Welcome Attorney Andrew Costa!

Fisher Berardi Law welcomes its newest attorney to the Firm, Andrew Costa. 


Andrew Costa was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November of 2014 after he received his Juris Doctor conferred Cum Laude from DePaul University College of Law in May of 2014. He concentrates his practice in the areas of real estate, estate planning (wills/trusts), probate, trust and estate administration, and municipal law.

Andrew has handled numerous residential real estate transactions in Northeast Illinois, including in the Cook, Will, DuPage, Kendall, and Kane County areas. In addition, he has navigated commercial real estate transactions for private and municipal clients alike from contract negotiation to the closing table and has assisted several municipalities in the establishment and development of Tax Increment Financing and Business Districts. Andrew has also worked with clients to tailor estate plans to meet client goals for distribution of assets while reducing the time and expense normally faced in estate administration.

Prior to earning his law degree, Andrew received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Law and Society from DePaul University, where he was a member of the United Chapter of Alpha Kappa Delta, an international sociology honor society.

He lives in Tinley Park, where he was born and raised, with his wife, a medical administrative assistant, and his son.

2019 Estate & Gift Tax Exemptions

The IRS released the new 2019 estate and gift tax exemptions, which have increased slightly to keep pace with inflation. Illinois, however, has not changed their estate tax exemption…it is still locked at $4 million.

Federal Exemption:

$11.4 million estate/gift tax exemption per person

$15,000 annual gift exclusion

Unlimited marital exclusion

As you know, the federal gift and estate tax exemptions are coupled together, so that each taxpayer can give away during life or death a total of $11.4 million. If married, the deceased spouse can transfer the unused federal exemption to the surviving spouse. You still can gift $15,000 per taxpayer to as many individuals as you wish without gift tax consequences.

Illinois Exemption:

The Illinois estate tax, however, does NOT allow portability or transfer of unused exemption amounts between spouses. This means that each spouse can only transfer $4 million to their heirs each. This is a use-it-or-lose-it exemption, in that if the decedent transfers all of his assets to his surviving spouse, the surviving spouse will only have a $4 million exemption available, where with good estate planning the couple could have excluded $8 million of assets from tax.

The moral of the story: review your estate plan annually to ensure your tax planning is still sensible given the changes to law. Call us today to review your plan.


Wiring fraud has become a critical and dangerous threat to consumers. This is an even bigger threat when it comes to real estate and wiring instructions. It is important that we all become aware of the warning signs of wiring fraud, email fraud and other types of identity theft and electronic safety. With the ever present threat, we must all become and remain vigilant to protect ourselves.
Most form of wiring fraud begin with a hacked or spoofed email account. Criminals will generally hack an email address and begin monitoring it for activity. Once they see activity relating to a real estate closing or other financial matter, they will attempt to send wiring instructions or other directions to the consumer with a stolen letterhead or logo, giving the directive the air of legitimacy.
We employ several countermeasures to try to prevent fraud. We have industry standard email encryption, anti-spoofing measures, identity verification and physical token two factor authorization. This gives our email system an enormous deterrent effect to would-be criminals since they would need to work that much harder to break into our system, when there are much easier targets out there like consumer grade free email services (aol, sbcglobal, yahoo, etc). Additionally, we will NEVER email wiring instructions. This is too great a risk. All of our emails contain an admonishment that we will not email wiring instructions and that if you received wiring instructions, DO NOT send money and to immediately contact our office or any attorney.
Finally, we include documentation explaining our firm’s policy on wiring instructions and some warning signs of fraud with our engagement letters. It is our mission to make sure our clients are counseled on this danger.
However, remaining vigilant also includes the consumer. You too must remain vigilant and wary of the risk. Look for clues of fake email accounts, spoofed accounts, hacked accounts or other data breaches. This can include emails or letters written in poor English, including grammar errors, spelling errors or unusual language. Make sure to frequently change your passwords. Do not use the same password for all accounts. Make sure to have long passwords that are difficult to guess. Enable two factor authorization so that even if a criminal has your password, they need your cell phone to access your email. If you have a bad feeling about an email, TRUST your instincts and call our office.
This goes for all parties involved in all matters. The only way we can stop or limit this fraud is to make the job as difficult as possible for those that might try to defraud.

Court Reiterates Need for Cohabitation Agreement

A man and woman lived together, unmarried, for years.  The parties separated, and the man filed a lawsuit claiming that his ex-girlfriend had been unjustly enriched by funds he contributed to purchase of a house titled solely in her name.  There was no written agreement for reimbursement of expenses or a promissory note signed by the ex-girlfriend.  The man and the woman lived together in the house for many years until she required him to move out.

After trial, the judge found a constructive trust existed and imposed it upon the woman to the extent of $7,000, the amount of the down payment his parents made on the house presumably as a gift to him.   The man argued he should have received credit for mortgage payments that were made out of a joint account where he had regularly deposited his earnings.  However, the trial court and appellate court ruled that any amounts the man had deposited into that account were gifts from him to his female roommate and companion.  He was not entitled to reimbursement or a constructive trust for funds he deposited in the joint account that were used for home improvements, utilities and the mortgage payments.

The appellate court found that the trial court erred in determining that the man and woman were in a “fiduciary relationship”, since there was no evidence that the woman exercised undue influence over the man or that she was in a position of superiority over him.   That finding is important since they should be treated as roommates, not placed in a different relationship that would lead to greater liability to each other.

If you want to read more about the facts and the court’s ruling, click here.

Why do I need a lawyer to buy or sell a house?

Real estate law is complicated; there is a reason why contracts are so long! A realtor is an important part of your team and works with your attorney to make sure your interests are protected as you negotiate terms and conditions for the purchase. As a buyer, you are faced with critical time deadlines during which you can perform your home inspection, complete due diligence and commence a loan application with a qualified lender. If you miss a detail or deadline, it could lead to loss of earnest money and a potential lawsuit. Additionally, issues may arise during inspections and final walk through prior to closing on the purchase. An experienced real estate attorney will consult with and guide you through the process so you can focus on the move and acquisition. He can help you avoid problems before they happen.

As a seller, your responsibilities are even greater. You must disclose all known material defects and potential problems to your interested buyer. An attorney can negotiate issues on your behalf, tactfully and professionally, easing the stress you face when you move. More importantly, attorneys take steps to protect your interests. When you sell the home, you want confidence and peace of mind that the deal is done without unnecessary legal liability.

Buying or selling a home is likely the biggest and most expensive single transaction in your life. Hire attorneys Jeffrey Fisher and Mark Berardi to make sure your closing goes as smoothly and safely as possible. We have been involved in thousands of residential, commercial and farm transactions, so let our experience work for you.

What is a Land Trust?

A land trust offers you, as a real estate owner, a unique package of benefits that lets you enjoy all the advantages of ownership without many of the problems that usually go along with it.

A land trust at a bank or trust company can make real estate ownership simple. Here’s how:

1. Your ownership becomes a private matter – reporting your interest is not necessary with a land trust.

2. You can limit your liability under a mortgage – personal liability for a mortgage can be avoided with a land trust.

3. You can reduce probate expense – by designating with a land trust the percentage of ownership which will be left to each successor beneficiary.

4. You may deal on your signature alone – without the necessity of your spouse’s signature on deeds, mortgages, leases, etc.

5. You can eliminate many joint ownership risks – such as faulty titles due to co-owner’s death, insanity, divorce, and the like.

6. You can eliminate the red tape of real estate sales – making the transfer of title a remarkably simple procedure.

7. As an out-of-state owner, you can avoid ancillary probate – because a land trust makes your interest personal property, which does not require probate in Illinois.

8. You avoid liens upon your title – because a judgment claim against a beneficiary does not automatically become a lien on the real estate.

A land trust should be tailored to your needs and objectives. For more details, we will be happy to help you with your questions. Talk it over with us today!