(844) 815-9632

Bitcoin

Tips for Students to Help Prevent School Shootings

It unfortunately seems that the frequency of school shootings has increased. Just yesterday, at least 17 people were killed during a school shooting in Florida. Every time there's a school shooting, the debate on gun control comes to the forefront of the news. While this is a valid debate, it seems that more is at play than just preventing people from being able to buy guns. There may be things that parents, staff members at school, and other students can do to help prevent these tragedies in the future. Can Anything Be Done to Prevent School Shootings? A school shooting can't always be prevented, especially if the shooter doesn't exhibit any signs of violent tendencies or indication that he or she is planning a school shooting. However, there are signs sometimes that someone is planning something, and if you notice such signs, it's a good idea to pay attention to these signs and take them seriously. This is true for parents, school staff, and students. For example, the suspect in the Florida school shooting -- Nikolas Cruz -- was described by students and neighbors as a troubled teen.Tips for StudentsTo help prevent school shootings, students should:Know the warning signs of a mass shooting.Alert a teacher, parent, of law enforcement officer as soon as you become aware of a threat.Understand that "reporting" is not the same as "snitching" because the goal of reporting a crime is to protect students, while the goal of snitching is to get someone in trouble.Remember that you can be charged with failure to report a crime if you know about a threat and don't do anything. Students can be especially helpful since they spend more time around each other than they do with school staff, and usually have access to classmates' social media accounts. In the case of the Cruz, the Associated Press reports that he threatened and harassed peers and has disturbing photos on social media. Parents Can Be Liable It's often not clear what leads a person to commit a school shooting. It could be the home environment or being bullied at school or mental illness, or a combination of all of these things. While people often have the knee-jerk reaction of blaming parents for such tragedies, it's not necessarily their fault.But it's important to note that there are times that parents can be held accountable for school violence committed by their child. One prime example is if parents are careless with their firearms and their child uses the firearm in a school shooting. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Suspect in Florida school massacre charged with 17 murders (Reuters) Weapons at School (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Do You Have to Report a Crime If You See One? (FindLaw's Blotter)
continue reading

Student Loan Forgiveness Options May Disappear Under New Budget Plan

Higher education is important to many people, but it doesn't come cheap. In order to get a college or graduate degree, many people need student loans. Of course, the hope is that once you receive a degree, you'll be able to get a job, and repay your student loans.However, this isn't as easy as it theoretically seems. For this reason, there are various repayment options for people who take out student loans. But, under President Trump's new spending plan proposal, there are many changes to repayment options for those who owe money for federal student loans. What Would Be Changing? The budget plan, as currently written, would do away with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and curtail income-based loan repayment plans. The plan would also cut funding for federal work study in half, and embolden the government to go after students who aren't paying their loans. These changes to student loans would apply to those students who borrow after July 1, 2019, and would not include loans provided to borrowers to finish their current education. In regard to income-driven repayment plans, they would be reduced from four options to one option. Under the one option, a student's monthly payment wouldn't be more than 12.5% of his or her discretionary income. One positive aspect of the income-driven repayment plan under the new budget is that undergraduate students would have their loan forgiven after 15 years. For reference, these types of loans are currently forgiven after 20 years. What Happens If You Can Repay Your Student Loans? There are some options for those who can't pay back their student loans, and those options will vary depending on whether you have private or public loans. Under the new budget plan, people who fall into delinquency repaying their federal loans would be subject to more stringent enforcement. More specifically, the new budget plan calls to "streamline the Department of Education's ability to verify applicants' income data held by the Internal Revenue Service." If you're concerned about repaying your student loans, or want to find out about your repayment options, it may be a good idea to speak with a local attorney. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Higher Education (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Pennsylvania Attorney General Sues Nation's Largest Student Loan Servicer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Non-Dischargeable vs. Dischargeable Debt in Bankruptcy (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

Tips for Talking to a Lawyer on the Phone

Almost everyone knows that you have a right to counsel if you've been charged with a crime. People will also be inclined to seek out a lawyer if they want to file a lawsuit, or if they're being sued. But, there are many other instances where a lawyer can be very helpful.For example, it's usually a good idea to consult with a lawyer while planning your estate because he or she can ensure that your estate plan is in compliance with your state's laws, and can advise you on how to reduce your estate taxes. But, how do you decide when to call an attorney? And how do you decide if the attorney you call is right for you? These are valid and important questions to ask yourself when you're thinking about hiring an attorney. Read on for some tips for talking to a lawyer on the phone. How Do I Find a Lawyer? If you have friends or family who have already used a lawyer (that they were happy with) in a similar legal matter, it's a good idea to ask them for the lawyer's contact information. But, maybe you don't feel comfortable asking someone you know for a lawyer recommendation because you want to keep your legal matter private. While recommendations are helpful, there are other ways to find a lawyer, including researching the attorney online. You can read reviews and it's also a good idea to research a lawyer's discipline record. The First Call Whether you found a lawyer through a recommendation or you found one through your own research, the first call can be very important. For this reason, it's important to be prepared for this conversation.First, you should have a list of questions ready to ask the lawyer, including questions about his or hers experience with legal matters such as yours. Second, you should have a fairly detailed summary of the legal matter that you're seeking counsel for. If you have any documentation related to your legal matter (such as a complaint you've been served), it's a good idea to have those documents in front of you.Finally, talking to a lawyer on the phone will help you to also get a feel for his or her personality, including the lawyer's ability to explain things clearly. Just remember that the initial conversation with a lawyer is not only the time for the lawyer to decide whether he or she wants to take the case, but also for you to decide if you want that particular lawyer for your legal issue. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Guide to Hiring a Lawyer (FindLaws' Learn About the Law) Should I Have an Annual Legal Checkup With a Lawyer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Reasons to Hire an Attorney Decades Before You Retire (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

Should You Add Bitcoin to Your Estate Plan?

Even though many people may feel uncomfortable planning for death, it's an important thing to do, especially for your loved ones. In the absence of an estate plan, property will be divided based on state intestacy laws, which could result in your assets going to people you don't want them to go to, and it can be a hassle for your loved ones.Assuming that you've decided to plan your estate, you may wonder what you should include. Well, the more detailed you have, the better. And, if your property changes -- maybe you added new investments, such as Bitcoin -- it's best to add that to your estate plan as well. It's All in the Details Probate issues can easily become overly complicated because family members often end up fighting with each other over their deceased relative's assets. To avoid this, it's important to be as detailed as possible in your estate plan, both in listing beneficiaries for particular items or sums of money, and making sure to list all of your assets. This includes any investments, such as real property, stocks, or Bitcoin. When it comes to Bitcoin, or other types of cryptocurrency, it's important to be a little more detailed than you may be with other property. For example, when you have an investment account at a bank, it'll list the particular stocks you have in your portfolio and will usually allow you to designate a beneficiary. The nature of cryptocurrencies is secretive, so it can be much more difficult to get access to it once the investor dies. For this reason, it's important to not only list that you own Bitcoin, but also list where it was bought and how it can be accessed. Show You Care It's hard enough to grieve the death of someone you love, but also trying to sort through his or her assets, and possibly deal with greedy relatives, can make it unbearable. So, show your loved ones you care about them by planning your estate, or updating your estate to include any new assets. And, if you don't know where to start or need professional help to plan your estate, you can contact a local attorney who can guide you through the estate planning process and make sure you have a solid estate plan. Related Resources: Find an Estate Planning Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Estate Planning (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Digital Estate Planning: How to Prepare Digital Accounts for the End of Life (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Bitcoin and Estate Planning: Top FAQs (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

How Does Immigration Status Affect Child Custody?

Divorce is hard enough for anyone to go through, but add having to determine child custody, and it only gets harder. Sometimes parents are able to reach a custody agreement themselves, other times the parents may need to have a judge decide on the child custody arrangements.If you're an immigrant -- legal or illegal -- you may be concerned that your immigration status will impact a child custody agreement. After all, doesn't it seem likely that a U.S. citizen would be favored over a non-citizen when determining who gets custody? The answer is no -- immigration status is not generally a factor in determining who gets custody. How Is Child Custody Determined? Like most legal family matters, child custody is governed by state laws. There are, however, some generally accepted factors in determining child custody. The main factor in determining child custody is considering what's in the "best interests" of the child. This involves many considerations including looking at the mental and physical health of the parents, need for continuation of a stable home environment, and the wishes of the child (when he or she is old enough to capably make this decision). While the list of considerations for child custody is long, notably absent is immigration status. This is even true in the case of illegal immigrants fighting for child custody. While it may not be a factor in determining child custody, it bears mentioning that a pending deportation or an actual deportation can affect child custody, since it would impact the child's life.So, while a parent's immigration status doesn't directly factor into deciding who gets custody, there could be indirect effects, particularly if the parent is an illegal immigrant. To resolve child custody issues, contact a child custody lawyer or an immigration lawyer for help. Related Resources: Find Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How the Gig Economy Is Affecting Child Support (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 2017: The Year in Immigration Law (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Deportation Dispute: U.S. Refusing Visas for Countries Unwilling to Take Back Deported Citizens (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

3 Legal Tips on How to Handle Digital Assets in a Prenuptial Agreement

Living in the 21st century digital world is nearly inescapable at this point. Digital assets abound and can include some unexpected items that may actually possess some unexpected value. Don't believe it? A digital trading card of Hans Solo, that was recently released, goes for $225. Digital assets can include items that have real, transferable monetary values, like online bitcoin accounts, or simply items that have high sentimental value, such as collections of family photos. Regardless of how an item is valued, during a divorce, both tangible and digital assets must be divided, but some digital assets may prove more challenging to divide. As such, including digital assets in a prenuptial agreement is becoming increasingly advisable. Below you'll find three legal tips on how to include digital assets in a prenup. 1. Agree to Maintain Separate Accounts For things like iTunes accounts, digital music, movies, games, and apps, you may just want to agree to maintain separate accounts that will remain separate property, or will be appraised, valued, and offset upon divorce. As opposed to sharing one account, maintaining separate accounts might require a double purchase of an app or game that both you and your spouse want to use. This downside occurs most often with entertainment-related digital assets because these usually only provide purchasers with a single user license, meaning that a game, app, or digital download can only be used by one account. Note that some digital game assets and collections may be transferable and can be valued at thousands of dollars (i.e. the Hans Solo digital trading card mentioned above). As such, you may wish to put a dollar threshold on the value of separate digital accounts. 2. Appraise and Clearly Identify Separate Digital Property Any couple considering a prenup these days likely already has a collection of digital assets, such as their iTunes music library. Most states will consider property acquired prior to marriage as separate property. However, over time, if separate property appreciates in value during the course of a marriage, it could become partly marital or community property. The same is true for digital assets, and can include assets such as social media accounts, particularly if they are related to a business or occupation, or even websites, such as blogs or online businesses. In a prenup, it can be helpful to identify all separate digital assets, and agree that certain ones, like those relating to only one spouse's business, remain separate property. Appraising prior to a prenup can be helpful to ensure that spouses are fully aware of the value, and can track the increase or loss in value for purposes of offsetting property division. 3. Agree to Copy What You Can Digital assets often include items that can be copied freely, such as photos, home movies, and even music. For digital items that can be copied for free, such as iTunes music without DRM protection, it can be agreed to that these will be copied and shared. However, for digital photos, you may want to include a provision prohibiting the sale of photos, as technically the copyright is held by the person who takes the photo, and likeness rights vary from state to state. Related Resources: Need help with family law? A lawyer can review your case for free. (Consumer Injury - Family) Pros and Cons: Premarital Agreements ("Prenuptials") (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) What Can and Cannot be Included in Prenuptial Agreements (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Digital Estate Planning: How to Prepare Digital Accounts for the End of Life (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Death and Digital Privacy: Please Delete My Browser History, Bro (FindLaw's Common Law)
continue reading

Is It Legal to Crop a Dog’s Ears?

For many pet owners, "cropping" or surgically snipping a dog's ears can be a big decision. Opponents of the practice argue that it's unnecessary and inhumane, but is cropping a dog's ears illegal? No Nationwide Ban on Cropping Unlike many other countries, the U.S. government has not passed any law regulating the practice of cropping a dog's ears. Most laws regulating the treatment of animals as pets (i.e., not as livestock or research subjects) are left to the states. Notably, ear cropping is illegal in some parts of Canada, and all of Australia, New Zealand, and in Scandinavian countries, according to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. Despite the international disagreement over the practice, both the Canadian and American Kennel Clubs encourage and may even require cropping for show dogs. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) does not support claims that cropping ears serves to prevent medical issues in dogs, and the practice seems mostly to be for aesthetic purposes in certain pedigree breeds. State Laws on Cropping While a handful of U.S. states do have rules about ear cropping, there are no states that have an outright ban. So while it may be legal to crop your dog's ears anywhere in the United States, you may need to follow a specific procedure. The AVMA reports that there are only eight states where cropping has been regulated. Here are a few examples of those states' laws: Pennsylvania. In 2009, Pennsylvania passed a law making it evidence of animal cruelty for persons other than vets to crop a dog's ears. This law requires dogs to be anesthetized during a cropping procedure. Washington state. Cropping is exempted from animal cruelty laws as long as it's in line with "accepted husbandry practices." Since the American Kennel Club requires cropping for many breeds to show, cropping may be legal if performed by licensed breeders for certain pedigrees in addition to vets. Massachusetts. Non-vets who crop dogs' ears can be slapped with a $250 fine. Even if your state is not among those that have specifically regulated cropping, it is highly recommended to take your dog to a vet for the procedure. The AVMA reports that like any incision, cropping increases the chances for infection. Bottom line: Going to a vet for cropping can reduce your dog's risk of infection and give you the option of anesthesia -- which may be required in a handful of states. Related Resources: Ear-Cropping and Tail-Docking (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Dog Tattoos Controversial, but Are They Legal? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Cat Piercing for Goth Look is Animal Cruelty (FindLaw's Blotter) 5 Animals You Can't Keep as Pets (With Some Exceptions) (FindLaw's Legal Grounds)
continue reading

9/11 Crash Site Undervalued in Eminent Domain Case

The 9/11 crash site of United Flight 93 is actually worth nearly $1 million more than the federal government paid for it, according to a court ruling in an eminent domain case. A federal district judge ruled Wednesday that the site of the downed flight near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, originally valued at $610,000, was actually worth more than $1.5 million, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The federal government scooped up the land from its owner in 2009 under eminent domain, with plans to create a national memorial at the site. But both the original owner and the feds disputed how much it was worth. Flight 93's Final Resting Place On September 11, 2001, United Flight 93 was one of four hijacked aircraft which crashed as part of a terrorist plot. Flight 93 was unique in that it missed its intended target and instead landed in a rural area of Pennsylvania, after a movie-inspiring passenger intervention. The plane's final resting place was in a field originally owned by Michael Svonavec, but the U.S. government took possession of the site in 2009 under the doctrine of eminent domain. Taking land through eminent domain requires that the government take the land for "public use" and compensate the land's owner for its fair market value. Owners have the right to challenge eminent domain actions, and typically the argument boils down to how much the land is actually worth compared to the government's compensation. In Svonavec's case, he believes his land is worth "at least $5.7 million," reports the Tribune-Review. Under this estimation, the federal government would owe Svonavec more than $5 million, but a federal judge decided differently. Commission Made Correct Valuation The "fair market value" of a piece of land with a unique character -- like historical value -- can often be difficult to pinpoint. Typically the government would approximate the land's value based on its size and comparable sales of land in the surrounding area. Perhaps this is how the government came to its original $610,000 figure to compensate Svonavec for the Flight 93 crash site. However, a court-appointed commission in December valued the property at $1,535,000 -- a finding which a federal judge upheld on Wednesday. Part of its valuation included the property's "national significance and intrinsic value," which made it unique from similar parcels of land, reports the Tribune-Review. Svonavec may be upset that he didn't get the $5 million he requested for the 9/11 crash site, but it's more than double what he originally received. Related Resources: Flight 93 memorial site correctly valued at $1.5m, judge rules (Metro) Find an Eminent Domain Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw) Can I Lose my Property to Eminent Domain? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can Eminent Domain Actually Help My Business? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
continue reading

Facebook Password Lawsuit: School Settles for $70K

A Minnesota school has agreed to fork over $70,000 for demanding a sixth-grader reveal her Facebook password. Riley Stratton, now 15, painfully remembers when Minnewaska school officials cornered her over a Facebook post and threatened her with suspension, reports the Star Tribune. The confrontation ended with Stratton relinquishing her password, but thanks to the ACLU's intervention, its ultimate end was the school cutting a check. What were the legal reasons behind the school's Facebook password settlement? Right to Students' Facebook Passwords? According to an ACLU press release, the American Civil Liberties Union branch in Minnesota filed a lawsuit on Stratton's behalf in 2012 claiming that a number of her civil rights had been violated by the school demanding access to her Facebook account. The suit centered on the treatment of Stratton for conduct via Facebook performed outside of school, some of which was alleged to have been of "a sexual nature," reports the Star Tribune. Employers have been treading a legal line in asking for employees' Facebook passwords, but with the threat of cyberbullying, it seems all the more important in schools. Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt told the Star Tribune that the school just wanted "to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental." Wallace Hilke, the ACLU attorney for Stratton's case, believes that "[k]ids' use of social media is the family's business" -- not the school's. Stratton's school didn't admit any liability in the settlement, but there will be some changes in its Facebook policies. Settlement Order Promises Change Under the terms of the settlement, the Strattons agreed to drop their claims, as long as the school makes some changes regarding how it handles social media incidents. Minnewaska schools have agreed to: Require students to give up their passwords or account info to school administrators only when there is "reasonable suspicion" they will uncover a violation of school rules; Amend the student handbook to note that students are free to withhold consent to search backpacks or other items, including their Facebook accounts, without the threat of additional discipline; and Train faculty and staff on the policy changes. These changes may be a bit late for Stratton, but they may prevent other students from feeling unduly harassed by school officials about their Facebook passwords. Related Resources: ACLU wins settlement over student's Facebook post (The Associated Press) Can Schools Monitor Students on Social Media? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Asking for Passwords? You May Be Asking for Trouble (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) Daughter's Facebook 'SUCK IT' Post Nixes Dad's $80K Settlement (FindLaw's Decided)
continue reading

Top 10 Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

A divorce or separation can be tough on kids, but a good co-parenting plan can help you and your children maintain a sense of normalcy. That's probably one reason why actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, singer Chris Martin, announced they plan to "consciously uncouple and co-parent" as they work through their separation, Reuters reports. If you're also considering a co-parenting arrangement, here are 10 tips to make it work for everyone: Always put your children first. No matter how ugly or costly your divorce or separation proceedings get, always make your children's best interests the top priority. Get a court order. Although it's not required, parenting plans can become "official" with a court order. Depending on your state's laws, violating a legally enforceable parenting plan can result in criminal and/or civil penalties. Live near the other parent. While not always feasible, it may be best for a child if the parents live relatively close to each other so that the child can have regular visits with both parents. Respect each other's parenting style. Parents should accept that the other's parenting style will differ, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. So respect and honor the other person's parenting techniques unless it's clearly endangering your child. Communicate. Communicating openly and frequently with the other parent helps both of you stay on top of what's going on in your child's life. Plus, it'll help avoid misunderstandings that could result in a larger conflict. Create smooth transitions between households. On the days when your kids are spending time at the other parent's home, it may be best to drop them off rather than have the other parent pick them up. Experts say this can help reduce a child's feeling that he's being "taken away" from the other parent. Be involved in your child's activities. Another tip for successful co-parenting is to make sure both parents are involved in the child's activities. Even if you can't stand the other parent, try to maintain civility when attending your kid's school and extracurricular activities. Establish a shared document that both parents can access. Developing a shared account, like a Google Doc or other cloud-based document, that both parents can access can help you quickly share information about your children. This can work for emergency contact numbers and extracurricular schedules, for example. Be flexible. Even if you have a co-parenting court order in place, cut the other parent some slack if an unexpected change occurs and he or she has to change your agreed-upon schedule. (If the other parent routinely does this, however, then it may be time to modify your co-parenting plan.) Hire an attorney. Consulting an experienced family law attorney in your area can be helpful for figuring out and drafting a co-parenting plan, especially if issues like child support or custody are involved. While it may be tough to be around your ex, a successful co-parenting plan will set the ground rules and can help your kids better deal with your divorce or separation. Related Resources: Co-Parenting After Divorce (Psychology Today) Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin Separate: Will Co-Parenting Work? (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Hi-Tech Help for Co-Parenting After Divorce (FindLaw's KnowledgeBase) Moving & Child Custody: 3 Important Questions (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading
12