Posts Tagged ‘guardian’

What happens to my social media if something happens to me?

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017
This year, the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act went into effect in Virginia.  This Act has important privacy concerns for users of social media, emails, and other digital assets.  The bill allows for fiduciaries to manage digital property.  Electronic communications, however, are restricted unless the user consents to such access prior to death or incapacity, or if ordered by a court.
computer-user-icon-3

Who are fiduciaries?

Fiduciaries include agents under a power of attorney, trustees acting under a trust, and executors and administrators of a deceased individual’s estate.  Court appointed guardian and conservators are also fiduciaries.

What are digital assets?

Digital assets are electronic records in which an individual has a right or interest.  It does not include the device on which the records are stored.  Virtual currency, web domains, and computer files are examples of digital assets.

What are electronic communications?

Electronic communications are communications in whole or in part by wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photooptic system.  It includes text messages, e-mails, and social media messages.  It does not include wire or oral communications, tone-only pagers, communications of tracking devices, or transfer of funds by a financial institution. 

How can I consent or prohibit access?

Consent, or prohibition, of access may be given in the power of attorney, will, or trust naming the fiduciary. 
Some custodians have a terms-of-service or online tools that allow a user to designate a recipient or prohibit disclosure to named persons.  The use of such an online tool will override any contrary directions in the user’s power of attorney, trust, last will and testament, or other writing.  The written consent or prohibition in power of attorney, trust, last will and testament, or other writing, however, overrides a terms-of-service agreement that does not require the user to take affirmative action other than a generic assent to the terms of service. 
In other words, the online tool provided by a custodian of electronic communications or assets will be honored if the user takes an extra step to consent to or prohibit disclosure, or consents by some means other than the generic “I accept terms and conditions” button.  If the online tool does not have this affirmative action, then the estate planning tools can be used to consent or prohibit access. 

What is a GAL and why did the judge appoint one in my case?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

If you are charged with a crime, and there is a possibility that you might be sentenced to at least 6 months in jail, and you cannot afford an attorney, the Judge can appoint an attorney to represent you in that case.  This attorney is appointed to advocate on your behalf and to assist you in your defense.

The Court in Virginia can also appoint another type of attorney if your situation meets the criteria set by the court, and the Judge feels it is appropriate.

‘GAL’ stands for ‘Guardian Ad Litem’.  There are two parts to this term.  Part one is ‘Guardian’ which means someone who acts for the benefit of another, and part two is ‘Ad Litem’ which means ‘for the Lawsuit’.  So, the court may appoint someone to act for the benefit of another for the purpose of the lawsuit.  The person that is appointed by the court is called the ‘GAL’.

The court may appoint a GAL when a party to the lawsuit is incapacitated in some way.

Most of us think of incapacity as having a mental or health disability, and this is considered a physical incapacity.

Someone is also considered legally incapacitated when they are unable to attend court themselves.  This might be because they are in the military and stationed away from home.  Or perhaps the person can’t be found because none of the persons involved in the court case knows where they live now.  Or perhaps they are incarcerated.

In all of these situations, a GAL can be appointed to represent the adult who is not able to represent himself.  The role of the GAL in these cases is to make sure that the adult is treated fairly in the legal case and that any decision that is made by the court is not going to permanently put the represented person at an unfair disadvantage.

Another type of incapacity is based on age.  A person under the age of maturity, which is the age of 18 in Virginia, is also considered legally incapacitated.

If a child, under the age of 18, is charged with a crime it is possible that the court will appoint both an attorney to defend the child against the criminal charges and a GAL to look out for the best interests of the child.

Another time when the court might appoint a GAL is during a legal case regarding custody or visitation of a child.

When parents are fighting over custody and visitation of their children, the courts base their decisions on the best interests of the child.   Most of the time, the parents really do believe that what they are trying to do is in the best interest of the child.  But everyone must understand that the parent’s vision of the best interest of the child is colored by the position of that parent.  That is why the courts will often appoint a GAL to represent the best interest of the children.

The GAL does not represent either the mother or the father, and if either parent wants to have an attorney, they should retain one on their own.

The GAL  for the child has the ability, and the duty, to look at all aspects of the child’s life.  The GAL is able to talk to the child’s teacher, doctor, day-care provider and any other person that can bring input about the child’s life.  The GAL also talks with each parent and will usually do a visit to the parent’s home, generally while the child is there so the GAL can see how the child and the parent interact with each other.

If the child is old enough, and mature enough, the GAL will listen to what the child wants and take the child’s desires into consideration.  But, the GAL is not there to advocate for what the child says he/she wants.  The GAL is there to report on the situation and to make a recommendation on what is in the child’s best interest.

The GAL might provide a written report to the Judge before the trial, or the GAL report might be given as oral testimony at the trial.  In either case, the Judge will consider the GAL report as one additional piece of evidence to be considered.

The Judge is the one that makes the final determination.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

Back to School Emergency Cards

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

It’s time for a new school year and that means shopping for school clothes, meeting new teachers, and filling out emergency cards.

The emergency cards can be helpful in telling the school who is authorized to pick your kids up from school if you aren’t able to be there.  And it can help to make sure that your child is not sent home with a stranger pretending to be a relative, or anyone else that you do not want to be around your children.

What these emergency cards can’t do is authorize someone to temporarily take custody of your children if a serious accident happens to you during the school day (or any other time).  if something happens to you, the authorities can only leave your kids with their legal guardian.

So what happens if there isn’t a legal guardian?  The authorities will find someone in the foster care system to take care of your kids until ‘things can be worked out’.  That means that your kids will be with strangers during this emotional and difficult time.  Not with the neighbor who knows them or the parent of their friend from school.

Most parents know they should name a guardian for their kids in their Will, but a Will only becomes meaningful after your death, and even then it may take days or weeks to find the document and get it entered with the court.  What about in the meantime?  And what if you are injured and in a hospital instead of deceased?

In Virginia, you can draft something called a ‘standby guardianship’ which tells everyone who YOU want to have custody of your children if you are not able to take care of them yourself.

This important document should be drafted by every parent and reviewed on at least an annual basis to make sure that it contains your current wishes.  There may have been a change in your life, and there may have also been a change in the life of the neighbor or friend you had named before.  You should also make sure that your babysitter knows how to find a copy of this document, and a copy should be given to the school as well as the person named in your document.

We all have busy lives and we forget to do some things.  As you are filling out the emergency cards for school this year, take a minute and review your standby guardian designation to make sure it is still valid.  And if you don’t have a standby guardian for your minor children, now is the time to get this important document!

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

July is Sandwich Generation Month!

Monday, July 4th, 2011

When I hear the word ‘Sandwich’ I tend to think of Peanut-Butter and Jelly, which always brings a smile to my face.

But there is a new way of viewing ‘Sandwich’ that is not so much fun.  That’s the role more of us are playing by being the caregivers of both our parents and our children.

In the grand scheme, this is not really anything new.  Families used to always take care of the generations, often in a single home.  Grandma and Grandpa shared the same home with their children and grandchildren providing wisdom and assistance as the new generation came along, and receiving the attention and care of those in the family as they slowed down in their elder years.

But things changed, especially here in the United States, and families tended to live in their own separate homes with Grandma and Grandpa often living across town or even across the country.  Most of us today can’t imagine even sharing a room with a sister or brother, let alone imagine sharing a home with Grandma or Grandpa.

None of us would consider leaving a two-year old home alone.  After all, the two-year old can’t really get food to eat or make sure they make it to the bathroom on time.  And there are things in the home that could injure the child if they are not used correctly.  The two-year old is also just learning about freedom and self-reliance and if the two-year old refuses to do what we tell them to do for their own good, we can pick them up and put them in their bedroom for a ‘time out’.  The parents get to set the ground rules because a two-year old doesn’t know that it is even possible to stay up past 8:00.

It’s a different story with our aging parents.  They DO know that they can stay up past 8:00, and they’ve done it for years!  Why, they even taught US!  And most of the time, they are too large to pick up and physically move to the bedroom for a ‘time out’ when they get cantankerous.  Unfortunately, our aging parents might also be in the position of not being able to get food for themselves or eating correctly, or making it to the bathroom on time, or using things in the home that can cause injury if not used correctly.

Our parents are living longer and having more health issues, both physical and mental, then previous generations.  I know there was nobody in my family that ever got cancer until my uncle was diagnosed a few years ago.  But nobody in the family had ever lived to be 85 before either.   On my dad’s side of the family, there wasn’t a history of dementia until the family members starting living into their 90’s.

Luckily, there are more and more services available to help us take care of our parents.  These services can take away some of the stress involved in day-to-day chores such as making sure that our parents are eating correctly and being kept clean and safe.  There was a time when babysitters and day-care centers for children were a new concept, even though today we see them as an established institution in our lifestyle.  It appears that there will come a day when adult care givers and adult day-care centers will also become established in our lifestyle.

These services cost money.  But unlike children who have no resources of their own, often our parents will have some resources available to them to help pay for the services needed for their care.

Also, as parents of minor children you have the legal authority to make decisions for your children.  This is not so for your parents.  It is important to have the correct documents in place so that you have the authority to make important and day-to-day decisions for your aging parents.  These include Powers of Attorney and Medical Directives.  You might also want to consider establishing a Trust so that your parent’s assets can be transferred with a minimum of hassle and used for their benefit.

What should you do?  Read…there are a lot of resources available on the web.  Talk to your parents…find out what they want while they are able to tell you.  Talk to people you trust…your doctor, your pastor, your lawyer.  Ask them to recommend services or service providers that they trust.  Unfortunately there are some scams out there that sound good but don’t really offer the right services for your needs.  And most of all, have patience. Remember that these are the people that spent their time raising you, dealing with you when you made mistakes and who helped mold you into who you are today.  Be patient with them, knowing that they are also having difficulty dealing with this role reversal.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

A Unique Graduation Present

Monday, May 30th, 2011

May and June are busy months if you have a senior in high school or college.  There are graduation parties, plans for the future and the hunt for the perfect graduation present.

You want something ‘different’, not the same old ‘cross pen’ or ‘briefcase’ or whatever.

Why not a Durable Power of Attorney? or an Advance Medical Directive?

Lots of graduates don’t think they need these and many don’t think they can afford to pay a lawyer to have these critical documents drafted for them.  Unfortunately, the truth is that these are vital documents that every adult should have in place before they are needed. And young adults are one of the groups that is most prone to accidents and might need to have these documents in the next few years.

Once a person reaches the age of 18, he or she is considered a legal adult.  This means that Mom and Dad can no longer make legal decisions for them.  Mom and Dad can no longer call the school to make arrangements for school work if the child is ill.  Mom and Dad can no longer take the child to the hospital and authorize treatment.  Mom and Dad can no longer call the insurance company and take over after a car accident.

That is, unless the child has named Mom and/or Dad as their agent under a Power of Attorney.

This year, why not give the graduate in your life something really different?  (and really useful!)

To Learn more about Kristina Beavers, Attorney at Law visit the website at www.BeaversLaw.com