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A Conversation With Sal Diliberto, North Fork Vintner And Elder Law Attorney

Originally Posted: February 08, 2012

John A. Viteritti

Salvatore Diliberto with his wife Mary Ann. (Courtesy Photo: Diliberto)

Southampton - Salvatore Diliberto has been practicing law in Queens Village since 1983, 20 years specializing in elder law and for the past six years in Queens Surrogate Court representing the estates of his deceased clients.

In 1991 he and his wife Mary Ann purchased a five-acre parcel of land on Manor Lane in Jamesport on the North Fork of Eastern Long Island. The couple set aside three acres for wine production and in 1998 planted their first acre. In 2007 the Dilibertos added a tasting room next door to their house where they sell their wines and Sal hosts "Sundays with Grandma" with Sal not only preparing the pasta dishes but also entertains his guests with renditions of operatic and Neapolitan songs in his fine baritone voice, elaborating "I wanted to become connected with farming, both with the hard work and the pleasure of being in the fields. The first time I smelled the fermenting grapes, I knew I would be making wine the rest of my life."

Are the development rights on your property intact?

SD: Yes they are.

Would you be amenable, given the opportunity, to selling the development rights to the Town of Riverhead or to a Land Trust?

SD: Yes I would be, but I don't know that five acres are enough to attract a purchase.

But it is true that the use to which you are putting your land is very consistent with the goals of preservation and the continuation of farming as an industry on the North Fork.

SD: Yes, it is. Approximately 3,000 acres have been preserved as a result of the wine industry on the East End of Long Island. The Long Island Wine Council, of which I am a member, has contributed significantly to maintaining the rural character of the North Fork.

It also contributes substantially to tourism which benefits the economy.

SD: Yes. It has encouraged the development of hotels and restaurants on the East End. Agriculture drives the economy on the North Fork.

As much as Sal enjoys his avocation, he still practices law. When I met him at his vineyard, we discussed issues that are of particular concern to the elder population that characterizes the North Fork.

At a time when people are living longer and assets are being stretched, what advice would you offer to seniors and their families?

SD: One of the reasons my practice in Queens focused on Elder Law is because Queens had the largest population of people over the age of 65 than any other county in the country. Here on Long Island, seniors need access to community services such as community provided transportation for access to doctors and shopping.

Based upon your work in Elder Law what are some recommendations that you would suggest seniors and their families consider?

SD: I have found that older people do not want to leave their homes, no matter what amenities may be available through assisted living. Reverse mortgages have been a vehicle to achieve that, and while that may be more difficult to procure, they still are available. The New York STAR Program provides some property tax relief. (See article September 2010, "What is the STAR Program"). The 55 and over communities are another prerogative.

What about a life estate?

SD: A life estate is another possibility. It gives the owner the ability to sell the property while retaining the right to live in the home for the remainder of their lives.

The price of real estate is lower now than several years ago and we may have reached the low price point. People with cash are looking for investment opportunities other than stocks and bonds. Seniors need cash but do not want to leave their homes. Wouldn't an investor who is willing to give a life estate be a perfect marriage?

SD: Yes. It definitely would be. In fact, an investor may be more financially capable of doing that than would a family member.

If a senior sells a primary residence and meets the IRS requirements to exclude some or all of the gain resulting from the sale, are the proceeds of the sale taxed at 100 percent?

SD: Yes. The proceeds of the sale are considered an asset. One possibility is establishing a trust fund. A transfer of property to a disabled child is treated differently than other transfers of real property. These are reasons why estate planning is important and what Elder Law attorneys do. Everyone's situation is unique. There is no one size fits all approach to estate planning. The sooner planning takes place the better, while the owner has the greatest number of options.

Thank you, Sal, for your time and the valuable information you have provided. Good luck with the vineyard.

Editor's Note: John will be teaching a 22.5 hours Real Estate Continuing Education classes at Long Island University in Riverhead on February 13, February 15, and February 15. For information and registration contact Rosemary Malone at 631-287-8334 or by email at rosemary.malone@liu.edu.

John is a St. John's University graduate, licensed Real Estate broker, lecturer, teaches real estate license classes at LIU, NYU, and Cook Maran Real Estate School, and is a well-respected consultant to the real estate industry. www.johnaviteritti.com

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