Digital Asset Law Breaking News: Personal Representative May Be Given Access to Decedent’s Email

download

By Sasha A. Klein

On October 16, 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled favorably on a Personal Representative’s access to a deceased user’s online accounts and digital property (Ajeman v. Yahoo). This is the first reported case with respect to access to digital assets by a fiduciary.

The conundrum: Email are part of a deceased user’s estate.  But a personal representative (aka executor) can’t read them without violating Federal privacy or anti-hacking law.  The Ajeman case is the first to permit access and will empower fiduciaries throughout the U.S.

10 Things You Need to Know

Continue reading

Are You a Home Buyer During A Hurricane? Here’s What You Need to Know

Here's What you Should Know if YOu are Buying a home, under contract, during a hurricane

Hurricanes are a fact of life in South Florida, and they don’t stop just because you are under contract to buy your home. As Hurricane Irma threatens all of Florida and the Caribbean, there are thousands of home buyers stuck waiting and wondering what is going to happen with their purchase.

I am often asked what people need to know and what they need to do if they are under contract to buy a home, condo, or townhouse. Here’s the general items to be aware of.

1. Your contract allows for this.

First and foremost, don’t panic – your contract to purchase allows and even makes accommodations for this very scenario (so long as you used the standard contracts). You should have a closing delay clause in your contract that allows you to close on the transaction up to a “reasonable” amount of time after a hurricane has dissipated – “reasonable” is generally considered to be about seven days.

If you’re unsure what your delay clause allows for, ask your Realtor or attorney to review your contract and walk you through it. Continue reading

Florida Court Affirmed for Prohibiting Father from Discussing Religious Matters with his Children

pexels-photo-27633.jpg

By Eddie Stephens

Florida Courts have historically protected a parent’s right to practice their religious beliefs with their children no matter how unconventional and regardless of the other parent’s objection.  In the matter of Koch v. Koch, 41 Fla. L. Weekly (Fla. 1st DCA 2016), the trial court was AFFIRMED for prohibiting the father from discussing “ANY religious matters during visitation with his children.”

The constitutional limitation to protect a parent’s right to expose their children to their religious beliefs was clearly established in Rogers v. Rogers, 490 So. 2d 1017 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986) where the Appellate Court concluded:  “In family law proceedings, a court may not restrict a post-dissolution parent’s religious beliefs, no matter how unconventional.”

In 2014, the First District provided some level of protection for children if the exposure to the parent’s religion was harmful by concluding “restrictions upon a noncustodial parent’s right to expose his or her child to his or her religious beliefs have consistently been overturned in the absence of clear, affirmative showing that the religious activities at issue will be harmful to the child.”  Pierson v, Pierson, 143 So.3d 1201 (Fla 1st DCA 2014).

And then came Michael Koch. Continue reading

How the Brad Pitt / Angelina Jolie Divorce Will Impact Family Law

pexels-photo-87308

By Eddie Stephens

When you spawn with another you will be tied to them forever.

This gets complicated when the relationship between the parents fails.

The State of Florida protects parents and their relationships.  In fact, Florida Law provides:

It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.

Establishing parental responsibility over the children is a major issue in the dissolution of a marriage.  Parental responsibility includes who gets to make decisions over a child’s life, such as what school the child(ren) should attend or what medical treatment(s) are appropriate.

Decision-making authority can be granted to one parent if the decision making of the other parent has proven to be detrimental to the child(ren).

This does not mean one parent is granted sole custody if the other parent is seemingly not as good a parent or has a substance abuse issue or has a volatile temper. Continue reading

Renting vs. Buying 2016

By Michael J Posner

The dream of home ownership is as American as hot dogs, baseball and apple pie.  At least that was the theory until the great recession that ruined home ownership for millions.  With the economy mostly recovered, mortgage interest rates at all-time lows and rents rising, is it now better, once again, to own or rent?

Homeownership levels continue to fall with the level of ownership hitting a 50-year low last quarter.  Currently only 62.9% of households are owner-occupied.  Ownership levels are highest for seniors, and at an all-time low for millennials at 34.1%.  We can attribute this trend to several factors:

Longevity: Determining whether to rent or own is dependent on several important factors.  First, how long do you plan to stay in your next home has to be determined, because one of the best benefits of home ownership is tied to longevity of ownership.  One key factor tied to longevity is how mortgage loans are front loaded with mostly interest.  Fixed Rate Mortgages are amortized to provide a fixed monthly payment over the life of the loan.  Initially the payments are mostly interest, with only a small amount going to principal.  A typical $250,000 house with a $200,000 loan will only have principal reduced by $19,000 if sold within the first five years.  It takes nearly 20 years to reach a 50% reduction in the loan balance. Continue reading