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

November 2012 Archives

Routine HIV Testing Plan Seeks Public Comment

As World AIDS Day approaches, a government panel is aiming to make HIV testing a routine part of a doctor's visit for most Americans.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued its draft guidelines last week. If those recommendations become final, they could require insurance companies to cover HIV testing for everyone between 13 and 64. Currently, HIV tests are typically only given to those in "high-risk" populations, Reuters reports.

Like other screenings, patients would be free to decline the test. But whether or not you choose the screening, its availability is part of something bigger.

Do Grandparents Get Holiday Visitation Rights?

The holidays are a time for family, so does that mean grandparents also get holiday visitation to see their grandchildren this time of year?

It seems like a simple question but unfortunately it doesn't have a simple answer. Unlike parents, there is generally no presumed right to custody for grandparents. It's not a federal issue either; each state has its own rules about how visitation with grandparents will work.

If you're a grandparent who already has a visitation agreement for your grandchildren, that's a good place to start. Otherwise it's best to start at the beginning.

What Does the Executor of a Will Do?

When you write a will, you name an executor. It's relatively common knowledge. Yet many might wonder: What does the executor actually do?

There are many different duties that the executor of a will might take on. Essentially, executors are tasked with an enormous responsibility. They are there to ensure that your last wishes are executed properly, in accordance with your will.

Their duties are varied, and dependent on how complex your estate is. In general, here are four things that an executor of a will has to do:

Military Women Sue Over Combat Roles

Women's equality has come a long way in the United States, but military women still cannot be assigned to combat units. That could change if a new lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is successful, Stars and Stripes reports.

The suit was filed by four women who served in Afghanistan or Iraq. They're joined by the Service Women's Action Network and are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union as well as a private law firm.

All of the women have engaged in combat while overseas, and two are Purple Heart recipients. They argue that the military's policies do a disservice to women who serve.

Does the Facebook Copyright Disclaimer Work?

Think you own a copyright to the things you post on Facebook? Think again. Because despite a Facebook copyright disclaimer that's floating around, Facebook (and others) still have the right to use some of the information you post.

The Facebook copyright disclaimer is basically a hoax and offers you no legal protections, reports the New York Daily News. The disclaimer states in part:

"In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). For commercial use of the above, my written consent is needed at all times!"

Here are three reasons why this disclaimer is legally bogus:

If You Win Powerball Jackpot, IRS Wins Too

You've probably imagined what it would be like to win the Powerball jackpot, but do your dreams include an IRS tax collector celebrating with you? Maybe they should.

Wednesday's jackpot is expected to be a record $425 million. The numbers are making people lotto-crazy, but if you win, don't expect to be $425 million richer.

Instead, you'll have a lot of paperwork to do and some financial (and legal) decisions to make. Winning the lottery is a dream come true, but winners still have to pay taxes. The only question is, how much?

3 Tips for Tenants Caught in Foreclosure

Foreclosure is bad news for a homeowner, but if you're a tenant in a home or apartment building that's facing foreclosure, it can be a nightmare.

Your landlord may not make it clear, but tenants do still have some rights to their living space even if the owner is in the process of losing it. While banks are quick to post eviction notices, there are a few things tenants can do.

Even if you're not dealing with this situation now, if you're a renter it's good information to have. You never know when you might need it.

Which Constitutional Rights Are You Thankful For?

On Thanksgiving, many families go around the table and say what they're thankful for. But few ever mention the legal rights that we are lucky to have in the United States.

It's easy to take for granted the freedoms we all have. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we asked fans of our FindLaw for Consumers Facebook page to tell us which Constitutional rights they're most grateful for.

While you get to enjoy many of these freedoms every day, the Facebook comments we received are a good reminder of how much we have to be thankful for when it comes to the legal system.

Nativity Scene Barred From Santa Monica Park

The issue of cities putting up Nativity scenes comes up every holiday season, but in Santa Monica, Calif., a judge has reached a decision.

The issue generally involves non-religious groups protesting a religious display on public property. But in this case, the city of Santa Monica was the one that barred the Nativity display in Palisades Park, a yearly tradition since the 1950s, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Local religious groups sued to try force the city to allow the unattended displays to continue. But it doesn't look like they'll be getting their Nativity scene back this year, according to NBC News.

What Is a Living Will? Compare These 2 Samples

Though it contains the word "will," the fact is that living wills have nothing to do with the distribution of property after death.

A misnomer, the more accurate (and modern) terminology for a living will would either be an advance directive or a durable power of attorney.

Alone or combined, these two documents allow you to plan for your medical needs should you no longer be able to make decisions for yourself.

Will Hostess Mediation Lead to a Sweet Deal?

Stay calm Twinkie fans. A court-ordered Hostess mediation with union reps may save the company after all, Reuters reports.

News that the bankrupt iconic bakery company was planning to liquidate spread quickly on Friday. But on Monday, a judge ordered Hostess and its bakers' union into private mediation to try to avoid a complete shutdown.

The talks are set to begin Tuesday, and while there is hope for the junk-food giant, mediation doesn't necessarily mean the issues will be resolved.

Walmart Asks NLRB to Block Black Friday Protests

Union-backed groups have been leading protests at Walmart stores across the country in the last few weeks, and the retail giant is not happy about it.

The strikes began in October at a store in Los Angeles and have spread to stores on both coasts and many places in between. Last week, employees walked off the job at several stores, and a nationwide protest is planned for Black Friday.

In an attempt to block the protests, Walmart has called on the National Labor Relations Board. The company is asking the NLRB to put an end to the picketing and the Black Friday plans. But the request may come too late.

Hostess Bankrupt, But Twinkies May Live On

It's official: Hostess will not be restructuring its bankruptcy. On Friday, the company asked a bankruptcy judge for permission to liquidate its assets, CNNMoney reports.

Twinkie lovers across the country are lamenting the news that their beloved cream-filled snacks may soon be unavailable. The decision to close the brand for good came after months of negotiation between Hostess and a major union were unsuccessful, according to Reuters.

This is a hard time for fans of Ding Dongs and HoHos everywhere, and we're here for you in your hour of need. Below, we've answered some of the questions the Hostess-bereft are probably asking themselves:

LGBT Workplace Equality On the Rise: Report

If you've ever wondered how your employer stacks up in terms of fair and inclusive LGBT workplace policies, the Human Rights Campaign has a way to measure that.

The HRC's 2013 Corporate Equality Index is out, and it rates some of the nation's largest businesses on their policies and practices as they relate to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. Besides the individual ratings, the Index provides some insight into what makes a company LGBT-friendly.

If you work for a large company, you might be able to find your employer on the HRC list. But even if you don't, the Index lists the policies most important to achieving LGBT workplace equality.

2 Spouses, 1 Lawyer Raises a Couple Concerns

Spouses make a lot of legal decisions together. For example, will you hold title to your house as joint tenants or only in one spouse's name? Spouses also have to think about estate planning and matters that affect the entire family.

Oftentimes, married couples are on the same page when it comes to legal decision-making. That's why many want to hire just one lawyer to represent both spouses.

But is it wise for spouses to share the same attorney?

Legal for the FBI to Read Your Email?

Can the FBI read your email? If you are former CIA Director David Petraeus, the answer is apparently "yes." But critics are asking whether the FBI's actions in Petraeus' case were legal.

As you may have heard, Petraeus was allegedly involved in an extramarital affair with his married biographer, Paula Broadwell. The affair that took down the nation's spy chief was reportedly brought to light when the FBI discovered a series of intimate emails between the two, reports Yahoo! News.

This is true even though Petraeus and Broadwell allegedly employed some deceptive tactics, used by teenagers and terrorists alike, in keeping their emails secret.

How to Avoid Holiday Child-Custody Battles

Holidays are a time for family, but if you and your ex share custody of your children, that may be easier said than done. Even if you typically get along with your former spouse, sharing holiday time can bring out the worst in everyone.

It's no secret that this can be a difficult time to manage a custody arrangement. But instead of pretending it won't be a problem this year, it's time to deal with the issue ahead of time so that the holiday can be spent in peace.

Avoiding holiday custody battles will probably require some compromise and perhaps an uncomfortable conversation to go over the details. Still, that's better than an unhappy holiday for everyone.

Waffle House CEO Sued for Sexual Harassment

Waffle House CEO Joseph Rogers Jr. is accused by a former female employee of sexual harassment.

The unidentified women filed a police complaint against the CEO and claimed that Rogers demanded that she perform sex acts on him in exchange for keeping her job, reports The Associated Press.

The alleged victim says that the harassment went on for nearly a decade. Police did not confirm that the suspect is in fact the Waffle House CEO, but the attorney for the woman says that Rogers is the defendant and the home address for Rogers listed in the police report matches the address for the CEO.

3 Veteran's Rights and How to Enforce Them

In honor of Veterans Day, we here at FindLaw would like to take a moment to thank the men and women who work hard and make extraordinary sacrifices to protect our country every day.

It's not easy to be a soldier, and the law is supposed to ensure that our veterans are taken care of once they return home. But unfortunately that's not the case for everyone who returns to civilian life, unless they're armed with information about what their rights really are.

There are many legal rights specific to veterans, and there are ways to make sure they're enforced. Here are three of the most important veteran's rights you should know about:

SEAL Team Six Members Under Fire Over Video Game

Seven members of the Navy's elite SEAL Team Six worked as consultants on the new video game "Medal of Honor: Warfighter," but their employer wasn't too impressed with their side jobs.

The seven SEALs received non-judicial punishments for their work on the video game, CBS News reports. Four others are still under investigation for potentially violating their duty to their employer, the Navy.

Just like any other job, members of the military sign employment contracts that dictate what kind of behavior is expected of employees. Violating that agreement could endanger your job.

Hyundai, Kia Fuel-Efficiency Suit Seeks $775M

Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia are facing a potential $775 million lawsuit over overstated fuel-economy claims.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of 23 plaintiffs who are currently seeking class-action status. The plaintiffs want compensation for the lost resale and trade-in values of their vehicles because of the cars' lower-than-advertised fuel economy. This is in addition to the special debit cards that the automakers had previously planned to give to owners of the approximately 900,000 vehicles affected, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The lawsuit follows an investigation by the Environmental Protect Agency that found the automakers inflated the efficiency rating of 13 models, including popular cars like the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Sorento.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

If you are thinking about divorce or are starting to go through the divorce process, you may be wondering how long spousal support is supposed to last.

If you’ve been out of the working world for an extended time, you may be worried as to how you will survive financially, when you don’t have the support of your former spouse. In fact, some individuals will take finances into consideration when determining whether to divorce at all.

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer for how long spousal support lasts. Each state has different rules, and every family situation is different. However, there are some general principles for determining the length of spousal support payments.

N.J. Email Voting Extended for Sandy Victims

New Jersey residents hit hard by Hurricane Sandy had the option to vote by email for the first time this year. But because of some glitches in the system, email voting has been extended through Friday night.

Not only is New Jersey the first state to allow a significant portion of its population to vote by email, but state officials only had a few days to set up the system and work out any problems. Apparently it wasn't enough time, given what happened on Election Day.

The system put in place wasn't prepared for the number of requests to vote by email. Clerks had a hard time keeping up, which means some votes weren't in before polls officially closed Tuesday night.

Gay Marriage Approved in ME, MD; Leading in WA

Gay marriage has been on the ballot in many states across the country, but yesterday Maine and Maryland became the latest states to approve it.

The ballot measures in both states asked voters to affirmatively approve marriage for gay and lesbian couples. A similar measure appeared on ballots in Washington state, where votes were still being counted this morning.

It now appears that gay marriage will be legal in at least two (if not all three) of the above-mentioned states. But it's the way those states went about doing it that makes the votes historic.

What Is the Electoral College?

With Election Day behind us, you may be hearing a lot about the Electoral College and America's unique way of picking a president. So just what is the Electoral College?

For starters, the Electoral College is not actually a college. Nor is it even a place. Instead, the Electoral College is a process established by our Founding Fathers as something in-between a direct popular vote and a vote by only members of Congress, according to the National Archives.

Under the Electoral College process, citizens actually vote for electors, and not the president directly. The electors we choose will gather in December and officially vote for our next president.

Just who are these electors?

Time Off to Vote Laws Vary by State

Today is Election Day, and many of you may be stuck in an office wondering if you can take time off to vote.

Time-off-to-vote laws are state-specific, and there is no federal requirement that employees must be allowed time off to cast a ballot. So if you live in a state without any time-off-to-vote laws, you may have no option but to cast an absentee ballot or request a leave of absence to vote.

But if you live in other states, laws may not only allow you time off to vote, but may also entitle you to get paid while you are away from your workplace performing your civic duty.

7 Polling Place Legal Reminders for Election Day

Fair and democratic elections are an important part of America's government system, and polling places play an important role in ensuring that. Both state and federal laws protect voters at polling places from unfair discrimination.

To make sure everyone has an opportunity to vote in national elections, polling places are expected to meet certain requirements.

Laws affect not just the polling place itself, but also what election staffers and voters are allowed to do inside and outside of the premises.

Here are our Top 7 legal reminders for Election Day:

More Americans Ready to Buy Homes: Survey

The economy is slowly improving, and it looks like it's recovered enough to make buying a home an attractive proposition once again.

Back in 2010, 63% of Americans said the economy was keeping them from buying a home. But a new survey by finds that now, only 30% of people feel that way. There are even some who think the current economy makes it more likely they'll buy.

Of the survey respondents, 49% said the economy isn't influencing them one way or the other about buying a home. They're thinking about other factors that are important.

Election 2012: State Ballot Issues to Watch

The presidential race is getting all the attention in the Election 2012 coverage, but there are several state ballot issues that are worth taking a closer look at.

Even if the issues don't apply to your state, some of these important ballot measures could end up on your state ballot in the next election -- especially if they pass.

Here are just a few of the most closely watched issues:

5 Questions to Ask Before Filing a Patent

You just think you came up with the greatest invention and are excited about patenting your creation. But before filing your patent documentation with the government, there are some questions you should first ask regarding whether filing a patent is even a good idea.

Filing a patent can be an expensive proposition. Lawyers' fees can be astronomical, the filing fees are expensive, and it costs money to enforce the patent.

So here are five questions regarding filing a patent that you should ask yourself before starting the process.

Elite Lawyers Hired for Potential Election Disputes

Election years are always tense but this presidential race is so tight that some are already planning for election disputes to break out.

The memory of the 2000 election has influenced both candidates to recruit lawyers who can help navigate any legal issues that come up during voting. Each campaign has tapped an expert in legal election issues to assist with potential voting problems, reports Reuters.

While the candidates may be jumping the gun by presuming that something will go wrong in the election, it is true that a lot that could happen.