Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Foreclosure Activity is Down Nationwide

Nationwide foreclosure activity is at its lowest point since 2007. The amount of auctions, defaults, and repossessions have substantially decreased across the country. Only 17% of all mortgaged homes are seriously underwater as opposed to 29% in 2012, and negative equity is down overall.

It is anticipated that we will also start to see a decline in short sales in 2014 due to two major reasons:

a. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act has not been passed for 2014. This means that borrowers are liable for the income tax on the forgiven debt in a short sale. In many cases, this kind of tax bill is too high and the borrower must default on his or her tax bill. The IRS can subsequently garnish wages, freeze bank accounts, and place liens on assets without having to first obtain a judgment. Many borrowers are unwilling to put themselves in such a position and would rather let the property go to foreclosure than to have the IRS go after them for money they do not have.

b. Lenders are less likely to approve short sales today because they know they can successfully sell the properties at auction or as an REO (bank-owned property) at a higher price because fair market value for real estate is on the increase.

Please note that the total amount of foreclosures (percentage of units by area) in Suffolk County is higher than the national average and the New York State average, and the amount of Suffolk County homes in pre-foreclosure is on the rise. Overall, however, foreclosure auctions are down in Suffolk County just as the rest of the nation. Keep this in mind, brokers, as you navigate the real estate in Suffolk County.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Tax Laws And Its Impact On Estate Planning

Updates to the tax laws of New York are available here and are effective as of April 1, 2014!

New changes in tax laws that affect a person’s estate that you should be aware of:
  1. Changes on estate tax exclusions rising substantially (to eventually match federal estate tax exclusion). See NY Tax Law section 952(c);
  2. Reforms on gifts given prior to death. See NY Tax Law section 954(a); and
  3. Repeal of the New York Generation Skipping Transfer tax. See Part X, Section 8, repealing article 26-b).

On March 31, 2014, Governor Cuomo signed legislation that makes broad changes to the New York State Estate and Gift Tax Laws, as well as some technical changes to certain trust income tax rules. 

Pursuant to New York Tax Law §952(c), estate tax exclusions will be rising dramatically each year from the current New York State amount of One Million Dollars ($1,000,000.00) to Five Million Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($5,250,000.00) by 2017, which is the current federal estate tax exemption amount. Estate tax exclusion means the dollar amount a person’s estate can pass free from New York Estate Tax. More specifically, for individuals dying on or after April 1, 2014, and before April 1, 2015, the estate tax exclusion amount will be Two Million Sixty Two Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($2,062,500.00). For individuals dying on or after April 1, 2015, and before April 1, 2016, the estate tax exclusion amount will be Three Million One Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Dollars ($3,125,000.00). For individuals dying on or after April 1, 2016, and before April 1, 2017, the estate tax exclusion amount will be Four Million One Hundred Eighty Seven Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($$4,187,500.00). Lastly, for persons dying on or after April 1, 2017, and before January 1, 2019, the estate tax exclusion amount will be Five Million Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($5,250,000.00).

Pursuant to New York Tax Law §954(a), gifts made by a New York resident within three (3) years of that person’s death on or after April 1, 2014, and before January 1, 2019, will be added back into that person’s estate. Bringing these gifts back into the deceased person’s estate will now increase that person’s gross estate and this may make those gifts subject to the New York Estate Tax now, depending on the size of the estate, as discussed in the previous paragraph.

Pursuant to Part X, Section 8 of the new tax laws, the New York State Generation Skipping Transfer Tax is repealed. Prior to its repeal, this tax imposed a generation-skipping transfer tax on outright gifts to persons who are two (2) or more generations below the transferor, or on distributions from certain trusts that are held solely for the benefit of said persons.

These are only a few changes to the current New York State laws that are affecting estate planning in the future. To summarize, these new laws will narrow and ultimately eliminate the estate tax exclusion gap between the New York and Federal estate tax exclusion amounts. For the next five years, however, as the tax estate exclusion amount increases and the taxable gift laws apply, estate planning will become more complex.

See all the recent changes in the New York State laws, effective April 1, 2014, on page 488

Friday, May 16, 2014

New Policy to Reduce Foreclosures on Long Island

Starting in June 2014, judges on Long Island will take on a substantial role in Foreclosure Settlement Conferences as issues arise in foreclosure litigation. The purpose of this new policy is to solve homeowners’ issues in an efficient way and help more homeowners obtain loan modifications in an area of the country where the percentage of foreclosures is still quite high.

New York requires judicial intervention in the foreclosure process. It is New York State Law that the courts must hold Foreclosure Settlement Conferences for all residential foreclosure actions involving home loans originating between January 1, 2003 and September 1, 2008, or nontraditional home loans. Previously overseen only by Court-appointed referees, these conferences allow borrowers to discuss workout options with their mortgage lenders in order to avoid foreclosure. However, the process has always been flawed, as lenders oftentimes would send representatives who not only did not have knowledge of the cases but also had no authority. This new policy is supposed to address these types of issues quickly, correct the flaws of the Foreclosure Settlement Conferences, and protect borrowers against the wrongful practices of these mortgage lenders. A judge is much more equipped to handle these issues than a referee, allowing for fewer foreclosures on Long Island.