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Telling Others How to Care for You If You Become Ill

There are two documents that are required by statutory law in order to allow your loved ones to institute your preferences in situations where you are seriously ill, or cannot make decisions for your own care. They are a Living Will, and a Durable Powe…

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Remember to Update Your Will with Every Life Changing Event

Having a baby and getting married are all joyful times in our lives. The one thing that we may forget to do during this happy period is update our Will to reflect our changed marital status or new parenthood status. However, these are some of the most …

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Criminal Trial Juror Faces Contempt Charge

With the popularity of social media, and the shrinking of our world as a result, it is understandable that many people have connections through online social networks, like Facebook and MySpace.

Unfortunately, the same laws apply to these environments that apply to in person contact between jurors and defendants – and when the courts are faced with the decision of whether someone is in violation of those laws in an online environment, they must use the same guidelines.

This situation is discussed in detail in the article below in which a juror in Britain was held in contempt of court for contacting the defendant through her Facebook profile. And although this situation takes place overseas, the results in the Criminal Courts of the US would be very similar.

Juror in Facebook contempt prosecution after ‘contacting defendant during trial’
By Andrew Hough
13 Jun 2011

A female juror will stand trial this week accused of contempt of court after she allegedly sent messages to a defendant through Facebook, causing a multi-million pound drug trial to collapse.

In a British legal first, Joanne Fraill, 40, will be prosecuted for allegedly exchanging messages on the social networking site with Jamie Sewart, one of the defendants she had been trying.

Prosecutors will claim Mrs Fraill allegedly chatted online to Mrs Sewart, who had been acquitted in the case, while verdicts on other trials were still being discussed.

Mrs Sewart, 34, also faces contempt proceedings because she is alleged to have asked Mrs Fraill, of Blackley, Manchester, for details of the jury’s deliberations.

Mrs Frail, who denies the charges, is also accused of using the internet to research the case against the judge’s orders. The pair could face jail if found guilty.

Dominic Grieve, the Attorney-General who will open the case at the High Court on Tuesday, will argue their actions cause a major drugs trial to collapse, leaving taxpayers facing a bill of more than £6million.

The case, to be heard by Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, coincides with an appeal by another defendant in the trial, who is challenging his conviction because of the alleged conversation.

The aborted trial involving Mrs Sewart, of Bolton, occurred in Manchester last year and involved multiple charges and defendants.

It exposed a corrupt police officer’s links with a drugs gang in Bolton. Mrs Sewart also denies the charges.

After the Facebook conversation was discovered, the jury at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester had to be discharged from the 2½-month trial.

It was one of a series of four trials that had been sitting, which involved 500 witnesses, 14 barristers, five juries and more than 160 days in court.

One of the defendants, Gary Knox, a convicted drug dealer is appealing against his conviction on the basis of alleged jury misconduct, with the appeal also to be heard by Lord Judge.

Knox, 35, was jailed for six years for conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.

The court heard he bought sensitive information on drug dealers from police in return for a £20,000 BMW and Premier League match tickets.

A police officer, Phil Berry, 44, who received the gifts and admitted the same charge, was jailed for four years.

Lord Judge is reportedly expected to issue tough new guidelines on internet use by jurors, which he will argue will lead to contempt of court prosecutions.

New measures will include warnings from judges to jurors at the start of trials, information videos and notices throughout jury rooms.

Christopher Kinch, QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said comments assuming the guilt of the defendant were possible grounds for appeal.

“The situation is a potential time-bomb for the jury system,” he told The Times.

“Left unchecked, we could move towards trial by X-factor-type online polling; or jurors might find themselves put under pressure by correspondents online.”

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Divorce Advice for Now and Later

In the heat of the moment, tempers flare, emotions run wild, and decisions get made that unfortunately affect everyone in the short and long term. The simple act of taking a breath before saying or doing something you may regret, especially during th…

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Money Saving Tips for Divorce Clients

No matter what kind of divorce situation you are in, one thing is certain, it will have significant costs associated with its resolution. That is true whether you hire an attorney or not. The areas where attorneys help divorce clients the most are gath…

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Do you have a Will ? Read about its importance.

The Importance of a Will

By: Karen A. Graham, Vice President

Virtually everyone postpones writing a Will. Maybe it’s because we don’t want such a tangible reminder of our mortality. Or perhaps we view the process as relinquishing the ownership of our property. Whatever the excuse may be for putting off the drafting of a Will, many people do not realize that writing one actually prevents what is feared. In fact, a Will may be the most important document that you ever write, because it allows you to select the persons who will receive what you own when you die. If you don’t have one in place, you cannot select the recipients of your property and the state you reside in will determine how your property is divided.

What is a Will?

In simple terms, a Will is a legal document that dictates how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. It’s a fluid document because it has no effect until you die – you can change it whenever you want. To be valid, however, the document must comply with several requirements under state law – the number of witnesses, whether it must be typed or handwritten, and others – all of which are fairly standard state to state and very easy to satisfy.

A Will includes specific directions on how you wish your estate to be distributed after your death, including provisions for any tangible personal property that you may own – jewelry, furniture, and the like, as well as naming guardians for any minor children. It also indicates what sources will be used to pay any estate taxes and debts that are due, and it names an Executor who will be responsible for the settlement of your estate. It ends with your signature, the signatures of required number of witnesses, and typically a notary public’s oath about the validity of the various signatures.

Why Do I Need One?

Virtually every person – married, divorced, single, childless, parent, in good health, in bad health – should have a Will for the simple reason that without one, you cannot determine who should receive your property. Each state has a default plan for how property must be distributed if you die without a Will, with the default (and mandatory) scheme depending on your marital status, whether you have children, if you have any living parents or siblings, and other criteria. Furthermore, even if you die with no living relatives, the state will not permit distributions to a friend, a favorite charity, or any non-related person. Instead, the property will most likely end up going to the state.

What is Probate?

If you die with a Will in place, the Executor named in the Will typically presents the will to the local clerk of court and asks the court to authorize the Executor’s administration of the estate. This process of presenting the Will and administering the estate is called the “probate” process. The probate process generally is fairly informal – the Executor presents the Will, is authorized to administer the estate, determines the beneficiaries and creditors entitled to the money or other property, makes the distributions, files any tax or probate documents with the various government entities, and closes the estate, all within the proscribed and monitored timeframe. If the Executor sees potential problems with the Will or foresees a will contest, he or she may request a more formal process, but this rarely is needed.

If you die without a Will – known as intestate – the local court must monitor the estate’s administration even more closely. This is because the court – not a Will – provides all of the authority to act. The administration and closing of the estate generally requires more court involvement, often more publicity, and definitely more red tape.

Individual or Corporate Executor?

Choosing an Executor is an important decision, particularly if you have significant property or investments. Depending on the amount of property and the types of property owned, administering the estate can require considerable time and expertise. A relative or friend may not be “honored” to be named Executor if it causes loss of sleep from worry or he or she is incapable of conducting the job effectively. Although many individual Executors waive receiving any Executor’s fees, they often use the funds otherwise paid to a corporate Executor to hire advisors to assist in administering all but a very simple estate.

If your Will provides for distributions to a trust held by a bank or other corporate trustee, that institution often is the best equipped to administer the estate in the most efficient manner. Similarly, corporate trustees may be useful even absent a trust, since they have significant experience in estate administration and have the ongoing technical knowledge and legal expertise to handle virtually every situation.

A Will’s importance is clear regardless of your personal situation. Without a Will, you have no input about the distribution of your property after your death or the persons involved in administering the estate. A local court makes those decisions, and it has no authority to deviate from the state law. In essence, the state steps into your shoes and makes all of the decisions for you.

This can be easily avoided with proper planning. By creating your Will now, you can always add to the provisions or alter the document as your life evolves. It’s important to review your current Will every five years to ensure that it’s up to date and still reflective of your future wishes.

The information in this article is for informational purposes only not state specific but intended as a general reference for the process as a whole.

© Wilmington Trust Corporation.———————————————————————————-
If you have questions about this posting or are interested in Divorce, Immigration, or Estate Law in RI or MA contact Massachusetts and Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer Rui P. Alves at 401-942-3100 or CONTACT him via email.

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