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Tax and Business

Tax Reform Now: Five Actions to Consider Before December 31, 2017

Congress officially passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on December 20th. Despite conflicting reports on when President Trump will sign the Act, he will sign it. Here are five last-minute actions you should consider for tax planning before the New Year to minimize your 2017 and 2018 tax liability. This article is the first in a series planned to address the numerous changes to tax law imposed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. We strongly recommend you consult with your tax attorneys and tax advisors on the impact of the act on your 2017 taxes and to plan for future years.

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Australian Court Accepts Unsent Text Message as Dead Man’s Will

A court in Queensland, Australia accepted an unsent text message on a dead man’s phone as his valid will. In the text message the married man left everything he had to his brother and nephew before taking his own life. The court allowed the draft text message to act as a valid will because the wording in the text indicated that the man intended it to act as his will.

Formal will requirements in Queensland require that a valid will be in writing and signed by two witnesses, however the law was changed in 2006 to allow informal types of documents to be considered wills. Under the 2006 changes, the Supreme Court of Queensland may recognize a document as being a will if the court is satisfied that the decedent intended the document to be his will even if the document lacked will formalities.

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Investor Defenders

FINRA Expels New York Stockbroker Hank Mark Werner

On November 8, 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that a broker named Hank Mark Werner of upstate New York had been barred from the securities industry. The headline: “FINRA Hearing Panel Bars Broker for Defrauding Elderly, Blind Customer”.

The pattern of this behavior is outrageous but not all that unusual. It makes a good example of how financial professionals fail their clients.

According to the FINRA news release, Mr. Werner served as the licensed broker for an elderly couple since 1995. The husband died in 2012. Mr. Werner made some 700 trades on “behalf” of his client, a sightless 77-year old recently widowed woman in poor health between October 2012 and December 2015. He ultimately collected $210,000 in commissions. The panel’s decision includes an order of restitution to the widow, a fine, Mr. Werner’s banishment from the industry, and a further fine and censure for his employer – Legend Securities, brokerage firm expelled from the securities industry as of April, 2017.

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Pasieczny Elected to PIABA Board of Directors & Recognized for Outstanding Service

Congratulations to SYK litigator Darlene Pasieczny. Darlene was recently awarded an Outstanding Service Award from the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA) for 2017, as co-chair of the PIABA Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO) Committee. As well as the award, Darlene was also elected to the PIABA Board of Directors, a position she will serve for a three year term.

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Play it Forward for Houston!

Play it Forward received a call for help from Kelly Wells, former Portlander and current Houston resident, when Kingwood High was flooded by Hurricane Harvey and their music program was completely destroyed. Join us as we answer the call to replace their instruments, raise money and… Play It Forward for Houston!

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Karaoke For A Cause 2017

SYK encourages you to come watch (…or sing with) some of their attorneys at Karaoke For A Cause. Proceeds benefit the MBF Civic Education Fund.

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Hands-Free Really Means Just That: Oregon Stiffens Ban on Distracted Driving

Oregon had allowed limited use of smart phones while driving, but beginning October 1, it is now illegal for drivers to use or hold an electronic mobile device. You are allowed a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate a device or function, but do not talk on speaker mode while holding your phone, or you could be looking at a fine of $130 to $1,000 for your first offense, $220 to $2,500 for your second offense and a minimum of $2,000 and up to 6 months in jail for a third offense.

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Six Attorneys Recognized by Best Lawyers in America 2018

Congratulations to the Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP attorneys recognized by Best Lawyers in America 2018 – including one “Lawyer of the Year.” Bob Banks, Victoria Blachly, Chris Costantino, Stephen Kantor, Van White, and Eric Wieland were selected as “Best Lawyers” this year.

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Pets left in vehicles

Heat Wave Reminder – Oregon Law Allows Public Intervention if a Child or Animal is in Danger

Portland is currently in the midst of what could be a record breaking heat wave. The city is forecast to have temperatures climbing above 100 degrees this week. Health officials are urging citizens to stay hydrated and take precautions when traveling.

The state of Oregon also is doing its part to protect those who may not be able to protect themselves. A new law protects Good Samaritans from both civil and criminal liability if they break a vehicle window to help either an unattended child or animal that they believe to be in danger.

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Driving with a Device

New Handheld Device Law: What Washington Drivers Need to Know

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee recently accelerated the enforcement of the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUIE) Act. The Act now forbids virtually all use of handheld gadgets such as phones, tablets, laptop computers and gaming devices while driving.

In its statewide observational survey of distracted drivers, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission found cell phone use is the most common type of distraction, with 71% of distracted drivers engaged with their phones while operating their vehicles. The survey also found 1 out of 10 drivers in Washington State are distracted while driving, and fatalities from distracted driving increased 32% from 2014 to 2015.

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Big Changes to Some Big Employers’ Employee Scheduling Practices

On June 29, 2017, the House approved and sent to the governor, Senate Bill 828 which will require large employers in certain industries to provide advanced notice to employees of their work schedules. This new law will affect only retail, hospitality, and food service establishments with 500 or more employees worldwide. Affected employers will have to provide their employees with seven days advance notice of their shift schedules. Affected employers will also need to make a good faith effort to provide new employees with an estimation of the average number of hours the employee can expect to work in a month. It is expected that the governor will sign the bill into law.

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June 15 – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day designated to bring visibility to the prevalence of global elder abuse. According to the National Council on Aging, one in ten Americans aged 60 or above have experienced some form of elder abuse. It is expected that with the number of older persons growing, abuse of the elderly will also grow. Though elder abuse is a serious and common problem that could lead to poverty, hunger, homelessness, compromised health and well-being, and even premature mortality, it often is one of the least investigated or reported types of abuse.

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The Longest Day

The Longest Day: A Global Movement to Help End Alzheimer’s Disease

The Longest Day is June 21, 2017.

“The Longest Day is all about love. Love for all those affected by Alzheimer’s disease. On the summer solstice, team up with the Alzheimer’s Association and select any activity you love — or an activity loved by those affected — to help end Alzheimer’s. Together, we will raise funds and awareness for care and support while advancing research toward the first survivor of Alzheimer’s.”

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No Questions Asked: Oregon’s Equal Pay Act

On May 22, 2017, the House unanimously re-passed House Bill 2005. The legislation, which is more commonly known as the Equal Pay Act of 2017, was amended by the Senate last week, and is now headed to Governor Brown for her signature.

While the majority of the media attention has been on the provisions in the bill that will prohibit discrimination against women in the payment of wages, there are other provisions affecting employment practices that employers should be aware of.

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Blachly Testifies in Favor of New Legislation

The Statesman Journal quoted SYK partner, and appointed member of both the Oregon Uniform State Law Commission and the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services, Victoria Blachly on her thoughts regarding Oregon Senate Bill 95.

The new legislation would allow investment advisers to freeze assets and report to authorities if they suspect someone is misappropriating, misusing or transferring without authorization the money of a vulnerable elderly person.

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Tax and Business

Are You Really In Good Hands – Ensuring Your Insurance

Everyone should have insurance, and being insured does, in many ways, help us sleep at night. However, as with many contracts (and remember, an insurance policy is actually a contract), disputes sometimes arise. It is not unusual for there to be a dispute regarding the interpretation of insurance contract terms. And, with insurance contracts, those disputes are often about coverage. That is, the insurance company may claim that, even though you have insurance, your claim is not covered. This can be frustrating.

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New Multnomah County Courthouse

Check out this Video: New Multnomah County Courthouse

Work has begun on the new 17 story, 44 courtroom Multnomah County Courthouse. The current 100+ year-old courthouse is unsafe, and fails to meet the functional needs of a growing county. The new building will not only meet the needs of its citizens, but will also be powered by solar panels and radiant heat that is so efficient, it will generate surplus power to raise and lower the Hawthorne Bridge

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Costantino to Lead MBA Litigation CLE

On April 13th, SYK Family Law attorney Chris Costantino will join a group a notable legal minds to lead a litigation CLE seminar on the trips and traps of opposing parties who represent themselves without the benefit of legal counsel.

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Dynasty Disasters – Intergenerational Wealth

Running an intergenerational family-owned company can be very challenging. How do you balance present family and lifestyle goals, with operating a successful and growing company? How do you choose what is best for the family and its individual members, while also considering the future and thinking ahead to the next generation of the business?

While some family business dynasties such as the Mars Candy company and the descendants of William Randolph Hearst continue to thrive, other dynasties have crumbled. Frances Stroh was born an heiress to one of the largest beer companies in America, Stroh Brewery Company. In her new book “Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss” she writes about her wealthy family’s downward spiral leading to the loss of their approximately 130 year brewing legacy. Ms. Stroh documents the missteps an intergenerational family-run company can make which could result in its collapse.

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