Everyone over the age of eighteen should have an estate plan, regardless of your net worth. An estate plan consists of documents that control decisions over your person or your affairs if you cannot make those decisions for yourself, or if you pass away. It includes not only the documents that everyone thinks about such as a Will or Trust, but it also includes important documents such as a Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney, and beneficiary designations.
The wealthy may have a more complex estate plan, but everyone should have the basic documents; Health Care Proxies, Powers of Attorney, and a Will. A Health Care Proxy gives someone trusted the power to make health decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. While a Health Care Proxy controls health decisions, a Power of Attorney controls business decisions. A Power of Attorney appoints someone you trust to make financial decisions on your behalf. A Will directs how your assets will be distributed after you pass away.
Everyone, no matter your level of wealth, should consider the following as part of their estate plan:
Healthcare Proxy and Power of Attorney: Health Care Proxies and Powers of Attorney will save your loved ones time and money in a time of crisis. No one wants to become incapacitated; everyone wants to have control over their own affairs, unfortunately life doesn’t always work this way. Without a Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney, if you become incapacitated, your family would need to petition the Probate Court in order to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf. Imagine the frustration of going to court multiple times in order to obtain this permission, on top of the stress and sadness that your family is already going through due to whatever the circumstances are that led to your incapacitation.
Last Will and Testament: A Will can nominate someone to be the Guardian of your children if you pass away. This is the reason many people have Wills drafted. Without this designation in your Will, the Probate Court will decide who will be the Guardian of your children. This Probate Court action can lead to fighting among family members who are already grieving. Additionally, a Will allows you to control who will inherit your assets. This is especially important if you are in a long-term relationship, but have not officially married. Pursuant to Massachusetts law, if you pass away and are legally single, your estate would first go to your children, parents, or siblings, in that order. As an unmarried couple, your significant other has no rights to your estate, making drafting a Will to include them vitally important.
If you have any questions about basic estate planning documents, please contact the estate planning attorneys at Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C. We can sit down with you and craft an estate plan that fits your needs and goals. – Elizabeth A. Caruso.
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Posted on March 18th, 2017
Everyone has already heard that Massachusetts citizens voted to legalize nonmedical marijuana, often referred to as recreational marijuana, and now set forth in Chapter 94G of the General Laws. What legalization means, however, has been a little hazy. This article sets forth an outline of what legalized nonmedical marijuana in Massachusetts means to employers, businesses interested in joining the cannabis industry, municipalities, and everyone else. The focus is on the state law aspects of legalization as the laws stand today because Legislators have stated that they are open to changing some provisions of the law, and they have already pushed back the timeframes in the new law by six months. Additionally, marijuana is still an illegal drug under Federal law.
First, the laws are written in a manner that discourages public consumption but allows significant freedoms for those interested in consuming marijuana privately. Public consumption is restricted under the new law, but not illegal. Any person who consumes marijuana in a public place or smokes marijuana where smoking tobacco is prohibited is subject to a civil penalty of $100 or less. Additionally, marijuana sales continue to be illegal until a licensed dispensary is open. Home grow is the acceptable method for obtaining marijuana at this juncture — adults may grow up to six marijuana plants in their home or up to twelve plants if there are two or more adults in the home. Subject to some restrictions, such as possession in a school or open possession in a vehicle, it is also fully legal for adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their homes.
Second, the law likely affects employment matters with the contours yet to be determined. Employers can still prohibit employees from consuming or being under the influence of nonmedical marijuana during working hours. It is unlikely, however, that an employer can make hiring decisions based on personal marijuana use unless such use had an effect on an employee’s performance. For adults over 21, marijuana is legal just like alcohol under state law, and until the courts provide additional guidance, employers should treat marijuana use the same as they would treat alcohol use.
Third, the laws encourage the licensing of nonmedical marijuana dispensaries. One of the issues with the medical marijuana laws, passed during the 2012 election, was the delay in licensing medical marijuana dispensaries. The first medical dispensary was licensed in 2015, almost three years after the law passed. Accordingly, the new law set forth timelines for the government to follow in licensure. Members of a new licensing commission, the Cannabis Control Commission, must be appointed in 2017 and the commission must adopt regulations for licensing. If regulations are timely adopted, medical marijuana professionals may apply for licenses on April 1, 2018. The timing for anyone else to apply depends on the amount of licensed medical marijuana dispensaries open or in the application process; applications will open to the general public on July 1, 2018 or April 1, 2019. If regulations are not timely adopted, licensed medical marijuana dispensaries may begin selling to the general adult population on July 1, 2018.
The law limits the scope of prohibitive bylaws that a municipality can enact to limit licensure. For example, municipalities must license nonmedical dispensaries equal to at least 20% of their licensed alcohol package stores. A municipality may be able to prohibit dispensaries by a town vote with a majority of voters voting to approve the ban; the law is open to interpretation on this point. Licensing preference is given to medical marijuana dispensaries, but anyone can apply on or after July 1, 2018 (this date could get extended to April 1, 2019 depending on the status of medical marijuana licensing).
Fourth, the nonmedical marijuana law opens up many other business opportunities besides the direct sale of marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The law authorizes the sale, possession, and manufacturing of marijuana accessories such as pipes and growing equipment. Previously, the sale of marijuana drug paraphernalia was illegal under state law. Businesses in the cannabis industry have struggled with banking relationships because of the existing Federal laws. Our client, Century Bank, has provided a method to cross that hurdle by accepting deposit relationships with businesses in the cannabis industry, subject to an application process.
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Posted on March 10th, 2017
PREMIUM LEGAL SERVICES WITHOUT THE BOSTON PREMIUM
This last month of the year always brings a variety of important events in our lives. A time when we make decisions about our financial and personal affairs.
Here at Baker, Braverman and Barbadoro, we celebrate another year of helping our clients achieve success in their legal affairs. We value every one of you, and wish you all the best during this Holiday Season.
Gene J. Guimond, Partner
Real Estate, Finance
End of Year Tax Tips for Small Business Owners
Buy Now: Take advantage of a federal tax break available for small businesses that spend between $2 million and $2.5 million on certain new or used office equipment, office
furniture, and standard off- the- shelf software. If this applies to you and your business, you may be able to deduct up to $500,000 of what you spend on such eligible equipment for your business in the 2016 tax year. To qualify for the deduction you must purchase or finance the equipment and put it into service before the last day of the year.
Start Saving: If you have not already done so, consider establishing an employer sponsored retirement plan for your employees (and yourself). Choose from various types of plans that are available for small business owners. Regardless of what type of plan you choose, the contributions that you as the business owner make for yourself and your employees can be tax deductible. You may also take advantage of credits available to small business owners to help offset the costs of setting up such plans. Some types of plans must be established before the end of 2016 for you to get any tax benefits with this year’s taxes. Still other types of plans allow you to set them up any time prior to the due date of your 2016 tax return (which is generally April of 2017) for you to realize tax benefits for 2016.
Think about Timing: Most small businesses are pass-through entities that use the cash method of accounting. If this applies to you, the timing of when you incur an expense or when you receive payment for goods or services can either cost you or save you when it comes to taxes. For example if this year’s profits were quite high and you expect next year’s to be lower, it may benefit you to delay payment if possible until after the first of the year, or to incur expenses before the end of the year. You can do this by delaying invoices or by pre-paying certain expenses. Conversely, this year may have been a low profit year and you expect next year to be more profitable. In that case you will want to accelerate payment where possible for goods or services, and delay expenses until after the first of the year.
Clean up: If you have old office equipment or furniture to donate or just want to make a cash donation, now is the time of the year to see how a charitable deduction may help you with respect to your income taxes. Keep in mind that a charitable deduction doesn’t apply just to cash gifts: you are also entitled to a charitable deduction for the fair market value of any other type of property you donate. You can find any number of organizations that will gladly take old office equipment, computers and furniture off your hands.
Plan Ahead: Now is the time to anticipate your tax bill for 2016. It may not be due for four more months but figuring out your tax liability now will give you the time to make sure you will have the cash flow necessary to make timely tax payments.
Brandi S. Cerasuolo, Esquire
Associate, Probate, Tax, Elder Law/Estate Planning
Telephone: (781) 848-9610
BBB in the Community
Our Giving Tree
Every year the firm takes on a charity for our Holiday Giving, and this year we will be participating in a Giving Tree
through Interfaith Social Services in Quincy.
Through this program, IFSS provided us with 18 children’s names, ages and the particular wish that each one has for a gift. Each participant at Baker, Braverman and Barbadoro selected a child for whom to buy a gift. We will take all of the gifts to the IFSS for wrapping and delivery to the children on December 15th.
“What I love best about selecting a child to buy gifts for The Giving Tree project, is knowing that I am helping keep the spirit of Christmas alive for a little
kid who might not otherwise have anything for Christmas,” said BBB Paralegal Christine LaRose. “By making it part of our firm’s commitment to help in the community, my gift becomes part of many more gifts for many more children.”
Preserving the Blue Hills
Attorney Kim Kroha (center) joins Friends of the Blue Hills Maile Panerio-Langer and Therese Joyce
at the ticket sales table at a recent fundraising event for the benefit of the Blue Hills Reservation.
We would like to recognize BBB Associate Kim Kroha for her recent part in helping the Friends of the Blue Hills (FBH) with their fundraising efforts. Kim assisted in acquiring donations for the organization’s Silent Auction to raise money to benefit the Blue Hills Reservation.
“I am very impressed with FBH’s mission to preserve, protect and maintain this great natural resource,” said Kim. “The Blue Hills actually touch five towns in the Greater Milton area, and more than a thousand people volunteer as members of the Friends.”
In fulfillment of its mission, the 1,000-member, non-profit Friends of the Blue Hills organization helps maintain the Reservation’s 125 miles of trails, control invasive plants that threaten endangered species, and advocate for policies that protect the park from inappropriate development. As a result of their volunteer efforts, they preserve and protect the Blue Hills Reservation‘s natural beauty, diverse natural habitats and many recreational opportunities.
We Salute You, Lawrence DiNardo
In marking November 11th as a day to honor our country’s veterans, we recognize and thank BB&B attorney Larry DiNardo for his long-time and continuing
service to his country.
In his current position as President (2016-2018) of the Association of First Corps of Cadets, Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence DiNardo, retired, presided over the
Corps’ celebration of its 275th birthday in October at its original “Castle” building on Arlington Street, Boston. In November, the Corps held its annual Greatest Generation Veteran’s Recognition event honoring twelve veterans from World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, including one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen.
Larry enlisted in the ROTC program at the University of Pennsylvania, earning his commission as Quartermaster Officer in 1970. After completing Law School
at Penn, in 1974 he completed Officer Basic Training at Fort Lee Virginia, and joined the US Army Reserve. His assignment to the 195th Supply Company brought him to the Boston Army Base. After completing his Officer Advanced Course in the Judge Advocate Corps and earning a promotion to Captain, Larry was transferred to the 1170th US Army Transportation Unit, still in Boston, serving as the Judge Advocate Officer.
Upon graduation from the US Army Command and General Staff College and subsequent promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, Larry served as Operations Officer. He was eventually transferred to the 1037th USAR School to serve as Operations Officer. Retiring from the US Army Reserve in 1996 with 26 years of service, Larry was presented with the Meritorious Service Medal. He has since served in the First Corps of Cadets.
Founded in 1741, this prestigious military organization boasts Quincy’s John Hancock as its most famous elected commander. Hancock led this unit during the
Revolutionary War, and it has since fought in all our country’s major conflicts and wars, including the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and all our Middle Eastern conflicts.
In Case You Missed the News …
Our Halloween Costume Drive Achieved Great Success!
Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro collect more
than 75 costumes to give to low-income families
Some of the BB&B Law Firm members who collected more than 75 Halloween costumes for children from low-income families include (kneeling, left to right): Amy Morin, Christine LaRose and Cyndi Norton; and (standing, left to right) Rob Hiltunen, Liz Caruso, Esq., Kim Kroha, Esq., Susan Molinari, Esq., Marilyn Wood, Kelley Condon, Melissa Simmons, Brandi Cerasuolo, Esq., Ana Gomez, and Chris Sullivan, Esq.
Three forms of Dispute Resolution in a Divorce:
Which One is Right for You?
When a dispute arises between divorcing parties and it appears that they cannot resolve it on their own, people often immediately think of hiring their separate attorneys and proclaim, “I’m taking you to court.” Court action, or litigation, may not only heighten
the contention between the parties, it may also protract the resolution – possibly for years.
Disputing parties may find that one of two alternative ways to resolve their differences – mediation or conciliation – give them a much more satisfying result achieved with considerably less stress and expense.
Fortunately for BBB clients, partner Lisa Bond has recently augmented her 14 years of family law experience and three years of work as a Certified Conciliator
with an additional Certification for Family Law Mediation.
“When I first talk to clients about resolving their legal disputes, I can give them a clear, neutral explanation of the differences between the three options,”
said Attorney Bond. “Then we weigh the pros and cons of each in the context of their particular dispute.”
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where a neutral third party – such as Attorney Bond — works to open and improve dialogue between the
parties in an effort to achieve an acceptable resolution.
Conciliation is similar to mediation in that the parties continue to work with a neutral party to reach a resolution, but they retain their separate attorneys
and there is typically litigation pending. Conciliators often provide an evaluation or opinion of the case, which may at times be shared with the Court. Mediations, on the other hand, are confidential and privileged.
Both conciliation and mediation offer the parties an opportunity to have a direct impact on the outcome of their case. Through either of these alternative
dispute resolution techniques, the parties, with the assistance of Attorney Bond, are able to craft an Agreement that addresses their specific needs and the specific needs of their families.
Given the overwhelming caseloads of the Probate Court, judges typically do not have the time or resources to draft orders that address individual circumstances
and needs, oftentimes leaving both parties feeling as though their voices have not been heard. In mediation and conciliation the parties drive the process, giving them the opportunity to be more creative, and to form an agreement that works best for them and their families.
“Mediation and conciliation are much less expensive than litigation, and they offer the parties the opportunity to decide their cases privately as opposed to
in open court, in public,” said Attorney Bond. “Of course in the rare cases that the parties cannot resolve the dispute by either of these alternatives, they still have the option of litigation.”
Important Reminders for 2016 – And a Look Forward to 2017
12/01/2016: Changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act Overtime Laws
went into effect on December 1st.
01/01/2017: Massachusetts Minimum Wage is increasing to $11.00
on January 1st.
02/01/2017: Actual real estate tax bills are mailed at the end
of December. Anyone looking to request an abatement must file an application with their local assessor by February 1st. If you have questions or need assistance in filing an application for abatement contact Paul Barbadoro or Susan Molinari.
03/01/2017: Non-Profits need to file their Form 3ABC with the Assessor
by March 1st for FY2018.
According to Associate Brandi Cerasuolo, inflation adjusted tax changes in the Tax Code for 2017 include:
Lunch & Learn Highlights Changes to the FLSA
The 15 clients who participated in our recent the Lunch & Learn held at our office seemed to agree that this format provided them with valuable, timely information
for their small businesses with respect to the changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act Overtime Exemptions that just went into effect on December 1st.
“I attended the FLSA seminar and was pleased to hear more about the laws that were to go in to affect, have an opportunity to ask questions related to my company’s concerns, and hear questions and concerns from other companies,” said Nancy Stronach, Human Resources Manager at Columbus Global. “It was a great time to meet the team at Baker Braverman and Barbadoro and to network with other business people. I am looking forward to the next seminar.”
The presentation given by Senior Associates Theresa Barbadoro Koppanati and Susan Molinari highlighted the biggest change as the salary test, which increases the salary level for white collar exemptions to $913 per week — or $47,476 per year.
The salary threshold for highly compensated employees (HCEs) was also increased. The new rule raised the salary threshold for HCEs to $134,004 per year — and at least $913 per week.
“The increase in the white-collar exemption salary threshold is significant and can be difficult for many small businesses to achieve in order to keep employees
who would have otherwise met the criteria,” said Theresa. “For our small business clients, this could be a
substantial adjustment if they want to keep from paying overtime to previously exempt employees. If they get help from us early on, we can help them to transition smoothly.”
“The change in the law is a burden,” said Susan. “Business owners will either have to increase salaries of otherwise exempt employees, or if they cannot, they
will be faced with either adding more personnel to avoid paying overtime wages, or make the adjustment to paying more overtime wages.”
To read more about how this might impact your business, please read the previous FLSA article on our blog page.
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Posted on December 23rd, 2016
New Massachusetts Law Bans Gender Pay Discrimination, Pay Secrecy Policies and Prohibits Asking Prospective Employees About Salary History
The Massachusetts Legislature recently enacted a bill that will go into effect in July of 2018 titled “An Act to Establish Pay Equity”, a sweeping new law aimed at ensuring equal pay for comparable work for all Massachusetts employees. The Act has several important ramifications for employers.
First, the new law bans pay discrimination for comparable work based on gender. The Federal Equal Pay Act, part of the Civil Rights Act, already prohibits gender-based discrimination for the “same job”. The new Massachusetts law uses the broader term “comparable work”, which is aimed at going beyond mere job titles and descriptions to ensure that the duties actually being performed by employees are used to determine comparability. It is important to note that under the new law, employers are allowed to consider qualifications like experience, training, education and geographic location when determining salaries.
Second, in order to help combat such discrimination, the bill explicitly prohibits “pay secrecy” policies and instead states that employers must allow employees to freely discuss their salaries with coworkers in order to facilitate transparency and reduce the risk of gender-based pay discrepancies. The bill does not, however, require that an employer disclose an employee’s wage to another employee or a third party.
Third, the law prohibits employers from asking prospective employees about their past salary history. The theory behind this component of the law is that women have been locked in a cycle of lower pay structures and that providing salary history perpetuates such a cycle. By not allowing previous salary history to be a factor in an employer’s offer terms, it is thought that a more level playing field based on experience and qualifications will emerge. However, it is important to note that job applicants are still free to volunteer their previous pay as part of salary negotiations if they so wish.
Employers found in violation of the new law will face costly non-compliance penalties, including claims for unpaid wages, liquid damages for 100% of the amount of unpaid wages, plus the employee’s attorneys’ fees and costs.
Finally, the law provides an important defense tool for employers. Employers may conduct good faith “self-evaluations” of their pay practices. If the Employer conducts such an evaluation and can show that they have made “reasonable progress” towards eliminating gender-based wage discrepancies, the employer will be entitled to an affirmative defense for a period of three years after the completion of the self-evaluation.
In anticipation of the Act going into effect on July 1, 2018, in the coming year, the Attorney General’s Office will likely issue regulations that will interpret the new law and provide direction for employers and employees.
Employers are encouraged to review their hiring practices and employment law policies in light of the new law. The employment law attorneys at Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C. are available to assist you in creating compliant employee policies. Call and ask to speak with one of our employment lawyers today to review your policies. – Theresa Koppanati.
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Posted on August 28th, 2016
As parents we are used to taking care of our children’s medical and financial needs, this does not usually end when our children go off to college or ventures off into the world on their own. However what most parents do not realize, once their child turns eighteen, they are not legally entitled to make any medical or financial decisions on their child’s behalf. Turning 18 is a milestone birthday for many people; it is the year a child becomes a legal adult. Upon turning 18, the law assumes that the child has accumulated enough knowledge to make legal decisions on their own behalf. These include, but may not be limited to, entering into contracts and making healthcare decisions. The reality is that many eighteen year olds are unprepared for the responsibility that these type of decisions bring. This presents a challenge as a parent; legally the parent can no longer make decisions for their children, yet children often turn to their parents for assistance and guidance in making decisions. This is where a health care proxy and power of attorney can become invaluable tools.
A health care proxy is a document that gives someone else the power to make health care decisions on your behalf. Often a trusted family member or friend is chosen as that person. This person is known as the health care agent. A health care agent only has the power to make health care decisions when someone is incapacitated and cannot make decisions for themselves. This document can also include a HIPAA authorization that allows the release of medical records to the health care agent. If you were to receive a call from your child’s friend that your son or daughter had been in an accident and taken to the hospital, the heath care proxy will allow you to jump into action to make decisions regarding your child’s treatment. Without it, expect to be rebuffed by your child’s medical providers who are legally unable to provide you with information regarding your child’s condition or treatment.
A power of attorney gives someone else the power to make financial decisions on your behalf. Much like a health care proxy, the power of attorney gives the designated agent the power to make financial decisions, but unlike the health care proxy, a power of attorney can be valid when signed; it is not contingent on incapacity. A power of attorney will allow you to assist your child with their banking or to speak on their behalf to their car insurance company or their landlord.
With children away from home at college, these can be powerful time saving tools and can help avoid unnecessary legal mishaps that young adults may unwittingly get themselves into.
The estate planning attorneys at Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C. can speak with your family and draft the estate plan that fits your needs and goals, including health care proxies and powers of attorney for young adults. – Elizabeth A. Caruso.
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Posted on August 8th, 2016
Posted on July 1st, 2016
Chances are if you have a swimming pool you are aware of many of the safety precautions such as having a fence; displaying signs prohibiting diving (in shallow pools or shallow parts of the pool) and other well-known hazards. But did you know that there is a federal regulation concerning the safety of pool slides? The regulation (16 C.F.R. § 1207(a)) was enacted in 1978 and was designed to “reduce or eliminate the unreasonable risks of deaths or injury associated with swimming pool slides”.
The regulation requires that all pool slides be capable of supporting three hundred fifty pounds and that they be tested for head-first sliding. There are numerous types and models of swimming pool slides on the market and available on-line and at retail stores. Not all models comply with the federal regulations even though they may have warnings about weight requirements and caution against head-first sliding. Since using a slide that does not comply with federal law can lead to personal liability if an injury occurs, your best bet to stay out of trouble with your pool slide is to check the testing background before you buy. – Paul N. Barbadoro.
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Posted on June 30th, 2016
On June 9, 2016 more than twenty women from varying professions including banking, public relations, elder care, financial services, business consulting and entrepreneurs joined Baker, Braverman & Barbardoro, P.C. attorneys Lisa Bond, Susan Molinari, Theresa Barbadoro Koppanati, Elizabeth Caruso and Brandi Cerasuolo for a night of networking, laughs and painting. The event was hosted at the firms Quincy office and the paintings were supervised by Clare Donoghue of the Traveling Art Party. We enjoyed snacks and refreshments as well as lively conversation as we tried our hand at seascapes.
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Posted on June 22nd, 2016
Lisa Bond, Esq. has been nominated for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Top Women of the Law. Each year Lawyers Weekly honors women attorneys who have made tremendous professional strides and that have demonstrated great accomplishments in the legal field. Attorney Bond has been a lawyer at Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C. a Quincy based law firm since 2002. She was promoted to partner in January 2016. Her practice includes civil litigation, family law and personal injury.
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Posted on June 22nd, 2016
Recently Theresa Barbadoro Koppanati, Esq was recognized as one of the Top Women Attorneys in Massachusetts by Boston Magazine. Attorney Barbadoro Koppanati has been an attorney at Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C., a Quincy based law firm, since 2010. Prior to joining the firm, she was a corporate associate at Latham & Watkins, LLP in London and an in-house counsel at Red Bull North America in Santa Monica, California. Attorney Barbadoro Koppanati advises clients in all areas of corporate law, including, asset purchases, contract negotiation, commercial finance, secured transactions, mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures. She also counsels clients on corporate compliance and intellectual property matters.
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Posted on June 22nd, 2016