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Copyright 2020 Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler 2020
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Sussan, Greenwald  & Wesler

Congratulation to Staci, Alex, and Andrew – Our Super Lawyers® 2021

March 2021
Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations.

Staci Greenwald has been selected to Super Lawyers for the eighth year in a row, recognized as a top-rated education attorney.

Alex Hilsen has been selected to the Rising Stars category for the second year as a top-rated estate planning and probate attorney.

Andrew Meltzer has been selected to the Rising Stars category for the second year as a top-rated education attorney.

Congratulations to Staci, Alex, and Andrew on recognition by their peers for their outstanding work and commitment to the spirit of the legal profession. Their knowledge of the law, professional work ethic, and advocacy on behalf of their clients allow them to stand out among other attorneys in the field.

We are pleased to welcome Nicole L. Crincoli, Esq. to the SGW team!

November 2020
Nicole Crincoli is a highly qualified and experienced attorney who is passionate about advocating for clients who require special education programs. As a judicial law clerk, she worked in varied settings that involved the protection of the legal rights of children. She is a Certified Special Education Teacher and member of the New Jersey State Bar. Get to know more about Nicole here!

Announcing “of Counsel” Attorney Lauren D. Bercik, Esq.

January 2020
Lauren Bercik has been a civil litigator since 2004 and brings to SGW her many years of experience in estate litigation, administration, and planning. We are excited to partner with an estate litigation attorney who is so highly qualified to represent and advance the interests of our clients. Read more about Ms. Bercik here:

SUPER LAWYER 2020 Selections are in!

SGW is proud to announce that three of our attorneys have been recognized as Super Lawyers for 2020: Staci Greenwald, Alex M. Hilsen, and Andrew I. Meltzer.
The SGW team congratulate these three attorneys for earning this stellar rating for the upcoming year!

Super Lawyers (superlawyers.com) is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. Only 5% of the total lawyers in the state are selected to the Super Lawyers list!

Staci Greenwald has been chosen as a Super Lawyer in each consecutive year 2014 – 2020. Alex Hilsen and Andrew Meltzer are selected as Super Lawyer Rising Stars for 2020.

Jayne M. Wesler, Esq. becomes named partner in the firm

Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler has announced that Jayne M. Wesler is now a named partner in the firm, which will be called Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler.

Wesler has focused her career on advocating for the rights of students who require special educational programs through IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. As a lawyer, a licensed clinical social worker and a former child study team member, she also advocates for protection from bullying and the enforcement of students’ civil rights.

According to firm partner Staci Greenwald, “Jayne brings so much to this firm and more importantly, to the clients whom she represents. Her advocacy on behalf of those with special needs is really only matched by her compassion for those who may perhaps not be receiving the services to which they are entitled.”

Alex M. Hilsen, Esq. Named Partner at Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler

July 2, 2018

Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler, a law firm serving families with children with special needs, named Alex M. Hilsen, Esq., LL.M, as a partner to the firm.

“In the years since Alex has joined the firm, he has become an asset on many levels,” said Staci Greenwald, senior partner. “Expanding our practice to include future planning for families with a child with special needs was the natural next step and has been an invaluable resource to our clients. We are proud to name Alex as partner to the firm.”

Mr. Hilsen has been a valued member of the SGW team since 2009, dedicating his practice to providing practical estate planning solutions for clients.

“I am humbled to be a partner at Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler — a firm that cares so much about its clients and the entire special needs community. It’s an honor to be able to continue to assist our clients with their estate planning needs,” Mr. Hilsen said.

Prior to joining SGW, Mr. Hilsen had a successful financial services practice for almost two decades. At Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler, he uses his financial expertise to help guide clients in estate issues, including special needs trusts, wills and general estate planning. He is proud to have the unique opportunity to help his clients find peace of mind through thoughtful estate planning.

Mr. Hilsen earned his J.D. at Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware, his B.S. at Nyack College, in Nyack, NY, and his Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in estate planning from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. He is a member of the New Jersey State Bar. He is also a New Jersey life insurance advisor.

About Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler

Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler is recognized as one of the leading special education law firms in New Jersey, having helped thousands of children with special needs receive access to the educational opportunities they might otherwise not have had. Our efforts on behalf of our clients have helped to set legal precedent in the New Jersey and Federal Courts.

Staci Greenwald presented ``The Pros and Cons of Public and Private School Programs``

December 19th, 2011

Staci J. Greenwald, Esq. appeared on the Special Needs Talk Radio Network on December 19th, 2011. The online podcast focused on the pros and cons parents must consider in determining whether a public school or private school program is right for their child with special needs.

The program, entitled “Maximizing Your Child’s Potential,” can be accessed at www.special-ed-law.com or downloaded free on iTunes.

A partner in the law firm of Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler, Ms. Greenwald was a special education teacher before attending law school. She has a degree in speech pathology, and is a Certified Teacher of the Handicapped. She represents the disabled in various forums, from the Office of Administrative Law to the federal courts. Besides special education issues, Greenwald offers advocacy in matters involving the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and guardianship.

Jayne Wesler , Esq. presented ``Back to Basics: Challenges for the Next Decade`` to the American Academy of Pediatrics Annual AAP/NJ School Health Conference

October 26, 2011.

Jayne Wesler, Esq. and David Rubin, Esq. were featured speakers at the 20th Annual AAP/NJ School Health Conference on October 26, 2011.

The workshop covered special education and general education provisions of the New Jersey Administrative Code; provided a working knowledge of a school district’s obligation with locating identifying, evaluating, and classifying special needs students; discussed patient symptoms that warrant attention from a school district; offered a working knowledge of the referral process for child study team and Section 504 evaluation (including criteria for eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004); provided an attorney’s perspective on when patient advocacy and referral is appropriate; and discussed what practice issues may arise for physicians with regards to school children.

Staci J. Greenwald, Esq. spoke at the Autism New Jersey 29th Annual Conference

October 14, 2011

Lindsay Hilsen, M. Ed., BCBA and Staci Greenwald, Esq. were featured speakers for the presentation, “ABA Programs and the Law: What You Need to Know to Ensure a Student is Provided with a Free and Appropriate Public Education.” Presented on October 14, 2011, the workshop educated parents, teachers, administrators and others interested in learning how to design a school program for students with autism based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and within full regulations of the law.

Using the Department of Education’s Autism Program Quality Indicators as a guide, the program covered a brief summary of basic ABA terminology and practices such as discrete trial instruction, functional behavior assessments, manding, reinforcement and behavior intervention plans. They also discussed the rights and responsibilities of both the school district and the student. Topics such as the least restrictive environment, referral to the child study team, evaluations, development of the IEP (including how to develop specific and measurable goals and objectives) and extended school year were reviewed. The attendees also heard about recent case law and the impact on autism classrooms in New Jersey.

Special Education: New Jersey and Federal

OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS (OSEP)

July 6, 2020

The US Department of Education has issued guidance that would allow for the use of private medical evaluations to establish eligibility for EI services, as well as the provision of interim IFSP’s, due to the current limitations imposed by COVID. Read the attached memo.

 

Download here the Initial Evaluation and Assessment Timeline

RECOMMENDED WAIVERS TO THE CARES ACT
On April 27, 2020

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, submitted to Congress a list of recommended waivers.

On page 11, it is noted, “The Department is not requesting waiver authority for any of the core tenets of the IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, most notably a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).” The letter goes on to state that schools must provide education to all students, including those with disabilities, and that the needs of the individual student should guide decisions and expenditures.

The waiver recommends that services typically provided in person be permitted to be provided through alternative methods.

The waiver also recommends for an allowance of continued services through Part C (Early Intervention) due to delayed transition to Part B (Age 3 to 21).

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH/DDD

On April 25, 2020

The New Jersey Department of Health, issued guidance clarifying that designated support persons for people with disabilities are considered essential. Hospitals are required to allow a designated support person to remain with a disabled patient during hospitalization. A designated support person may be a family member, personal care assistant or another disability service provider.

 

Read memo from the New Jersey Department of Health.

COVID19 NJ Remote Learning Services
On April 1, 2020

The New Jersey State Board of Education approved emergency changes in state administrative code to allow students with disabilities to receive their special education services remotely while schools are closed due to the coronavirus.

 

 Download here the latest updates from the NJ State Department of Education

SCHOOL DISTRICT FOR CHILD WITH SEVERE COMMUNICATION DISORDER

After a two-year administrative and legal battle, the parents of a preschool student, identified in court documents as J.O., obtained a ruling (docket number: EDS 12248-11) from an administrative law judge that their now five-year-old son was improperly denied a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment by his local school district, the Summit Board of Education.

In a 33-page opinion, Judge Evelyn Marose found that the district “created a long, arduous road for J.O.” by erroneously equating his inability to communicate with his cognitive ability, refusing to consider the input of the parents or J.O.’s outside treating professionals and by creating IEP goals that “made it difficult to impossible for J.O. to progress.”

Represented by Jayne M. Wesler, Esq., the parents brought the legal case on behalf of their son, J.O., who is diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), a severe communication disorder described as “a neurological condition that relates to the total lack of ability to plan, to organize, to sequence, and to execute movements necessary to produce speech.” Instead of addressing his CAS, the Summit School District ignored the recommendations from numerous outside professionals that J.O. be provided with appropriate peer models for speech, communication, socialization and play. The district placed J.O. in a self-contained class based on the principles of applied behavioral analysis (ABA), the type of instruction given to children with autism, even though the parents had provided district staff with reports from Children’s Specialized Hospital stating that J.O. was not autistic, and that his primary diagnosis was CAS.

In her court order, Judge Marose found that the district had failed to offer a free and appropriate public education, awarded tuition reimbursement for the 2011–2012 school year and for the 2012 extended school year, and ordered an out-of-district program for the 2012–2013 school year.

NEW JERSEY JUDGE ORDERS DISTRICT TO PROVIDE BRAILLE INSTRUCTIONS FOR BLIND CHILD

After a three-year administrative and legal battle against their local school board, the Oceanport Board of Education, parents obtained a ruling (docket number: 2011 17218) from an administrative law judge that their eleven-year-old son was improperly denied instruction in Braille, the reading and writing code for the blind. The legal victory, obtained with the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), comes on the heels of a letter from 26 U.S. Senators urging the Department of Education to take steps to ensure that blind children who need Braille instruction receive it.

The parents brought the legal case on behalf of their son, whom they adopted from China and who is blind due to albinism and nystagmus. Their son has a limited vision that allows him to read enlarged print for short periods of time, but he is unable to read for sustained periods of time. Although his parents continued to tell school officials that their son was experiencing visual fatigue and was having difficulty reading, the school board and its consultant, the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI), insisted that he was a proficient print reader, notwithstanding his continued placement in a special resource room for language arts. In a nearly ten-day hearing, held under the due process provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, the students mother testified that she watched her son routinely struggle with his homework, suffering from eye strain and fatigue, but was unable to convince school officials or the CBVI that he needed Braille instruction. She also testified that his schoolwork was not of the same quantity and quality as that of his classmates. Although experts from the school and the commission claimed that he was a “visual learner” and should participate in the “sighted world,” experts hired by the parents and the NFB concluded after thorough assessment that he could not read print for extended periods of time without eye strain, neck and back pain, fatigue, and loss of reading speed and comprehension.

In her order, Administrative Law Judge Lisa James-Beavers found that the school board and the commission displayed a clear “bias against Braille.” She found that the school board and the commission had failed to assess the student’s “sustained reading ability” with print, relying instead on reading assessments involving only brief passages, and citing the student’s alleged failure to complain about struggling to read print. The judge was unconvinced by the board and CBVI’s contention that he could rely on audio technology as reading demands increased through his school years, noting that “as pointed out by all of the petitioners’ well-qualified experts, listening does not equate to reading. One does not enhance the active skill of comprehending text by passively listening, even if one is following along with the reading.” The order noted that “the CBVI failed to do what Oceanport relied on them to do, which is to help construct a program that would give [the student] meaningful educational benefit considering [the student] .’s future needs.” Judge James-Beavers ordered that the student be provided with Braille instruction for forty-five minutes, five days a week and that the school board provide compensatory instruction because of the three years that Hank was not provided with Braille instruction, in the form of intensive Braille summer programs or tutoring.

New Jersey Probate, Estate, and Taxes

NEW JERSEY STATE NOT INHERITANCE TAX

October, 2018

Update: On Oct. 14th, Gov. Christie signed into law the transportation funding bill and the accompanying tax bill. It’s The Law: New Jersey Estate Tax Repeal In 2018.

The New Jersey legislature today voted to repeal the state’s estate tax as part of a deal including a 23-cents-a-gallon tax hike to renew the state Transportation Fund. The once-wannabe Republican presidential candidate Governor Chris Christie is expected to sign the bills into law, which will mean he follows in the footsteps of the two vice-presidential candidates Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Governor Mike Pence who oversaw the elimination of their state’s estate taxes in 2007 (Virginia) and 2013 (Indiana) respectively.

New Jersey estate tax repeal would be effective as of Jan. 1, 2018. The state estate tax exemption would go up from its current low $675,00 to $2 million for deaths as of Jan. 1, 2017. That means an individual can leave $2 million to heirs without a state estate tax levy (money left to spouses is always exempt). For out-of-staters with beach houses, there’s another freebie—the latest legislation eliminates a provision that imposed estate tax on the New Jersey property of nonresident decedents.

But there’s a big catch for many New Jersey families. New Jersey imposes two death taxes—the estate tax and the inheritance tax. The inheritance tax in New Jersey is alive and kicking. New Jersey’s inheritance tax is levied on siblings, nieces and nephews–not spouses or children–and the exemption is a measly $500. There were 3,467 estate tax returns in New Jersey in 2014, and 4,849 inheritance tax returns (here’s a breakdown on returns by estate size).

State estate and inheritance taxes are separate from the federal estate tax, which has a generous $5.45 million exemption (with proper planning, a couple can shield $10.9 million). After that, there’s a 40% tax. Presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to repeal the federal estate tax, while his opponent Hillary Clinton wants to reduce the exemption to $3.5 million and add three rates of 50, 55%, and a top 65% rate for estates of $500 million or more.

Maryland is the only other state besides New Jersey that levies both an estate and inheritance tax. Maryland’s estate tax exemption is currently $2 million, and set to rise each year until in 2019 it matches the generous federal exemption (currently $5.45 million). See Where Not To Die In 2016 for a round-up on all 18 states plus the District of Columbia that impose death taxes.

Here’s an example of how this works in New Jersey now. Leave $727,000 to a “Class A” family member (a spouse, child, parent) and there is no New Jersey inheritance tax. The New Jersey estate tax would be $19,240. Leave the same $727,000 to a “Class D” family member (your niece or nephew), the first $500 is exempt and the New Jersey inheritance tax owed is $109,240. Under the new inheritance tax only regime, if children are heirs the estate would owe zip, but if siblings or aunts are heirs there would be inheritance tax due.

Credit: Ashlea Ebeling, Forbes

CHANGES FOR THE NJ STATE TAX

Q. Now that the estate tax is being phased out, what is meant that it benefits the top 4 percent? Please address the new estate tax exemption.
— Planning ahead

A. The estate tax in New Jersey is one of the reasons many people decide to leave the state.
That’s because while the federal government has increased its estate tax exemption to more than $5 million, New Jersey has stuck with $675,000.

That means anyone who dies with assets worth more than $675,000 will have estates subject to the tax.

That may sound like a lot of money, but if you own even a modest home in the northern part of the state, you’ll probably hit the $675,000 threshold.

Now, the 4 percent statistic you stated comes from data by New Jersey Policy Perspective, which says about 4 percent of estates in New Jersey pay the tax.

And over the last three years, according to state figures, only 94 estates paid 41 percent of all estate taxes paid in the state.

But now, the estate tax in New Jersey is changing as part of the bill that raised the gas tax in the state.

When Gov. Christie signs the bill, the exemption will rise to $2 million for estate who die in 2017, and then the state estate tax will be eliminated for anyone who dies on or after Jan. 1, 2018, said Yale Hauptman, an estate planning attorney with Hauptman and Hauptman in Livingston.

“The estate tax is a graduated tax, meaning that higher valued estates pay more in taxes,” Hauptman said. “Because average home values in New Jersey are so high and the exemption amount is so low, many moderately sized estates have faced an estate tax bill. That will change.”

New Jersey, however, has a second “death” tax.

It’s the inheritance tax, which is assessed based on the relationship of the heirs to the person who died.

Hauptman said Class A beneficiaries — which include spouses, parents and grandparents and lineal descendants such as children and grandchildren — are not subject to inheritance tax.

More distant relatives and non-relatives will still face that tax, which ranges from 11 to 16 percent of the inheritance received.

“There have been no reports in the media about the inheritance tax being eliminated so it is safe to say that this tax will be unaffected by the new changes to the estate tax,” Hauptman said.

What does this mean for the average New Jersey resident?

“If you have a spouse and/or children who will be the recipients of your estate when you die, then the inheritance tax is of no concern to you or your heirs and your estate will soon owe no estate tax,” Hauptman said. “If you have no Class A beneficiaries and must name other non-Class A beneficiaries, then they will still owe inheritance tax.”

Credit: By Karin Price Mueller/NJMoneyHelp.com

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