It has been a while.
Without any fanfare, we stopped publishing the Special Needs Estate Planner in 2017. We left a link on our website because many visitors are interested in prior issues, but we were unconvinced that there was sufficient interest to continue publication. Recent events have caused us to rethink our decision, and we have come to believe that our ability to communicate electronically to a broad audience is more important than ever.
With this issue we want to let our readers to know how we have modified our office practices in order to meet our clients’ needs during the viral pandemic. Upcoming issues will include recommendations for getting your affairs in order, information on legislative initiatives which may move quickly and impact our family members, and other items of interest to the disability community during these trying times.
We Are Still Open
We are not closing our offices – at least not yet. We have no instances of viral infection among our staff, clients or visitors (that we know about). As the viral pandemic grows, that may change. In the interim, we have employed a number of steps to reduce risk of exposure to our clients and our staff.
We continue to communicate with our clients, colleagues and courts by phone and email. Prior to the onset of the pandemic we had completed major upgrades to our server and phone system, and we expanded the capacity of staff to access our system remotely. As such, we are fully configured for our staff to work from home.
Our current protocol is to have no more than 10 staff on site at our office at any time, with the balance of our staff working from home. We continue to monitor communications from federal and state authorities, and we will modify this protocol if and as necessary.
Limited Building Access and Cleaning Protocol
As of the date of this newsletter, we are only allowing entry to our staff and those who are delivering supplies that are necessary to the operation of our office. Exceptions are being made on a case by case basis.
All staff working in the office are asked to wash their hands immediately upon entry to the building, before visiting their workspace, and just prior to departure.
Others entering the building are asked to wash their hands immediately upon entry and before conducting any business with our staff.
Door handles, chair rails and work surfaces are cleaned regularly throughout the day.
We are handling client consultations and conferences by phone. We are also willing to conduct meetings using FaceTime and (for those with Android devices) using Zoom, but to date most of our clients have been comfortable with phone conferences
We have rescheduled all document signings through the end of March, and we may extend this policy into April.
We are also considering how we can facilitate signature of important documents by phone, video conference or other means while this moratorium is in effect. Our objective is to strike a balance between protecting our staff and our clients while at the same time ensuring that important documents get signed, especially for those whose health may be compromised.
Clients are able drop off documents. We have placed drop boxes in the vestibules of the Clifton Park and Queensbury offices. Clients can drop off their documents and then call the office to let us know. We will retrieve the documents, copy and scan them, and then return them to our clients in any manner they choose.
Why not just close until the viral pandemic is over?
We have given a lot of thought to the idea of just closing our office. Presumably such a closure would be temporary, and maybe only for a short term. But we don’t think that makes sense – at least not yet.
We have a lot of people who depend on us, and many of those who rely on our advocacy are the least equipped to weather crises of this nature, especially when more traditional forms of support (like Medicaid funded staff) are scaling back or discontinuing service altogether.
We also recognize that the very nature of our practice involves helping our clients navigate complications associated with disability and illness. To the extent our advice and recommendations can help minimize the risk of financial harm or ensure that a legally empowered advocate is in place to make difficult health care decisions, we feel an obligation to be as resourceful and accessible as prudence will allow.
Like you, we continually reassess the situation. If you have any questions about our office practice during the viral pandemic, please do not hesitate to call us.
Ed Wilcenski and Tara Pleat