On June 24, the New York State Senate gave its approval to a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in a dramatic late night session. Having already passed the Assembly, the bill was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo at midnight. New York is now the sixth —and largest— jurisdiction to enact a same-sex marriage act. The legal implications of this new legislation will soon be felt across the state.


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TheNew York Times has reported that many wealthy Americans seem reluctant to take advantage of the new tax breaks which Congress recently afforded them should they elect to set up trusts which will provide them with substantial breaks on estate taxes. These new tax breaks will expire in just two years so it is a "use it or lose it" proposition promising substantial savings for those super-advantaged folks in a position to benefit from the new law. Since the trusts take up to a year to implement, the window of opportunity is only open for a very short period.


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It is four years since the death of Anna Nicole Smith from an accidental prescription drug overdose. The smoke has cleared from the great "Who’s Your Daddy ?" controversy which exploded across the nation’s headlines soon after. And now, the ABA Journal reports that her heirs are about to carry on her fight for the fortune of her late husband to the Supreme Court.


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Today’s Washington Post has reported that an estate contest between members of NFL football great Gene Upshaw’s family has ended in a confidential settlement. Evidently, that portion of his estate which drew the most fire was the disposition of a $15 million deferred compensation fund which the NFL Players Association paid to his widow. This payment had been previously undisclosed and raised a myriad of issues not only in the Upshaw family but also in the NFL where players were aghast that the late head of their union had received such a large benefit.


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The first indication I got that something was afoot was an invitation to a retirement party to be held  for thirteen clerks and law assistants in the Nassau County Surrogate’s Court. It seems that they had all been offered "packages" to retire from civil service. Some of these extremely talented folks have been in the court system for more than thirty years and their departures will leave a void that will take a long time to fill. This is especially true since no replacements have been named yet and no transition plan is in place to provide some continuity in service to the bar and the public.


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The death of New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner has created a void on our local sports scene which will be hard to fill. Even though your faithful lawblogger has been a fan of New York’s other team since its founding in 1962 (and before that, I confess to being a New York baseball Giant fanatic), the "Boss" has been a colorful and charitably generous man who has provided us with years of excitement. Investing about seven million dollars of his own funds into a failing Yankee franchise when he purchased it in the early seventies, Steinbrenner built his fortune up to over  1.1 billion dollars at his death.


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The failure of this Congress to enact an extension and/or modification of the estate tax is underscored by the recent death of billionaire Dan Duncan, Houston’s wealthiest citizen. Today’s New York Times reports that Mr. Duncan , who passed away late this past March at the age of 77, had a net worth of about nine billion dollars. As most of you undoubtedly know, the estate tax which the cash-starved United States Treasury will collect from Mr. Duncan’s estate is zero, nada, zilch!


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