Securing Your Financial Future After the SECURE Act

by Craig Panholzer, Esq.
and Michael L. Salad, Esq., LL.M.

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (“SECURE Act”) which was incorporated into an appropriations bill and became effective on January 1, 2020, includes significant changes to retirement plans.

Notably, the SECURE Act postpones the date in which an Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”) owner is required to withdraw required minimum distributions (“RMDs”) from age 70.5  to age 72 and it limits the time in which funds must be distributed to a beneficiary after an employee or IRA owner passes away.

Prior to enacting the SECURE Act, a non-spousal beneficiary of a defined contribution plan, such as an IRA, a 401(k) or a 403(b) account, could stretch distributions over their life expectancy based on a chart published by the Internal Revenue Service. However, the SECURE Act requires a non-spouse beneficiary of a defined contribution plan or eligible retirement plan to withdraw all of the funds within ten years after the year in which the account holder passes away unless the beneficiary is an “eligible designated beneficiary,” as defined in the SECURE Act.

Section 401(a)(2) of the SECURE Act states that “eligible designated beneficiaries” include surviving spouses and chronically ill individuals which is an individual who has been certified by a licensed health care practitioner as being unable to perform without substantial assistance from another individual at least two activities of daily living for a period of at least 90 days due to a loss of functional capacity or requiring substantial supervision to protect such individual from threats to health and safety due to severe cognitive impairment.  Eligible designated beneficiaries also include disabled heirs. For purposes of the SECURE Act, an individual is disabled “if he is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or to be of long-continued and indefinite duration.” 26 USCS § 72(m)(7).  Surviving spouses and chronically ill individuals may withdraw plan assets during their life expectancies. A surviving spouse may roll over an IRA in the same manner that a surviving spouse was permitted to do prior to passage of the SECURE Act.

Minors are also exempt from the ten-year rule. However, after a minor beneficiary attains majority age (which varies state-by-state), the beneficiary must withdraw all funds from the plan account within ten years.  For instance, if a state deems majority age to be 18, then the beneficiary must withdraw all of the funds before that beneficiary attains 28 years of age. An eligible beneficiary also includes an individual, related or not, who is not more than ten years younger than the employee.

The SECURE Act will likely result in implementation of alternative withdrawal strategies from retirement accounts. Prior to the enactment of the SECURE Act, conduit trusts were common estate planning vehicles for retirement accounts. Conduit trusts require the annual RMD to be distributed to a trust beneficiary but the balance of the funds may remain in trust. The trust serves as a “conduit” for the benefit of the beneficiary. However, the ten-year distribution requirement created by the SECURE Act makes conduit trusts an ineffective estate planning tool in most instances.

Creating an accumulation trust, also known as a discretionary trust, as the beneficiary of a Roth IRA may create a tax-efficient distribution regime that continues for generations. Distributions from Roth IRAs are generally not subject to income taxes thereby creating an opportunity to designate an accumulation trust as a beneficiary.  An accumulation trust does not require a trustee to distribute the income from the trust.  Instead, the trustee collects the income and any profits from the sale of trust assets and holds the income in the trust until the trustee deems it is necessary to make distributions. An accumulation trust allows a retirement account holder to prevent a lump-sum distribution to a beneficiary within ten years. However, an accumulation trust must afford the trustee discretionary power to distribute the inherited funds within ten years of the account owner’s death.  The funds may remain in trust and the trustee would not have to complete distributions to the trust beneficiaries. The funds distributed from a traditional IRA will be taxed at trust tax rates, as opposed to the personal tax rates imputed to distributions from a conduit trust.

A charitable remainder trust (“CRT”) remains an attractive estate planning tool. A CRT allows a beneficiary to receive income throughout his or her lifetime.  After the beneficiary passes away, the remainder of the trust is distributed to a charity of the grantor’s choice. A CRT provides security to a loved-one along with the benevolence of providing for a charity. Appointing a CRT as an IRA beneficiary allows distributions to be stretched longer than the SECURE Act’s ten-year limit. Life insurance can replace the funds placed into a CRT in a tax-efficient manner.  The annuity payments from the CRT can be retained and used to fund a life insurance policy that names additional beneficiaries.

A silver lining from the SECURE Act is the postponement of RMDs by one and one-half years, which will provide additional time for retirement accounts to grow without being depleted by withdrawals and taxes. Additionally, the SECURE Act affords the owner of a traditional IRA additional time to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Depending on the size of the traditional IRA, a conversion may significantly increase the amount that can be converted from a tax-deferred traditional IRA to a tax-free Roth IRA and result in a lifetime of tax savings from smaller RMDs and long-term, tax-free growth from a larger tax-free Roth IRA.

The New Year holiday generally offers time for introspection, including personal finances. Now is an opportune time to re-evaluate your estate and financial plans to ensure that your financial future is secure.

Michael Salad is a partner in Cooper Levenson’s Business, Tax and Estate Planning practice groups. He concentrates his practice on estate planning, probate, business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, tax matters and cyber risk management. Michael holds an LL.M. in Estate Planning and Elder Law. Michael is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.  Michael may be reached at 609.572.7616; 954.889.1850 or via e-mail at

Craig Panholzer is an associate in Cooper Levenson’s Business, Tax and Estate Planning practice groups. He concentrates his practice on estate planning, business transactions and tax matters. Craig may be reached at 954.889.1856 or via e-mail at



Cooper Levenson Announces Event to Benefit the Community Food Bank of NJ and Let Us Eat – Please, Inc.


The Community FoodBank of New Jersey- Egg Harbor Township along with its member charity, Let Us Eat – Please, Inc., is again hosting an evening of delightful food, cocktails, desserts, and fun at the Progressive Insurance Atlantic City Boat Show.  The event will be held at the Atlantic City Convention Center on Thursday, February 27, 2020 from 6-9pm.  The Professional Chefs Association of South Jersey will bring 20 local outstanding chefs to serve their most popular dishes.

Attendees will enjoy entertainment while sampling signature menu items from some of the area’s top restaurants, along with tastings from area distilleries, wineries, and breweries.

Tickets will also allow guests to see and shop 500 boats – for every budget and lifestyle – from center console sportfishers and motoryachts to tricked out wakesports boats and personal watercraft. The floor will feature eight-and-a-half football fields of this year’s newest boats, plus thousands of accessories and fun for the whole family.

All proceeds will be equally shared by the Community FoodBank of New Jersey- Egg Harbor Township and Let Us Eat – Please, Inc., to support local hunger relief efforts. It’s a great way to indulge in a night of cruise-worthy celebration and give to a wonderful cause.

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey – Egg Harbor Township is the state’s largest provider of donated foods to over 300 partner charities in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties.

Let Us Eat – Please, Inc. is a summer feeding program created by Cooper Levenson founding partner James L. Cooper, designed to ensure that underprivileged children get enough to eat during the summer months, while out of school.

Tickets are $125 per person, which includes admission to the Progressive Insurance AC Boat Show on Thursday, February 27th. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. For more information please contact Renate Taylor at Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Egg Harbor Township 609.383.8843 or or Ken Calemmo, Cooper Levenson, or 609.572.7500.

The Progressive Insurance Atlantic City Boat Show runs February 26-March 1 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. For more information visit or @acboatshow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Ronald Lieberman to speak at 2020 Family Law Symposium on Jan. 25 in New Brunswick, N.J.

Ronald G. Lieberman, a partner with Cooper Levenson, will speak at the 2020 Family Law Symposium on Jan. 25 at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, N.J.

On January 24th and 25th, 2020, hundreds of family law attorneys, judges, paralegals, and other related family law professionals will meet in New Brunswick to hear thought-provoking and insightful presentations that examine many of today’s cutting-edge matrimonial law issues, and to network with the colleagues and other family law professionals.

Lieberman will moderate a panel at 1 p.m. entitled “Intrastate and Interstate Relocation – The Aftermath Of Bisbing, How To Shape Our Intrastate Relocations Laws, and An Arial View Of How Other States Address Intrastate Relocation Laws.” The lineup:

Ronald G. Lieberman, Esq. (Moderator);
Hon. Ellen L. Koblitz, PJAD;
Hon. Marc Brown, JSC; Robert Epstein Esq.;
Christine Fitzgerald, Esq.; Matheu D. Nunn, Esq.

This program has been approved by the Board on Continuing Legal Education of the Supreme Court of New Jersey for 7.3 hours of total CLE credit. Of these, 7.3 qualify as hours of credit toward certification in matrimonial law.

The program agenda can be found at

Cooper Levenson Foundation Accepting Scholarship Applications

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.  January 2 , 2020 -Cooper Levenson Foundation, Inc. is offering college scholarship grants to high school seniors residing in the firm’s practice areas, including Atlantic, Cape May and Camden Counties in New Jersey. Candidates must demonstrate academic excellence, active involvement as a volunteer, and financial need, and must be planning to enroll as a full-time student at an accredited two- or four-year university.

“We believe that investing in the education of the next generation is one of the best ways to insure the continuous improvement of a community,” said Lloyd D. Levenson, chief executive officer. “We’re pleased to be able to help high school seniors who demonstrate civic responsibility and academic achievement despite challenges. These are our leaders of tomorrow.”

The application requires sections to be completed by a teacher or school administrator and a volunteer coordinator, and letters of recommendation from each. Students also must furnish an official copy of their high school transcript, proof of SAT or ACT composite score, answers to two essay questions, a Student Aid Report (SAR) report, copy of the submitted Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and a letter of eligibility for a Pell Grant, if applicable.

Scholarship applications are available online here or through high school guidance offices in Atlantic, Cape May and Camden Counties. To be eligible for a scholarship award, applications must be hand delivered or mailed, and received before 5 p.m. on April 3, 2020 at Cooper Levenson Foundation Inc., attn: Donna Vecere, Director of Marketing, 1125 Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, N.J. 08401. Email submissions will not be accepted.

Cooper Levenson is a full service law firm since 1957, with 67 attorneys and New Jersey offices in Atlantic City and Cherry Hill. The firm has regional offices in Bear, Del., and Las Vegas, Nev. For more information, visit

2020 Cooper Levenson Foundation Scholarship Application

Cooper Levenson attorneys to present at NJCPA Atlantic Cape Chapter Briefing Thurs. Feb. 6

Topics include SECURE (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement) Act of 2019, “Happily Divorced,” Estate Planning Matters, and more

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. –  Tax attorneys from the Atlantic City and New York City  offices of Cooper Levenson will present a tax “Breakfast Briefing” on Thursday Feb. 6, 2020 at the Linwood Country Club in Linwood, N.J.

Robert E. Salad, Joseph C. Mahon, and Cynthia N. Grob will present and discuss the following topics:

“Happily Divorced” – What CPAs Should Know about Alternatives to Conventional Litigation, by Cynthia N. Grob, Esq.

 Practical Issues in Estate Planning  Every Accountant Should Know, by Joseph C. Mahon, Esq., LL.M.

 Recent IRS Rulings and Pronouncements from the United States and New Jersey Tax Courts, as well as Legislative and Regulatory Changes in the Tax Law, SECURE (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement) Act of 2019, by Robert E. Salad, Esq., LL.M.

Register here.


by Bard L. Shober, Esq.

Searching for an appropriate nursing home for your loved one just got a little easier.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced last month that they will display a warning icon for nursing homes with abuse citations on their consumer “Nursing Home Compare” web page.

Nursing homes that have received a citation for abuse will be identified with an icon of an open palm surrounded by a red circle.  Officials will update the icons monthly along with the facilities overall inspection results.

This marks an improvement over the old system that required consumers using the web page to await quarterly updates.  In addition, consumers will know instantly if the nursing home has had a recent citation for abuse.  Also available at the “Nursing Home Compare” web page will be the results of the CMS five star system that rates each nursing home on a variety of categories including staffing and quality measures.

Unfortunately, the new icon will only be present until the next inspection if the nursing home remedies the issues that caused the abuse citation; meaning the new system does not provided an historical account of abuse findings.  To date, nearly 5% of the nation’s more than 15,000 nursing homes have received the icon.

An informed consumer makes the best decisions.  This improvement at the CMS website helps us all be better consumers for our families and friends that need long-term nursing care.


Japan looks to Nevada as it considers gaming regulations: Our attorney Scott Rasmussen quoted in Las Vegas Review Journal

Congratulations to our attorney, Scott Rasmussen. Read more in the Las Vegas Review Journal – story link below.

“Earlier this month, former Nevada Gaming Control Board chair Becky Harris found herself a long way from home. Harris, along with Cooper Levenson attorney Scott Rasmussen, spent five days in Japan, meeting with integrated resort promotion officials in Osaka and Tokyo to discuss things like project timelines and gaming regulations.”

Japan looks to Nevada as it considers gaming regulations

Cooper Levenson Holiday Cards Feature Student Artwork

Four area schoolchildren have their artwork professionally published in holiday cards sent by Cooper Levenson Attorneys at Law. The annual holiday art contest encourages students to engage in the arts, and underscores Cooper Levenson’s support of charities in the communities it serves. The cards were sent to 4,000 clients and friends of the firm.

Winners were chosen from the hundreds of entries submitted:

  1. Kenya McReynolds, an eighth grader from the Egg Harbor City School District
  2. Jenna Vivadelli, a fifth grader from the Hammonton Public School District
  3. Joana Andujar, a fifth grader from the Pleasantville Public School District
  4. Maya Krijt, a seventh grader from the Evesham Township School District

Students receive a $50 gift card and a cupcake party for their classes. The students’ teachers also receive a $100 gift card to use for art supplies. Both students and teachers will be honored at upcoming Board of Education (BOE) meetings.

The holiday cards noted that, in lieu of corporate gifts, the Atlantic City office will contribute to “Let Us Eat, Please,” an organization which feeds hungry families in the region.

About ‘Let Us Eat, Please’

‘Let Us Eat, Please’ was created by the late James L. Cooper, founding partner of Cooper Levenson. Just after his 82nd birthday, he formed the organization after he learned from his daughter, a teacher, about the effects of hunger on the one in five children who regularly attend school hungry. Last summer, through this grassroots, volunteer-driven effort and area schools, 810 families and their 2,300 children received a 30 pound box of groceries every two weeks, at no cost.

Cooper Levenson is a full service law firm since 1957, with offices in New Jersey, Delaware, Florida, Nevada, and New York.

It Didn’t Happen In School, But….Can We Discipline?

by Amy Houck Elco, Esquire
This article appeared in the School Leader Magazine, a publication of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

In New Jersey both staff and students can potentially be disciplined for off-campus conduct if certain requirements are met.

Requirements for Disciplining Students for Off-Campus Conduct Schools in the state can impose discipline on students for conduct that occurs away from school grounds (when such discipline is consistent with the school’s code of student conduct) as long as the following two factors are met: (1) the discipline is reasonably necessary for the student’s physical or emotional safety, security, and well-being, or for reasons related to the safety, security, and well-being of other students, staff, or school grounds and; (2) the conduct which is the subject of the proposed consequence materially, and substantially, interferes with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school. N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.5.

In P.G. on behalf of M.G. v. Board of Education of the Borough of Woodcliff Lake, the education commissioner held that the board did not exceed its authority when it suspended M.G. for off-campus conduct related to a weekend traffic stop and subsequent arrest. M.G. was a passenger in a car that was pulled over as part of a traffic stop. At some point after the stop M.G. exited the car. Sometime later, M.G. was found at a different location, with a backpack. A search of M.G.’s backpack led to the discovery of six small bags of marijuana. According to police, the amount and size of the bags signified the potential for an intent to distribute. M.G. was subsequently placed on out-of-school suspension for two days as a result of his off-campus conduct. The Administrative Law Judge initially found that the board could not discipline M.G. and that its actions were arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable. However, the commissioner of education disagreed and found that, based upon the suggested intent to distribute marijuana, it was not arbitrary or capricious for the board to consider M.G.’s conduct a potential threat to the physical or emotional safety and well-being of M.G. and his fellow students and allowed the discipline.

Two federal court cases out of the Third Circuit, Layshock v. Hermitage School District, 650 F.3d 205 (3d Cir. 2011); and J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, 650 F.3d 915 (3d Cir. 2011), involved students who created “parody pages” of high school principals. In Layshock and J.S. the students referred to the principals in derogatory terms on My Space pages they created off-campus. The court determined that those two cases involved free speech that could not be restricted because there was no evidence that the pages substantially disrupted the school environment other than to insult the principals. The court opined that “under this standard, two students can be punished for using a vulgar remark to speak about their teacher at a private party, if another student overhears the remark, reports it to the school authorities and the school authorities find the remark ‘offensive.”

In addition, under anti-bullying laws, school administrators must also investigate and can discipline for off-campus harassment, intimidation and bullying which is brought to the school’s attention.

Read entire article here.

Reserve Your Place at the Captain’s Table – February 27, 2020

Tickets now on sale. Sponsorships available.

You’re invited to an evening of unique culinary tastings and decadent desserts from more than 20 acclaimed chefs and restaurants, complemented by an assortment of fine spirits, live entertainment, auctions and more at the sixth annual Captain’s Table event on February 27, 2020, 6-9 PM, during the Progressive Insurance Atlantic City Boat Show at the Atlantic City Convention Center.

The Captain’s Table event is hosted by Let Us Eat Please, Inc. and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey Southern Branch to help raise awareness and financial support for the summer feeding program that provides groceries to local families whose children receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year. More than 25,000 children in Atlantic County meet the federal criteria. The summer feeding program serves nine school districts, providing 30 lbs. of groceries to each eligible family every two weeks.

“One in seven children in New Jersey face hunger every day,” noted Renate Taylor of the Community Food Bank, “and when they don’t have enough to eat their physical and mental development suffer.”

Some of the children who have benefited from the summer feeding program are giving back by creating items to be sold at the event with all proceeds being donated for the cause.

Tickets are $125 per person and are available online here.

“One of the great things about this event is that the price of the ticket also includes admission any time that day to the Boat Show that features luxury motor and sailing yachts, sport fishers, performance boats and watercrafts. We encourage everyone to come early to take advantage of all that is available while supporting a great cause,” said Ken Calemmo, President of Let Us Eat Please, Inc.

For more information, please contact Ken Calemmo at or Renate Taylor at