Transitions in the Era of COVID-19

I am writing this article in mid-April. It is likely that by the time this goes to publication, much of it will be out of date. Yet all I can do is put pen to paper and tell you what measures Foley & Pearson has taken to facilitate our clients’ estate planning needs and our experiences over the last few months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Chelsea Ray Riekkola Becomes Firm Shareholder Effective May 1, 2020
As I write this newsletter, I think back to our Generations event in early February. This event was a celebration of both our clients and Richard Foley’s retirement. It shows how quickly the world can change. Just a few weeks later, stories of the emerging coronavirus became more pronounced. It quickly became apparent that the writing was on the wall. We had to adapt, and do so quickly. In three business days we were able to install a platform allowing our staff to work remotely. The Mayor’s Hunker Down order was issued 48 hours later, and again we had to adapt to a new landscape for the firm and our clients. With such change I knew it was vital that this law firm persevere through adversity. To be able to ensure that we will be there for our Generations clients for years to come, it is essential that the firm is more than just one stakeholder. Chelsea is committed to delivering quality estate planning and has been an invaluable employee. As my business partner and legal colleague, she will play a key role in the continued development of Alaska’s estate planning law and best practices. I am pleased to announce that she is a shareholder effective May 1st, and I look forward to collaborating with her for years to come. The next time you see Chelsea, which we all hope will be sooner rather than later, feel free to congratulate her on her new role in the firm.

The Legislature Enacts Video Signing of Wills for the Duration of the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to COVID-19, the legislature has enacted, and the governor has signed, SB 241. This is essential legislation that allows, for the first time in Alaska, witnessing of Wills by videoconference while emergency Hunker Down orders persist. Although temporary, this legislation allows us to meet with clients remotely to execute their estate planning documents. We are in the process of fine-tuning our best practices in this area, including the most efficient way to deliver documents to our clients for their review, whether it be by mail or electronically. The feedback of our Generations clients is important to us as we walk this uncertain and evolving path. Please let us know about your experience and what we can do to assist you during this time.

Legal Services Continue by Facilitating Remote Client Meetings

Estate planning services have been designated as an essential legal service under the Municipality of Anchorage Hunker Down order. However, it is vital that we prioritize the health and safety of our clients and staff. To this end, for the duration of the Hunker Down order, our office is open by appointment only, and only for these essential services. This means that for the time being, our reviews will be by phone or videoconference. We will only be meeting with you in person for signing appointments. At these signing appointments, we will require that all clients and staff wear masks or similar face coverings. We will also be strictly imposing social distance protocol for these signing appointments. Your understanding is greatly appreciated as we navigate the uncertainty of this new reality.

Estate Planning and Flexibility Remains Important

As a Foley & Pearson Generations client, you have already demonstrated the value you place in having your estate plan in place. One of the reasons that we offer the Generations program is to be able to communicate with our clients as we strive to make sure your documents meet your goals when the time comes. To this end, don’t forget to review your Trust, Pour-Over Wills, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Directives, and other important estate planning documents. Also make sure to look for the paralegals’ funding review letters, which are mailed out every three years. Thank You. Our firm would not be in the position to continue to provide these legal services during this time without your support. Thank you for standing behind our firm and our staff. It matters.

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