Law and Daily Life - FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog


Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

For the last several months, our series Legalese From A to Z has been walking you through the sometimes wacky, sometimes confusing world of legalese , the specialized language of law used by those in the legal field.

Letter by letter, we've been examining some important, interesting, or noteworthy bits of legalese. This week, we take a look at five legal terms that start with the letter "N":

  • Next of kin. You may have heard the phrase "next of kin" in situations where a person has died without a will and that person's property will pass according to the laws of intestacy. But who is considered next of kin? Under the laws of most states, the next of kin is a spouse or domestic partner. If there is not a spouse or domestic partner, then the next of kin will usually be a person's children. If there are no children, the next of kin will typically be the first of any of the following blood relatives who are surviving: parents, then siblings, then grandparents, then aunts and uncles, and so forth. Depending on the laws in your state, relatives beyond a certain degree of remoteness may no longer be considered kin.

Pennsylvania was one of the original 13 colonies, and if you're in the Keystone State, you should be familiar with its rich history of laws.

While learning about the life of the Founding Fathers is a great way to enjoy the history of Pennsylvania, you may also want to focus on the present laws that will have a slightly more pressing effect.

Get ready for an updated page of Poor Richard's Almanac, with 10 laws you should know if you're in present-day Pennsylvania:

Cease-and-desist letters are often ignored, but that doesn't mean legal consequences won't follow.

While these letters have no real legal effect, failing to respond or follow up on a cease-and-desist letter may lead to some predictable responses from the sender. And while some cease-and-desist letters are simply legal-sounding huffing and puffing, others are the harbingers of potentially ruinous and costly lawsuits.

So what can happen if you ignore a cease-and-desist letter? Here are a few possibilities:

Divorcing spouses often hope that a judge will award them attorney's fees as part of a crushing legal victory over their former partners.

As satisfying and poetic as it might be to have your ex-spouse pay for your divorce lawyer, in most cases, the bill is on you. Generally speaking, it's only in extreme or special circumstances that you'll be able to get someone else to pay your divorce attorney's fees.

So in a divorce case, when can you potentially get attorney's fees?

Like email and other digital communications, online chats can sometimes act to preserve conversations months, or even years after they took place.

In a civil lawsuit or criminal trial, the contents of a conversation conducted via online chat could help prove or disprove an important fact or substantiate the version of events told by either side.

But can online chats actually be used as evidence in court?

Cancer patient Brittany Maynard isn't taking her terminal cancer diagnosis lying down. She moved to Oregon and is planning her assisted suicide.

Maynard, 29, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer nine months ago, but she didn't want to "die a horrendous death," reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Instead of languishing in front of her loved ones while the cancer spread, Maynard moved from California to Oregon, where she plans to take advantage of the state's "Death with Dignity" law.

When you and other workers decide to go on strike to protest working conditions, you may be worried about being fired.

Typically employers cannot fire employees for striking, but workers shouldn't take this protection as absolute. Employers can still terminate employees for a variety of reasons, even if that employee belongs to a union.

So should you worry about being fired for going on strike?

Alongside the many well-known benefits of using a credit card to make purchases -- being able to pay over time, earning airline miles, or other rewards -- credit cards also offer unique protections for consumers who may feel like they didn't get what they bargained for in a purchase.

Credit card companies are generally obligated by state and federal law to offer customers chargebacks for disputed charges. Chargebacks function as a refund for purchases made by consumers who have a valid dispute as to the charges associated with the purchase.

How do chargebacks work?

Alaska has become the latest state to have its gay marriage ban overturned by a federal judge, following a major decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Sunday, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess found that Alaska's gay marriage ban violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and ordered all state agents to not enforce the law. CNN reports that Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell announced his intention to appeal the court's ruling, citing his "duty to defend and uphold the law and the Alaska Constitution."

What is the state of gay marriage now?

Today is the federally recognized Columbus Day holiday, celebrating the voyage of Christopher Columbus and his "discovery" of the New World.

But in some cities -- including Seattle and Minneapolis -- Columbus Day has been replaced, or at least joined, by a new holiday known as Indigenous People's Day, reports Smithsonian. The holiday is aimed at celebrating the culture and traditions of the people who already inhabited the Americas when Europeans began colonizing the Western Hemisphere following Columbus' storied journey.

What's behind this new holiday, and what does it mean for the future of Columbus Day?