Nancy Burner: Caring for Our Elders, Protecting Families

Nancy Burner‚ Esq.
Nancy Burner‚ Esq.

We are living longer. Science, better health practices and different lifestyles have made 80 years old a somewhat familiar milestone in millions of lives. The largest growing segment of the population is people over 90. People are living longer but may need more assistance as they face new challenges in health and finances. The cost of long-term care requires seniors to plan early to preserve assets. So many of life’s seemingly simple fundamentals — a clean home, food on the table, health care — require assistance. The big question: Who will be there to help me if I can’t help myself?

Renowned elder law practitioner Nancy Burner‚ Esq. is there to protect her clients and see them and their families through the myriad challenges that aging can bring.

Since she established the Burner Law Group‚ P.C. in 1995, she has earned the designation of Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA). Burner’s experience has been recognized many times. Most recently, in 2020, she was named as the Long Island Elder Law Attorney of the year by this same publication. Nancy Burner has also been named a Super Lawyer for the past 14 years, which is based on a rigorous peer-review survey comprising more than 8.2 million confidential evaluations by top attorneys.

Burner Law Group has grown to include estate planning and trust and estate administration — services that are needed now more than ever, and planning needs to begin much earlier than anybody would ever consider.

“Anyone over 18 should have a living will, power of attorney and a health care proxy,” Burner says. “If COVID taught us anything, it is that anything can happen, at any time. You have to be prepared.”

In 2005, she opened a Westhampton Beach office of Burner Law Group. She fell in love with the village, and in 2018 moved there full-time after raising her family in Port Jefferson.

“There are very few law firms on the East End doing what we do, and it is very much needed here,” Burner says.

Too many families are unprepared and often think they can handle the difficulty of estate law and planning themselves. “There are a lot of forms on the internet, but to truly protect your assets, your health and your family, you need experienced professional advice, not forms. … An experienced elder care and estate planning attorney understands the nuances of planning ahead, she can advise you about legal ramifications and avoid unintended outcomes,” Burner explains.

She has also been a dedicated advocate for clients statewide, serving as a five-term trustee for the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection. This state-administered agency was created in 1981 to protect law clients from the misuse of their money by dishonest attorneys and to promote public confidence in the administration of justice in New York State.

Burner is also a past president of the Suffolk County Women’s Bar Association and a past co-chair of the Suffolk County Elder Law Committee.

She has always shared her knowledge and does her best to educate clients, students and others in her practice. She frequently lectures on the legislative changes, financial implications and governmental benefits affecting the elderly and special needs population. In 2016‚ she was named as an Outstanding Women in Law by Hofstra University School of Law Center for Children Families and the Law. Later that same year, she was named by Manhattan Magazine as a Big Apple Entrepreneur winner.

Many people responded to the uncertainty of the COVID pandemic by working with Burner law Group, and she says the firm’s estate planning and administration business doubled.

There is an increased urgency, too. The federal estate tax exemption — the amount below which your estate is not subject to taxes when you die — is going up again for 2021, because the amount is adjusted each year for inflation. As of 2021, the federal estate and lifetime gift tax exemption is $11,700,000 per individual. However, the TCJA will sunset on December, 31, 2025. On January 1, 2026, the federal exemptions will be reduced to $5,000,000, indexed for inflation. As a result of this sunset provision, many individuals are transferring assets now before the exemption decreases.

Beyond asset protection and estate tax savings, clients need to prepare for possible incapacity. Basic documents like heath care proxies, living wills and powers of attorney can make all the difference. “Planning must be done now,” Burner says. “Without advance directives, an incapacitated person may find themselves the subject of guardianship proceedings in Supreme Court.” Besides the delay, the cost and the expense of a guardianship proceeding, there is a concomitant loss of control and the embarrassment of being subject to this type of proceeding. “Name the people you want to take care of you, at a time when you have the capacity to do so,” Burner says, urging her clients to think: “Who would you follow into battle? Name that person as your agent.”

She continues to grow her practice with 39 employees and offices in New York City‚ East Setauket‚ Westhampton Beach and East Hampton. Burner Law Group, coincidently, is the largest all-female law firm in the Tri-State Area. Burner is an active member of the Elder Law and Trust and Estates sections of the New York State Bar Association‚ the Suffolk County Bar Association and the Real Property‚ the Trust and Probate Committee of the American Bar Association. She is admitted to practice law in the State of New York.

Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.

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