile tow. If you are off road by more than 10 feet (not from skidding) most credit card companies will not cover any portion of the tow.

If you call for a tow truck, most tows are covered by your automobile insurance policy. If a tow company uses their winch to pull you out, the charge will be higher.

The reimbursement from your insurance company will also be higher as a result of the fact that the tow truck needed to use a winch. But you must tell them; make sure it is written on the tow bill.

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Can You Sue Your Spouse for Personal Injury?

Can spouses sue each other for personal injury? After all, one spouse may do things that are unsafe to the other, either intentionally or unwittingly.

At one point in history, spouses were not legally allowed to sue each other for personal injury, due to a general principle called “interspousal immunity.” Why? Well, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a married couple was legally considered one entity. A wife was not legally separate from a husband. Interspousal immunity essentially meant that one part of a legal entity could not sue another part.

In addition, courts felt that spouses suing each other destroyed the harmony of a family.

What Constitutes “Personal Injury”?

Personal injury, under the law, is an injury to someone caused by another party’s negligence. To be negligent, the party must have had a duty of care (a responsibility to make something safe), to have known that something was not safe, have had sufficient time to rectify the situation, and have not rectified it or acted recklessly. Personal injuries can be caused by situations as disparate as the purchase of unsafe holiday toys, improper maintenance of chemicals in the home, and car accidents, to name just three examples.

Spouses Can Sue Each Other for Personal Injury, With Some Exceptions

However, beginning with women’s right to vote in the early twentieth century and progressing through the feminist movement that began in the 1970s, this concept was increasingly struck down. Women were increasingly given rights and legal standing. As a result, a married couple is now increasingly considered two separate people with rights for many legal purposes.

The laws on interspousal immunity evolved accordingly. Spouses won the right to sue each other for intentionally inflicting damage first, in general, and then won the right to sue for negligent action. In most jurisdictions, they now have both.

So the answer to the question “can you sue your spouse for personal injury?” is yes in many states, with some exceptions.

Possible Exceptions

One exception in some states is the right to sue a spouse who has caused the other spouse an injury in an automobile accident. Insurance companies are concerned about the possibility of collusion, where spouses may plan together to submit a false accident claim to an insurance company.

Some states, though, will allow spouses to purchase supplemental insurance that allows for the future possibility of bringing a personal injury lawsuit in the case of a car accident, provided that the accident was caused by a spouse’s negligence.

Some home insurance policies also do not allow one spouse to sue another, for similar reasons.

Because the law on whether one spouse can sue another is somewhat complex, it is prudent to consult an attorney about the laws and ramifications in your state. An experienced personal injury attorney can advise you on laws concerning spousal immunity and on any supplements allowed in your state of residence.

If You Need a New York or New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer

The seasoned personal injury attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have been handling all matters pertaining to personal injury in New York and New Jersey, including car accidents, for more than four decades.

We will explain your rights and possible scenarios thoroughly. We are committed to long-lasting, fair, and reliable solutions that benefit you. All initial personal injury law consultations are complimentary. Call us today toll free at (800) 711-5258.

Additional resources:

  1. Property Casualty 360, 10 red flags that could signal a fraudulent Auto claim, https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2016/03/16/10-red-flags-that-could-signal-a-fraudulent-auto-c/?slreturn=20190009170708
  2. Cornell Law School, Spousal Immunity, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/spousal_immunity
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