Blachly Recognized by Oregon Super Lawyers

Oregon Super Lawyers recently interviewed Victoria Blachly for her outstanding work on elder law cases. Complicated families and complicated medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia increase the challenging legal issues in preparing for end-of-life events, but Blachly strives for soft landings.  Read the article written about her impactful work, “Soft Landings:  Victoria Blachly Speaks For Those That Can’t Speak For Themselves.”

Disinherit Your Child?  Sure – It’s Your Money.

Christine Fletcher had an article in last month’s online Forbes, entitled “Should You Disinherit Your Child?”  The full text of the article is below, but I have to say that – to me – the answer is not one that should be made by an attorney, but by the owner of the assets.  If someone wants to disinherit their child, as long as that someone has legal capacity to do so and is not being unduly influenced by a wrongdoer, then that someone should do whatever they want with their estate plan.  While some have a bias that all children should inherit equally, an inheritance is a gift, not a given.  Such that the person giving the gift can decide exactly what they want to do with their money, or exactly what they do not want to do with their money. 

As a fiduciary litigator, I have handled many cases where a disinherited child simply cannot fathom why THEIR money wasn’t left to them, in spite of piles of evidence confirming it was their own poor choices that alienated them from their parent, but those children also forget that it wasn’t THEIR money to begin with.    

An experienced estate planner can talk a client through the pros and cons of disinheriting a child, but the decision rests with the client and must be respected. 

Article:  “Most people should not disinherit their child. If your child does not buy you a birthday present or forgets to call you on Mother’s Day – even if it is every year without fail – do not run to your lawyer and cut them out of the will. Those are not reasons to disinherit a child.  

Political differences are also not a reason to disinherit a child. You should have stronger familial bonds with your children that can withstand differences of opinion and political views.  

Your will is often the last act you will do (or not do) for your child. I encourage people to use their will to treat their children equally to the extent possible and include all their children. I have seen children reduced to tears by what their parent left them in their will, and others who had difficult relationships with their parents solidified by being cut out. The child was always the outcast of the family, and mom’s will reinforced that. Your will can be used to heal old wounds or to deepen them. 

There are, however, times when children should be disinherited. These situations mostly involve children who have experienced extreme addiction or mental illness issues that have been left untreated and have caused severe pain within the family. It can be difficult to get clients to discuss these children, but it is important to know the story behind the disinheritance.  

People do not come to the decision to disinherit a child easily and often spend months or years agonizing before making the decision to cut them out of the will. I often counsel clients to think about the child’s siblings and whether disinheriting the child will worsen his or her relationships with siblings. Perhaps including the child in the will can help foster better relationships with his or her siblings in the long run.  

If the decision is made to include the “problem” child, consider trust provisions that will limit the child’s access to the inheritance. This could be a matter of life or death if a child has a drug addiction. It can also preserve family assets for grandchildren if the child has a gambling issue or a greedy spouse. 

If you are going to disinherit a child, be sure to review your entire estate plan thoroughly with your advisors. In addition, you want to avoid probate. In most states if a will needs to be probated, all your children will receive notice of the court proceeding even the disinherited ones. This is because they are your heirs and are entitled to notice under the law. You can avoid a court hearing by transferring your assets to a trust during your lifetime and having assets pass by beneficiary designation where possible.    

Sometimes, someone wants to leave a child out of a will because the child has sufficient assets. For instance, a widow wants to leave all her assets to her daughter Sally because Sally has three kids and is divorced. The widow’s son Billy is cut out because he is a successful investment banker. That situation will work if Billy is fine with this arrangement. Be sure to speak with Billy and make sure that he is on board with this plan and pleased that his sister will be well provided for. Perhaps he is not as well off as his mother thinks he is, or perhaps he will feel slighted if he is cut out. In this situation, full disclosure is the best course of action.  

Think long and hard before disinheriting a child. The consequences could have lasting effects on them and it could leave a legacy that you did not intend.”

Police Training Needed to Raise Dementia Awareness

Police actions and training have been the focus for some time now, but our elders need to be included when there are conversations about reform.  Specifically, better training when it comes to identifying dementia and working with those that struggle with the insidious disease would necessarily lead to less frightful and concerning interactions.

In Colorado, a slight 73-year-old woman of 80 pounds was recently wrestled to the ground after leaving Walmart without paying for $13.88 in merchandise.  The police video footage shows that there were no efforts to talk with the demented woman to assess her awareness or understanding of the situation, before her arms were wrenched behind her and she had a male police officer on top of her, all while she was crying, “I’m trying to go home.”  Civil claims and criminal investigations are on-going.

It is heart-breaking, and a reminder to us all to slow down, and use patience and calmness when interacting with people with dementia.  In fact, let’s just try use that standard in ALL of our interactions with ALL of our fellow humans.

SYK Supports Oregon Harbor of Hope

Portland’s unhoused have been hit hard and a global pandemic certainly has not helped the situation.  Oregon Harbor of Hope is a non-profit dedicated to seeking solutions for this complex problem and SYK is proud to support their local efforts.

“The city, county and state are working hard to address our crisis, but they cannot solve this problem alone. The private sector must get involved to help turn this problem around. This is our city. This is our home. These are our homeless. We can make a huge impact and give people hope. They need our help.”

– HOMER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF OREGON HARBOR OF HOPE

A recent article discusses Mr. Williams’ efforts to help, including his most recent endeavor:

The most recent project for Oregon Harbor of Hope is a 50-unit pod village.  “His simple and elegant modular housing units are waterproof, lightweight, mobile, durable and secure. Equipped with heating and LED lighting, two beds, and a lock on the door. Designed to be part of a compact community – or dozens of such villages – with separate kitchens, showers, toilets, washing machines and garbage collection.”

There are no easy solutions, but there is much to be gained from continuing to search for solutions, including supporting good organizations like Oregon Harbor for Hope.

Inside the New Multnomah County Courthouse

Sneak A Peek Inside the New Multnomah County Courthouse

We are excited to share a sneak peek into the new public building with this 4 minute video.

  • SYK is a founding member of the MBF CourtSupport program, which is funding the CourtNavigator at the new Multnomah County Courthouse
  • SYK Partner Victoria Blachly is the secretary/treasurer for the Multnomah Bar Foundation (“MBF”), which is the charitable arm of the MBA
  • SYK Partner and manager Tim Resch is on the board for the Multnomah Bar Association (“MBA”)
  • SYK Partner Leslie Johnson is on the MBA Court Liaison Committee

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner and chair of SYK’s Fiduciary Practice Group. She is a trial attorney, representing individual trustees, corporate trustees, beneficiaries, and personal representatives in often difficult and challenging cases.

Beloved Actress Nichelle Nichols Alleged Victim of Elder Abuse

Nichelle Nichols, best known for her role as Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek television series, finds herself in the midst of litigation at the age of 87. She is the alleged victim of elder abuse at the hands of her personal manager. The complaint tells a painful story of a vulnerable adult, surviving a stroke, dealing with dementia and short-term memory loss. She falls victim to social isolation, loss of financial and medical control, and even removal from a rehabilitation facility against medical advice.

Elder abuse thrives in the midst of secrecy and isolation. As a society, we must remain vigilant and keep our elders safe.

Report elder abuse in Oregon to the hotline at 1.855.503.7233.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner and chair of SYK’s Fiduciary Practice Group. 

Oregon WINGS Posts “Get a Life Plan”  

Oregon’s Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS) posted a solid plan for what we should all consider, as part of planning for your life – and death.

Their web page covers four plans:

  • Plan for your assets during your lifetime
  • Plan for your medical decisions
  • Plan for your assets at your death
  • Plan for your body after your death

They also have good pointers on a variety of helpful topics:

  • How should I start a conversation with my loved ones about my plan?
  • What if my loved ones disagree with my wishes?
  • Where should I store my documents?
  • Should I give copies of my documents to my loved ones?

These are a good place to start, but for most of us, to obtain a comprehensive Life (and Death) Plan, it is best to talk to an estate, trust and tax planning attorney to set you and your legacy up for success. Fortunately, we have a whole wing of such talent here at SYK.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes.

Between Two Screens: Tax Law….”Why Not?!?”

Join us for the next episode of SYK Studios presents Between Two Screens, with SYK’s tax section leader, partner Valerie Sasaki.

Valerie responds with passion, keen intellect, and an abundance of good humor to the question put to her: “Why tax?” As she explains, “Why not tax?” Her perspective on how the tax laws mirror our societal values will give you a whole new appreciation for tax lawyers and the hard work they do.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes.

Emojis in Court: The Rise of Case References

Emoji Court

With colorful caricatures ranging from mind-blown facial expressions 🤯 to coconut shrimp 🍤, there are hundreds of emojis to express a multitude of different feelings, thoughts, and emotions. In the last decade, emoji have cemented a permanent place in the world of e-communications. Emoji now represent a diverse array of skin tones ✋✋🏻✋🏽✋🏿 and physical disability 🦾 🦿. Oxford Dictionaries’ 2015 Word of the Year was awarded to the Face with Tears of Joy Emoji 😂. It should stand as no surprise that everyone’s favorite new way to communicate has permeated its way into our legal system.

Let’s start with the prevalence of emoji in our virtual vernacular. According to Slate, 92{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} of the online population uses emoji. As of 2016, 2.3 trillion mobile messages incorporate emoji annually as of 2016. That means nearly 10 trillion emoji-laced messages have been sent in the past four years.

According to The Verge, emoji and emoticon references in U.S. court cases rose exponentially between 2004 and 2019. Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman, leading researcher on emoji references in court opinions, noted that 30{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} of all U.S. Court opinions now reference emoji or emoticons. In 2017, an Israeli couple was charged thousands of dollars in fees after an Israeli judge ruled that their use of emoji to a landlord signaled an intent to rent his apartment. Who would have guessed a few years ago that a champagne bottle 🍾, squirrel 🐿, and comet ☄️ could constitute an agreement to rent an apartment?

According to Professor Eric Goldman, the use of emoji as evidence increased from 33{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} in 2017 to 53{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} in 2018. In some cases, emoji are described to jurors, rather than seen and interpreted themselves, and in other cases emoji are omitted from evidence, altogether. Emoji are most prevalent in sexual harassment, criminal, and workplace lawsuits. In the 2017 murder case of Commonwealth v. Castano, Massachusetts prosecutors argued that an emoji with “X” eyes 😵 showed that an individual who received the message knew that something was happening. In the sex trafficking case of The People v. Idris Bilal Jamerson, expert witnesses detailed how a series of sent emoji, including a crown 👑, high heels 👠, and money bags 💰 provided evidence of prostitution.

Emoji even come in a variety of dialects. Different companies can represent emoji on their platforms in different ways. In a study comparing Android and Apple users’ interpretation of emoji, Google users reported a grinning face as meaning blissful happiness, while Apple users thought it symbolized a readiness to fight. One can only imagine the flurry of misinterpretation defenses and novel legal arguments that such interpretations will cause.

As we continue to express ourselves through emoji, they will continue to permeate our society further and further. In a few years, emoji-interpreting expert witnesses will become more resourceful in the court room and the debate around what certain emoji mean will become a greater focus of legal arguments by lawyers across the world.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes. She is also a proud Board Member for the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.

Peter Esho is a Chaldean-American law student in his final year at Lewis & Clark Law School, and a senior law clerk at Samuels Yoelin Kantor. Born and raised in Michigan, he moved to Portland to attend Lewis & Clark. Peter enjoys kayaking and playing guitar, and his primary legal interests are in intellectual property and business law.

Danger: Stressed Out Lawyers Ahead (Tips & Tricks Also Provided)

As a form of self-help therapy for dealing with a global pandemic, I reached out to numerous legal friends and colleagues to learn how they are coping with COVID-19 and this lack of control that we are all struggling with. My article, COVID-19 Lawyer Stress: SOS, was published last month in the Multnomah Bar Association’s newsletter. Some of the takeaways include:

  • Zoom meetings, both for work and for fun, are covered.
  • Hobbies like cooking, music, reading, cutting your own hair or even passing the time by watching crazy squirrel feeders are addressed.
  • The benefits of fitness, yoga, meditation and mindfulness strikes a chord for many.
  • While some people find stress relief with structure, yet others need sustained breaks for stress relief.

We are all in the same ocean paddling as fast as we can, but we are just in different boats right now. When I asked one friend how she was doing, she responded, “I vacillate between coping remarkably and failing miserably.” Another responded, “I have been on a roller coaster…some good days; some bad days.” And yet another said, “But in an honest moment I would say that like other tragedy-like periods in my life, my personal go-to mode is to lean in and plow through it with action (being called to the moment), and in the process I don’t really take good care of myself. The signs are all over the place, but my brain instinctively works that way. The intentional piece is real – the will is what I am fighting now.” And it’s not just our stress, but stress for our families: “It’s been a process to digest, this entire process so far, and I cried when they announced school was closed for the year.”

Yet another attorney reported there can be moments of peace, “but then my little energy of flame goes out and I am back to barely keeping my head above water.” Another attorney said, “It has been like watching a tidal wave come in to shore and now being tossed about as the wave hit the shore, waiting to resurface to catch my breath.” And the stress is not just for what we are enduring now, but what is to come. Another friend shared, “Right now, I am stressed about going back to the office before there are effective treatments or a vaccine.”

Can’t we all identify with these statements – some days, or some moments, seem fine, or even if they are not, we take action and plow through? That’s what problem-solving lawyers do, right? But we don’t have control right now and the truth is, we never did. Keep talking to others. Keep connecting in your own way. Keep trying. It’s okay to ask for help, particularly when we are all missing or grieving something. Strive for progress, not perfection – and we will be together soon.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes. She is also a proud Board Member for the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.