COVID-19 Client Alerts
Dear Clients and Friends,
We hope everyone is taking care and following all of the recommended precautions during these unprecedented times.
We wanted to let you know that as of Tuesday, March 10, our entire firm began to work remotely. Fortunately, we implemented secure systems and protocols long ago, and we are very experienced with the remote workplace. We are pleased to inform you that we are working regular business hours.
On March 20, Governor Cuomo ordered all nonessential businesses to keep their workers at home. As a result, in-person meetings are no longer possible at this time. However, each of our attorneys and staff members is accessible by phone and email, as well as through Zoom and FaceTime, so we welcome the opportunity to continue to meet with you, albeit virtually.
We are following the status of court filings; further, we are determining how best to proceed with document signings. We received relief yesterday with an executive order by Governor Cuomo that allows for live video notarizations.
On a separate note, we wanted to share with you that as of March 17, 2020, the Secretary of the Treasury indicated that they are providing income tax payment relief for individuals and corporations in certain circumstances, by deferring up to $1 million (for individuals and $10 million for corporations) of required payments without charging interest and/or penalties for a 90-day period, and that as of this morning, Treasury has announced a similarly deferred filing date.
If you need us, we are here for you. We’re all in this together and together we will get through this!
Is my business subject to the in-person workforce reduction?
We are getting a rash of inquiries from businesses asking if they are allowed to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic.
Through Executive Orders 202.6, 202.7 and 202.8, Governor Cuomo directed that employers in New York State reduce the in-person workforce at business locations. The latest requires 100% reduction of in-person employees to be made no later than 8 p.m. on March 22. Employers who violate this directive are subject to enforcement as if they violated an Order pursuant to Section 12 of the Public Health Law.
However, an exemption exists for businesses and non-profit organizations that provide “essential services or functions.” What is an “essential service or function?” In Executive Order 202.6, the Governor directs the Empire State Development Corporation (“ESD”) to provide guidance. ESD lists essential services and functions here:
Anybody who still has questions about whether a service or function is essential, or seeks to request an exemption, can find a link at the above website to obtain a determination.
Finally, it should be made clear that the Executive Orders do not require that employers reduce their workforce by terminating employees or conducting layoffs. Nor do the Orders require businesses to cease operations unless they are fully dependent on a physical location. Employees may work remotely from home to the extent they are able.
Court Filing Deadlines Extended to April 19, 2020
In order to limit New York court operations to essential functions, Executive Order 202.8 tolls statutes of limitation, and deadlines for the filing and service of any notice, motion, or other process or proceeding, as prescribed by the procedural laws of the state.
Small Business Loan Relief
Banks are asking for more guidance from the SBA on the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses (defined as under 500 employees). Applications likely will not be accepted until Monday, 4/6/2020, at the earliest by most SBA lenders. For more guidance, please reach out to David Simon at email@example.com or (914) 666-5600, x326.
Governor Has Paved the Way for Virtual Estate Planning:
Remote Witnessing and Remote Notarization
It was always a good idea to have estate planning documents in place. But now, more than ever, those who don’t are starting to recognize their importance. Nearly all estate planning documents require two witnesses or an acknowledgment to be taken by a notary public. Fortunately for those in New York state, Governor Cuomo issued two important Executive Orders to facilitate individuals with estate planning needs during this crucial time.
Executive Order 202.7 authorizes notarial acts to be performed by audio-visual technology, under certain strict guidelines. This authorization was originally through April 18, 2020 but has now been extended to May 7, 2020.
Similarly, Executive Order 202.14 allows for the use of audio-visual technology where any act of witnessing is required under certain specified provisions of the Estates, Powers and Trust Law, Public Health Law, General Obligations Law, and Real Property Law. Unless otherwise extended, remote witnessing can be performed through May 7, 2020. Because we do not anticipate that the state will relax the enforcement of its strict policy of social distancing any time soon, we expect that the May 7, 2020 expiration date may be extended in a subsequent Executive Order. Please check back for periodic updates.
Our office is equipped to provide remote estate planning services during this confusing and chaotic time in a manner that is both safe and socially responsible. Please reach out to our office with any questions and be assured that your estate plan can be legally and soundly implemented.
Revising a Will:
If you need to make a change to a will, please review our recent blog post explaining why creating a new will is recommended over the use of codicils:
New York County Surrogate's Court Reopened (at least in part):
New York County Surrogate’s Court has announced that it is currently accepting filings in all essential matters and uncontested non-essential matters. An uncontested matter is one in which duly executed waivers and consents from all interested parties entitled to notice can be furnished to the court, obviating the need for issuance of a court citation and personal appearances by the parties or their counsel. We hope to hear similar announcements from the other county Surrogate’s Courts soon.