All posts by Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC

WHY IS A POWER OF ATTORNEY AND AN ESTATE PLAN CRITICAL AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME?

During the Coronavirus Pandemic, we are all sharing in the concern for our families, businesses, and communities. In this era of social distancing we are finding new ways to stand together.

At Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, (“WPD”) LLC we are taking precautionary measures to keep our employees and our clients safe. We are holding the majority of client meetings by phone. In some instances, we are executing important legal documents, such as Powers of Attorney for Health Care & Property, Last Wills and Testaments, Guardianship Directives and Trusts in person as these documents require signatures in front of a notary and witnesses. For those meetings, we are using our conference space and distance with care and taking steps to disinfect our office space, including door handles, chairs, tables and pens that we have for you to use for the signing so you feel comfortable knowing every pen is disinfected before and after your use. Employees are using sanitizer on their hands and work spaces throughout each day.

We are all anxious about our health and financial well-being. We are worried about being exposed to contracting the virus and spreading that exposure to others. We are all confronting our mortality and asking what will happen if I get sick and become incapacitated? Or worse, what will happen if I die? While we cannot prevent bad things from happening, we can help make the outcome better. We urge you to plan for your family with care. We are here to help.

Should you have any questions about Estate Planning or would like to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced attornies, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847)253-8800 or contact us online.

Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC is a full-service law firm with various areas of service to assist your business, including: Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Commercial Real Estate, Litigation and general Business Law services. Individual services include Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, Divorce and Family Law, Collaborative Divorce & Mediation.

This article constitutes attorney advertising. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

OUR LOCATION

Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC

3701 Algonquin Rd. Suite 300, Rolling Meadows, Illinois 60008

Phone: (847) 253-8800
Fax: 847-253-8822

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THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC – WHAT ARE MY OBLIGATIONS AND LIABILITIES AS AN EMPLOYER?

Earlier today, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 (commonly known as “coronavirus”) is now a pandemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and WHO are official sources regarding information on pandemics. A declaration of a pandemic by WHO only indicates that there is a sustained human-to-human transmission across the globe – it does not have any implication on the severity of the illness itself.

Largely speaking, much remains the same right now. Although it is a pandemic, neither WHO nor any other national or global health organization has declared that it is particularly more dangerous than past pandemics, such as H1N1. So, while it is still imperative that you encourage employees to maintain healthy workplace practices and stay home if sick, your obligations under current law are the same as normal.

However, there are a few regulations that you should be keenly aware of while this pandemic is at large. Make sure you abide by the following and stay clear of violations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA protects applicants and employees from disability discrimination, and is implicated by a pandemic in three primary ways:

  1. Disability-related inquiries and medical examinations for applicants and employees
  2. Exclusion of individuals with disabilities from the workplace for health and safety reasons
  3. Reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities

You cannot make disability-related inquiries or require medical examinations unless the employee’s ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by the medical condition or the employee will pose a direct threat due to the medical condition. Illnesses resulting from the seasonal flu or the 2009 H1N1 influenza do not justify disability-related inquiries and medical examinations. Nothing from WHO or other health organizations has thus far indicated that COVID19 is substantially more severe than these other illnesses, therefore you should still avoid all disability-related inquiries and medical exams.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has a guide on Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act that addresses many of the questions you may have regarding what you can and cannot do during a pandemic.

For example, you may still send employees home if they display flu-like symptoms such as fever or chills and a cough or sore throat. You are still allowed to ask employees if they are experiencing any of those flu-like symptoms (so long as you keep such information as a confidential record in compliance with the ADA).

But as of right now, you can’t take employees’ temperatures to determine whether they have a fever, or demand that they get their temperature taken, as that would be a medical examination under the ADA and COVID19, although a pandemic, has not risen in severity to warrant an exception to that general rule. You can, and should, still encourage employees to work from home if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms – telework is considered a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Employees with existing disabilities that put them at higher risk of complications from catching COVID19 may also request telework as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

OSHA governs health and safety standards in the workplace for employers of a certain size and in certain industries. There is no specific OSHA standard covering COVID-19. However, some OSHA requirements may apply to prevent occupational exposure to the virus.

For example, OSHA has a general duty clause that requires an employer to respond adequately to the effects of a pandemic in the workplace.  Employers are required to furnish employees with “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

Your obligations under the general duty clause largely depend on the specific circumstances. Heightened protection standards might be necessary during the initial stages of the pandemic when information about its severity and transmissibility are limited. But keep in mind that places like hospitals and other healthcare facilities will have higher obligations to protect their employees than employers who are maintaining typical office environments. Make sure your workspaces are regularly cleaned and encourage your employees to maintain hygienic practices such as frequent handwashing.

OSHA also has recordkeeping requirements – employers have a duty to record certain work-related illnesses that meet specific criteria. Keep in mind that your obligations under OSHA are very fact-specific and we suggest that you frequently refer to the agency’s website here for updates on any heightened obligations you may have.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Employers covered by the FMLA must provide job-protected leave and other benefits to eligible employees who miss work due to a serious health condition suffered by the employee or their close family member.

The flu, common cold, and other similar illnesses are generally not considered serious health conditions under the FMLA, unless complications arise. Information from the CDC states that most people who have been diagnosed with COVID19 experience mild symptoms, however people with pre-existing conditions and compromised immune systems are at higher risk of developing more serious complications. The distinction between mild symptoms and those that cause further complications is important with regards to your obligation to provide FMLA leave.

If the employee has complications arising from COVID-19 and you are a covered employer, you must provide eligible employees with certain job protections and reinstatement rights while the employee is out on leave.

It is important to note, however, that missing work to care for a healthy child whose school is closed and staying home to avoid exposure to a pandemic virus are not examples of protected leave under the FMLA.

Please note that the above information is only meant to provide a general overview of the law as it currently stands. You may or may not be obligated to abide by some of these regulations, depending on factors such as how many employees you have or what industry your business operates in. Further consultation is required to determine the applicability of the above laws, or any other employment law, to you and your business.

Should you have questions regarding your obligations regarding COVID-19, have other legal needs for your business, or if you would like to schedule a no-charge initial consultation to discuss questions you have about your business, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847) 253-8800 or contact us online.

Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC is a full-service law firm with various areas of service to assist your business, including: Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Commercial Real Estate, Litigation, and general Business Law services. Individual services include Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, Divorce and Family Law, Collaborative Divorce & Mediation.

This article constitutes attorney advertising. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

A TRUST FOR YOUR BEST FRIEND!

Did you know you can set up a Trust for your dog, cat, bird, horse, or even guinea pig, to be sure they will be taken care of after you’re gone? It’s true. Illinois’ Pet Trust Statute has been in existence since 2005, and it allows you to provide in your Revocable Living Trust or Last Will and Testament that one or more Trusts will be created and maintained for the sole benefit of your pet or pets following your death.

When preparing the governing instrument, you will specify the following:

  • Which pet or pets are the “beneficiaries” of the Pet Trust.
  • Who will be the Trustee of the Pet Trust.
  • How much cash will be held in the Pet Trust to provide the care needed for your pet or pets.
  • What happens to any cash remaining in the Pet Trust following the death of the pet beneficiary(ies). It can be donated to a shelter or other charitable organization benefiting animals, or distributed to specific individuals.
  • Any other instructions you wish to include to provide direction to the Trustee.

If you have pets who are part of your family, and you want to be sure they will be cared for if you’re not around, take advantage of this legal way to do so. The estate planning attorneys at Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC can work with you to create a Pet Trust for your best friend.

Should you have any questions about a Pet Trust, or would like to schedule a free initial consultation, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847)253-8800 or contact us online.

Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC is a full-service law firm with various areas of service to assist your business, including: Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Commercial Real Estate, Business Immigration, Litigation and general Business Law services. Individual services include Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, Divorce and Family Law, Collaborative Divorce & Mediation.

This article constitutes attorney advertising. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO PLAN? The answer is simple—NOW.

Don’t procrastinate! Take some time in the next couple of months to consider your estate plan – whether doing it for the first time or updating.  This is really important for you and your loved ones.

We all know that bad things happen, and usually when you’re least expecting it.  We are all busy living our lives, day by day, trying to get through our endless “To-Do” lists.  But a life-changing, or life-ending, accident or illness can strike at any time and at any age.  None of us are immune from this.  So plan for it now.

A basic estate plan for everyone over the age of 18 should consists of:

  • Advance Directives for Health Care (i.e., Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will, HIPAA Authorization)
  • Property (or Financial) Durable Power of Attorney
  • Simple Will

If you do nothing else, get these documents in place!  They can make a world of difference for you and your family if you ever become incapacitated or die.  And remember that, even though you may be only 18 years old, or you eat healthy and exercise every day, you are not invincible. Do you really want your family to suffer any more than necessary if something happens to you?

In addition to these basic documents, most people need to do a little more.  This is because protecting assets for our children or other beneficiaries and avoiding unnecessary court costs and legal fees upon your death or disability cannot be accomplished if you stop here.

In 2019, there is a federal estate tax exemption of $11,400,000 and an Illinois estate tax exemption of $4,000,000.  This is great news for most people, eliminating an estate tax as a concern, but you may be surprised by the time you add up life insurance policies, real estate, retirement accounts, CDs, brokerage accounts, and other assets how close you may be to these amounts.

Even if you are nowhere near these exemption amounts, there is a lot of planning you can do to protect yourself and your family from unnecessary expenses and disputes, creditors, and divorce, and possibly take advantage of income tax and capital gains tax planning strategies that are available.

There is no time like NOW to prepare or update your documents.

Consider this — If you are married and have estate planning documents (e.g., revocable living trusts with “A-B trusts” or “Marital and Credit Shelter Trusts”) that were done years ago, back when the estate tax exemption was somewhere between $600,000 and $2,000,000, you are likely to have a result that you do NOT want when you or your spouse passes away.  This is because those trusts were designed to work for you when we had a much lower estate tax exemption, but should probably be updated to reflect the current laws.

We would be happy to sit down and talk with so that you can take steps to provide for yourself and your loved ones.  Should you have any questions estate plans, or would like to schedule a free initial consultation, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847)253-8800 or contact us online.

Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC is a full-service law firm with various areas of service to assist your business, including: Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Commercial Real Estate, Litigation and general Business Law services. Individual services include Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, Divorce and Family Law, Collaborative Divorce & Mediation.

This article constitutes attorney advertising. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.