Between Two Screens: Estate Planning – Plan for Success

Please join us for the next installment of SYK Studios – Between Two Screens. This latest episodes features attorneys Victoria Blachly, Darlene Pasieczny, and Anastasia Yu Meisner, and focuses on estate planning.

“We have all heard the phrase: nothing in this world can be certain in life, except death and taxes. As an estate planner, I address these two issues every day. I counsel clients on the best strategies to pass their estates to their loved ones, how to efficiently manage their affairs if they can’t make decisions for themselves, and advise them on the most financially efficient ways to accomplish their goals. With nearly 20 years of estate planning experience, I have collected a list of common mistakes or misunderstandings.” – Anastasia Yu Meisner (be sure to check out her recent blog article: Top Estate Planning Mistakes or Misunderstandings).

Oregon Health Authority Orders New Statewide Face Covering Guidance

As COVID-19 continues to impact our daily lives, Governor Kate Brown has authorized the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to create new guidance on masks, face coverings and face shields (collectively referred to as “face coverings”). On August 13, 2020, masks, face shields, and face coverings became required statewide for offices and indoor public spaces and in outdoor public spaces when physical distancing is not possible.

All patrons (employees, contractors, volunteers, customers and visitors) of a business, indoor public space or outdoor public space are now required to wear a mask, face shield or face covering at all times, with the following exceptions:

  • For employees, contractors and volunteers, face coverings are not required when at or in a location where the employee, contractor or volunteer does not have a job that requires interacting with the public and at least six feet of distance can be maintained between individuals. In areas where six feet of distance cannot be maintained, face coverings are still required.
  • Face coverings are not required while eating or drinking.
  • Face coverings are not required when engaged in an activity that makes wearing one not feasible. The example provided by the Oregon Health Authority is swimming.

Additionally, businesses are required to provide masks, face shields or face coverings for employees and to accommodate employees, contractors, customers and visitors when accommodations are required by the ADA, labor laws at the state or federal level, public accommodations laws at the state or federal level and applicable OHA public health guidance. Businesses are also required to post clear signs about the face covering requirements.

The OHA also recommends but does not require that such entities provide face coverings for customers and visitors who do not have one at no cost to the customers and visitors, to post signs about the requirements in languages commonly spoken by customers and visitors, and to educate employees on how to safely work and communicate with people who need to read lips or facial expressions to communicate through the use of transparent face coverings.

Face coverings are required at all times for employees in hallways, bathrooms, elevators, lobbies, break rooms, and other common spaces in both public and private office spaces. If an individual workspace or meeting room allows for the maintenance of a consistent six feet of distance between people, individuals can remove their face covering in those areas.

All individuals who visit a business or a public space are required to wear a mask, face shield or face covering unless they are under five years of age with the following exceptions:

  • Face coverings are not required while eating or drinking
  • Face coverings are not required when engaged in an activity that makes wearing a mask not feasible, such as when swimming.
  • Face coverings can be briefly removed where an individual needs to confirm their identity by visual comparison, such as at a bank or when interacting with law enforcement.

If an individual has a medical condition or disability that makes it hard to breathe or wear a mask, they can request an accommodation from a business or public space operator to enable full and equal access to the services, transportation and facilities open to the public.

As these unprecedented times continue to unfold, we must all do our part to follow state guidance and reduce the spread of COVID-19. More information and OHA Guidance can be found here.

A civil litigator with an impressive local and international history, Timothy Resch helps employers and small businesses find success in federal and state court litigation matters.

SYK Attorney Laura Nelson and CCBA: Clark County Courts Need Masks

In the July edition of Clark County Bar Association’s monthly newsletter, the HearSay, there is a call for help. The Washington Courts are asking for assistance to help protect those who work in and visit the Clark County Courts.

Dear Vancouver Area Attorneys:
You well know that the COVID-19 global pandemic has seriously impacted most everyone and everything – including our Clark County Courts. As Washington eases back into opening for business, the need to protect our judges, court staff, litigants, and visitors is vital. Accordingly, this is a call for help in donating disposable or washable masks (not required to be N95 masks), or funds to be used to purchase such masks. Please send checks to the CCBA office and write “Masks” in the memo line.

Collection sites include the Clark County Superior Court, our new offices in Vancouver, and the offices of Jeffrey Barrar.

The call for help was sounded by our own Laura Nelson, along with the CCBA.

“With so much out of control right now, let’s take a positive step toward helping others.”

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.

SYK Attorneys Recognized in 2020 Oregon Super Lawyers®

This year, we are happy to share that 7 Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP attorneys were included in the 2020 Oregon Super Lawyers and Rising Stars list. These attorneys were recognized by their peers for their service and achievements.

Victoria Blachly – Super Lawyer

Walker Clark – Rising Star

Christine Costantino – Super Lawyer

Leslie Johnson – Super Lawyer

Stephen Kantor – Super Lawyer

Jessica McConnell – Rising Star

Valerie Sasaki – Super Lawyer

“Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. This selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.”

Victims of COVID-19 Scams & Cybercrime Need to Act Fast

Victims of COVID-19 Scams and Cybercrime Need to Act Fast – FBI’s Financial Fraud Kill Chain May Recover Fraudulent Wire Transfers

Cybercrime is becoming ever more pervasive, and with so many more people working at home during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the risk of a fraudulent wire transfer and other financially motivated crimes is higher than ever.

Fraudsters use crisis events to target good-hearted investors.

The SEC and other federal and state regulatory agencies are paying close attention to COVID-19-related financial fraud, such as fraudulent stock promotions and unregistered offerings, charitable investment scams, and community-based financial frauds. Since February 2020, the SEC has suspended stock trading in connection with COVID-19 for at least 23 companies, and has initiated at least five emergency enforcement actions against companies seeking to exploit investors with false and misleading promises. These investment scams include fraudulent claims of N95 mask production, and manufacturing COVID-19 blood tests and thermal scanners for fever detection.

The FBI’s Financial Fraud Kill Chain:  A Resource for Recovering Stolen Funds

Unfortunately, while regulatory agencies work hard to shut down fraudulent scams, it can be difficult to impossible to recover money from the fraudsters.  Especially if the investor funds or cybercrime victim’s bank account funds have been transferred overseas. The Financial Fraud Kill Chain (FFKC), a program administered by the FBI, is a critically important tool that can cut off large international wire transfers. But victims need to act fast, within 72 hours of the wire transfer.

How does the Kill Chain work?

Financial fraud scams are often international, with unsuspecting investor money transferred from the United States to overseas financial institutions via international wire transfers through the SWIFT system. Cybercriminals hacking email accounts may use personal information to prey on individuals (“I’m traveling overseas and need money for a plane ticket home”). Businesses are also targets of cybercriminals. For example, corporate account takeovers and business e-mail compromise scams may be used to redirect legitimate wire transfers to fraudulent overseas accounts.

The Kill Chain utilizes the FBI’s international relationships to help U.S. financial institutions recover large international wire transfers. If the Kill Chain is activated, the FBI can prevent the withdrawal of stolen funds by cutting off the SWIFT transfer.

What kind of transfer qualifies to initiate the Kill Chain?

The FFKC can only be activated if:

  • The wire transfer is $50,000 or more;
  • The wire transfer is international;
  • A SWIFT recall notice has been initiated; and
  • The wire transfer occurred within the last 72 hours.

To initiate the FFKC process, you should immediately contact your local FBI field office and also notify your financial institution that originated the transfer. Because time is of the essence, call your local FBI office and fill out an on-line complaint through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Providing the FBI with more information will allow the agency to respond more effectively, but all complaints should include the following:

  • Victim business name and address,
  • Transaction type, amount, and date,
  • Originating bank name and address,
  • Beneficiary bank name and address,
  • Beneficiary account number,
  • Beneficiary bank location (if known), and
  • Intermediary bank name (if known).

If you or your business has been the victim of wire transfer fraud, consider still reporting it to the FBI even if the fraud does not meet the above criteria to initiate the Kill Chain.

And as we all work to protect ourselves and each other during the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19-related investments scams should be reported to the SEC and your state’s securities regulator

Darlene Pasieczny, AttorneyDarlene Pasieczny is a fiduciary and securities litigator at Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP.  She represents clients in Oregon and Washington with matters regarding trust and estate disputes, financial elder abuse cases, and securities litigation. She also represents investors nationwide in FINRA arbitration to recover losses caused unlawful broker conduct.  Her article, New Tools Help Financial Professionals Prevent Elder Abuse, was featured in the January 2019, Oregon State Bar Elder Law Newsletter.

Oath of Office: Colleen Muñoz Joins the Oregon State Bar

We are happy to introduce the newest attorney in the SYK family – Colleen Muñoz.

Colleen is a a graduate of Lewis & Clark. During her time in law school, Colleen clerked for Federal Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman, volunteered with Innovation Law Lab to assist detained individuals in presenting their asylum claims, and clerked at Passage Immigration Law. Colleen joined SYK as a law clerk during her third year of law school, where she found a home to begin her professional career as a lawyer. She passed the Oregon State Bar earlier this year. Her practice is centered around commercial and fiduciary litigation focusing on real property, employment, and construction law.

Due to COVID-19, her swearing in was a little different than the usual ceremony. Judge Katherine Tennyson joined us via Zoom to administer Colleen’s Oath of Office.

The Oregon State Bar also shared a virtual admissions ceremony. This was led by Chief Justice Martha Walters, and included a symbolic Oath of Office.

A Letter to our Clients: COVID-19

To our clients,

As we all continue to closely monitor the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, we wanted to share the proactive steps we, as a firm, are taking to ensure the health and safety of our clients, professionals, staff, families, and community. While we are following the rapidly changing health related guidelines and recommendations to help mitigate the Coronavirus’ impact, we are committed to offering the best legal representation to our clients, in the most health conscious way possible.

The health and safety of our firm and our office environment will always be a top priority. However, as the situation continues to develop in North America, we have taken additional steps to ensure we are here to serve you in the safest way possible.

These enhanced measures include:

  • Hourly disinfecting all high-touch areas, including office doors, lobby furniture and conference room surfaces with a high grade disinfecting cleaner.
  • Increased accessibility of hand sanitizer for our clients and our employees.
  • Encouraging digital conferences or teleconferences, in lieu of face to face meetings.
  • Increased flexibility to meet clients where they are most comfortable, whether it be at one of our offices (downtown, Lake Oswego, Hood River, or our new Vancouver office), their homes or other appropriate locations.
  • Increased use of DocuSign and the digital transmission of documents.
  • Ensuring our employees have the information and resources they need to stay healthy, and the ability to stay home if they feel unwell.

We are prepared to address these challenging circumstances with everyone’s safety in mind. If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, we would love to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Timothy J. Resch
Managing Partner

Oregon Legislature Corrects Procedural Hurdle in ORS 124.100(6) for Financial Elder Abuse Claims

Oregon Legislature Corrects Procedural Hurdle in ORS 124.100(6) for Financial Elder Abuse Claims

The National Adult Protective Services Association reports that 90{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} of financial abusers are family members or trusted others. And financial abuse is vastly under-reported: it is estimated that only one in 44 cases are reported to state protective services. Estimates of financial elder abuse and fraud costs range from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion annually.

The attorneys at Samuels Yoelin Kantor watch for legal changes that may affect our current and future clients. A new Oregon law, effective January 1, 2020, should help vulnerable Oregonians that have been victims of abuse by making it harder to dismiss civil actions for abuse under ORS Chapter 124. This chapter of the Oregon Revised Statutes is also known as the Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities Abuse Prevention Act (“Act”).

Oregon lawmakers recently addressed an issue that enabled abusers to avoid elder abuse claims based on a technical procedural requirement.  

In June 2019, the legislature passed and Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 783. The new law amends the reporting provision at ORS 124.100(6). Currently, a party filing a civil claim for abuse (financial or physical) under the Act must notify the Attorney General of Oregon within 30 days after commencing the action. Failure to notify the AG has big consequences. A 2016 Oregon Court of Appeals case mandates that an action be dismissed if the commencing party fails to notify the AG within the required time. See Bishop v. Waters, 280 Or. App. 537, 546–48 (2016).

Amended ORS 124.100(6) applies to cases commenced on or after January 1, 2020, and provides that claims will no longer be subject to dismissal due to this strictly construed AG notification requirement. Senate Bill 783 eliminates the 30-day time period, and expressly allows a commencing party to cure a failure to notify the AG by “mailing” a copy of the complaint, or other initial pleading, any time prior to entry of judgment. Further, a court may not enter judgment for the plaintiff until proof of mailing is filed with the court.

The Oregon legislature has made it harder for a defendant to dismiss otherwise valid abuse claims, due to a procedural technicality. The change helps protect the victims of elder abuse while maintaining the notification requirement. This change then helps the AG track and prosecute elder abuse in Oregon.

Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP is one of the few law firms in Oregon with equally strong estate planning attorneys and fiduciary litigation attorneys. Our attorneys have the experience to recognize the signs of potential elder financial abuse. We know how to bring claims for victims of abuse. Many of our attorneys are licensed in both Oregon and Washington, and litigate claims in both states.

Who can bring a claim under Oregon’s financial elder abuse statute?

The victim, a guardian, conservator, or attorney-in-fact for the victim, a personal representative for a decedent who was a vulnerable person at the time of the abuse, or a trustee for a trust on behalf of the trustor or spouse of the trustor who is a vulnerable person. ORS 124.100(3). In addition to persons with certain mental or physical conditions, any person age 65 or older (regardless of health), qualifies as a “vulnerable person.” ORS 124.100(1).

What are some common forms of financial abuse?

Misuse of a Power of Attorney or joint bank account, overcharging for services, or improperly transfer title to property. Outright threats to abandon unless the victim complies with the abuser’s demands can by itself be financial elder abuse.

What are some warning signs of abuse?

  • An unexplained withdrawal, transfer, credit card charge, or payments that are unusual, or don’t otherwise fit with the explanation.
  • The elder is not given an opportunity to speak for themselves without the presence of a particular care giver, family member, or anyone else suspected of abuse.
  • The elder is extremely withdrawn, defensive, not communicative, or unresponsive. Victims frequently feel shame and embarrassment.
  • Unpaid bills, overdue rent, utility shut-off notices.

Report abuse

If you suspect someone is being abused, neglected, or financially exploited in Oregon or Washington, please reach out to the Oregon Department of Human Services or Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

Also, you may consider hiring a private attorney to employ legal tools to prevent harm, or recover financial losses. Contact Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP to speak with an experienced fiduciary litigator who understands financial elder abuse claims in Oregon and Washington.

Darlene Pasieczny, Attorney

Darlene Pasieczny is a fiduciary and securities litigator at SYK. She represents clients both in Oregon and Washington, with matters regarding trust and estate disputes, financial elder abuse cases, securities litigation, and represents investors nationwide in FINRA arbitration. Her article, New Tools Help Financial Professionals Prevent Elder Abuse, was featured in the January 2019, Oregon State Bar Elder Law Newsletter.