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This informative webinar addresses New Jersey businesses that have been shut down or operating on a limited capacity due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our Labor & Employment attorneys, John H. Schmidt, Jr. and Lisa Gingeleskie, map out a prediction of the ‘new normal’ and discuss what post-pandemic reality may entail, including how and when to bring employees and customers back safely. While we can expect the road ahead to be potentially long and difficult, we offer guidelines and strategies for preparing for and documenting reopening procedures.

Topics of discussion include:

  • Addressing Employee Return to Work Concerns

In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “FFCRA”) requiring employers with 500 or less employees to provide paid sick leave and paid family leave to qualified employees affected by the pandemic. These benefits are in addition to any other earned sick leave, vacation or other paid time off benefits offered by the employer. These additional benefits are temporary and are only available to employees through December 31, 2020.

Posting requirement: Now that employers are preparing for employees to return to the workplace, employers covered by the FFCRA must prominently display the U.S. Department of Labor’s poster entitled Employee Rights – Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a copy of which can be found here.

Distribution of Employee Rights publication: Both the federal and state governments are encouraging employers to continue to permit employees to work remotely to reduce the headcount in the workplace and potential spread of the virus. Covered employers who plan to continue remote work arrangements should therefore distribute the DOL’s Employee Rights publication to these employees, if not to all employees, to ensure employee awareness of leave rights under the FFCRA.

On May 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced a final rule allowing employers to post retirement plan disclosures online or furnish them to workers via email.  The rule is aimed at reducing administrative expenses for employers and making information more readily available to workers.

ERISA-covered retirement plans must furnish multiple disclosures each year to participants and beneficiaries. The exact number of disclosures per year depends on the specific type of retirement plan, its features, and in some cases the plan’s funding status.  To deliver these disclosures electronically, plan administrators were previously required to comply with the regulatory safe harbor established in 2002 under 29 CFR 2520.104b-1(c), which required that disclosures be reasonably calculated to ensure that workers actually received the information, including confirmation that the transmitted information was actually received (e.g., using return-receipt or notice of undelivered electronic mail features, conducting periodic reviews or surveys to confirm receipt of the transmitted information).

On August 31, 2018, Executive Order 13847, entitled Strengthening Retirement Security in America, was issued. The Order directed the DOL to review whether regulatory or other actions could be taken to make retirement plan disclosures more understandable for participants and beneficiaries and to focus on reducing the production and distribution costs that retirement plan disclosures impose on employers.  In October 2019, the Department published a proposed regulation with a solicitation for public comment.  In response to the commentary received, a final rule creating a new voluntary safe harbor was established.  The new safe harbor permits the following two optional methods for electronic delivery:

Will your assets pass to family if you die without a Will in New Jersey? Not necessarily. In some cases, a decedent’s property can actually escheat, or revert, to the State of New Jersey when the decedent has living relatives. The only way to ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes is to execute a Will. While it may be tempting to let estate planning take a back burner to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, having a Will and other necessary estate planning documents helps your loved ones avoid additional hassles at the time of your passing.

Intestacy laws govern what happens to a person’s assets when he or she dies without a Will. Intestacy laws, however, do not interfere with assets that are jointly owned–those go to the survivor; or assets that are subject to a separate designation of beneficiary–those go to the designated beneficiary. In New Jersey, heirs must survive the decedent by at least 120 hours to inherit. New Jersey has adopted an intestacy system that only considers those relatives in the third branch and closer as “heirs” for the purposes of intestate succession. This is known as a parentelic system. The first branch includes the decedent, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The second branch includes decedent’s parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews down the line to great-grandnieces and great-grandnephews. The third and final branch of heirs for purposes of the New Jersey intestacy laws consists of the decedent’s grandparents and descendants of grandparents including aunts, uncles, and first cousins.

It is important to note that if a decedent dies without a Will and has a spouse or domestic partner, that spouse or partner may not inherit the full estate. This debunks the common misconception that if you pass without a Will, your spouse will automatically receive everything. The surviving spouse or partner’s share depends on many things including but not limited to whether the couple had children together, whether there are children from a prior marriage, and whether the decedent has parents who are still living.

The COVID-19 crisis, and its attendant rules of social distancing, face masks, etc. have presented new challenges to estate planning attorneys in the realm of document executions.  How are we advising clients who wish to sign their estate planning documents during this pandemic?  The usual participants when we meet with clients to execute wills and other documents include the client(s), the attorney who serves as one witness, a staff member who serves as the second witness, and a notary public.  Like many other law firms in New Jersey, we have not been meeting with clients in our offices since mid-March.  Many of our attorneys, and most of our staff, are working remotely.  Hence we cannot easily assemble the normal cast of characters to participate in the execution of client documents.    Further, wills and other estate planning documents may not be signed by electronic signature; such documents must be signed in person with a so-called “wet” signature.

Here are some of the ways we have been helping our clients sign their documents in these challenging times.

1.  The signing may be handled by the client at home or elsewhere, with execution instructions provided by the attorney:

Federal Law.  On April 9, 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-23, amplifying earlier Notices 2020-18 and 2020-20.  Notice 2020-23 indicates that because of the COVID-19 emergency, the due dates for filing federal tax returns and payment of taxes due on or after April 1, 2020 and before July 15, 2020 have been postponed to July 15, 2020.  The postponements are automatic; taxpayers are not required to take any action, such as filing an extension request, in order to qualify for the relief.

The Notice confirms the grant of additional time to file individual, corporate, partnership, and estate and trust income tax returns to July 15, 2020.  Estate, gift, and generation-skipping tax returns and payment due dates have been similarly postponed.

The Notice also clarifies that not only first quarter estimated income tax payments due April 15, but also second quarter estimates due June 15, have a new due date of July 15.

Karolina Dehnard, Managing Director of the International Transaction Group at Lindabury, and President of the Polish-American Chamber of Commerce in the Northeastern USA, was interviewed by Polish publication White Eagle about how the world of business has changed over the past few months and how trade relations between the United States and Poland look today. The interview is available here.

Lindabury Divorce & Family Law attorney and Managing Director of the International Transaction Group, Karolina Dehnhard, was interviewed by 60 Million Kongress, an organization uniting Polish business leaders worldwide as part of their series of influential Global Polish leaders discussing both international divorce and business development in Eastern Europe during the pandemic. You can view the interview here.

I. When Can America Go Back To Work?

As employers and employees increasingly chafe at the bit to return to the workplace, businesses must look to state and local stay-at-home directives to determine when they can reopen. It is anticipated that this will occur in phases and will likely depend on the nature of the business and jurisdiction where it is located.

New Jersey: New Jersey’s Stay-At-Home order was initially expected to expire on May 8, 2020. Although Governor Murphy has permitted state and county parks and golf courses to reopen on May 2, 2020, the Governor announced that the stay-at-home directive will remain in place indefinitely until the following six principals in his plan entitled The Road Back are sufficiently met:

Businesses need to prepare for the short and long term challenges that await as COVID-19 continues to impact the economy.

Lindabury is collaborating with Spector & Ehrenworth, a well respected New Jersey bankruptcy and creditors’ rights law firm, to assist clients with challenges they may face, including customers and vendors unable to meet their financial commitments, as well as cash flow or liquidity concerns.

Below are some issues you may encounter and with which our team can assist. Please contact us with any questions you may have.

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