Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster's Legal Link

Facebook’s New Legacy Contact

Posted in Estate Planning, Legal Tidbits

You may have read our blog posts about Death in the Digital Age and Emailing after Death.  Facebook has certainly established a reputation for making changes, sometimes in response to user concerns.  This issue is no exception and Facebook has decided to join the digital death bandwagon.  It has added a new feature which allows you to designate what they are calling a “legacy contact” to manage your account posthumously.

Don’t panic about allowing someone access to all of your private messages or the ability to post as you.  The legacy contact you designate will only have limited access to your account for things like updating your profile picture or responding to new friend requests.  Or, if you don’t want your Facebook page to live on after you, there is an option to delete your account entirely.  While this all may sound rather morbid, as technology becomes more and more integrated into our regular daily activities, planning ahead for what happens to those accounts is important.  If you do not choose between a legacy contact and deleting your account, Facebook will simply freeze your account if they discover you have died.  However, this new option allows you to control what happens to your account.

If you have chosen to designate a legacy contact, you should inform them just as you would inform your designated agent named on your Power of Attorney and the Executor or Executrix named in your will.  Also, be sure to discuss your wishes for the account.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning.

Beer Delivery to Your Home – Are We There Yet?

Posted in Business Law, Legal Tidbits

I’ve gotten a number of inquiries from clients recently about whether the law has changed allowing them to deliver alcohol to customers if they hold a valid liquor license.  This topic originated through a legal opinion issued by the Chief Counsel’s Office and as a result of a question by a licensee. The opinion generated some media coverage which has, in turn, created a lot of questions in the liquor sales industry.

There are still some questions as to how the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board will handle this, there are some parameters which have been outlined which could allow a bar restaurant to begin delivering alcohol to its customers.  It is important to keep in mind that if you choose to pursue this for your business, you should clearly understand and follow the guidelines in place.  Continue Reading

Contract Basics: Lessons from my High School Journalism Class

Posted in Business Law

Working primarily with business owners, I draft and review countless contracts, every contract is unique and I enjoy the challenge and process involved in gathering the proper information relevant to each situation.  It occurred to me that some of the skills I use every day in my practice, I gained in my high school journalism class. I wrote for the school newspaper, The Arrowhead and I covered hard-hitting topics relevant to the lives of high school students.  By the way, we got a vending machine with milk in it, and my cell phone review was for the Nokia 5190 . With respect to the milk, I just reported the facts: a variety of choices for every dairy connoisseur, including 1%, 2% and whole milk, all fully stocked and kept at a refreshingly cool temperature. Our newspaper was celebrated for its strictly factual, no-spin news reporting. I recommended the phone because of the removable faceplates, backlit keys AND it had the most advanced game on the market, Snake.

These days, I still write a lot and, facts are still of utmost importance.  Journalism class taught me some valuable lessons that I still apply every day when advising clients on the merits of a contract they’ve been presented with or when drafting an agreement from scratch.  Continue Reading

Family Law Section Approves Proposed Collaborative Law Act

Posted in Collaborative Law, Divorce, Family Law

Recently, the Family Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association supported the enactment of a Collaborative Law Act in Pennsylvania. This is an important step forward for the collaborative process and demonstrates that legal professionals recognize the growing popularity of collaborative law among the general public.  In addition, support from the Family Law section of the PBA reflects other attorneys’ approval of collaborative law as an alternative process to traditional methods of conflict resolution in divorce. Continue Reading

Happiness After Divorce

Posted in Collaborative Law, Divorce, Family Law

I read a lot of articles online about divorce, and all aspects of it.  Not many of them contain content that is worth sharing. However, I found a recent post on Philly.com that I find insightful and provides a healthy perspective about divorce, and overcoming the emotional aspects of extracting oneself from a bad marriage.

In my practice, I’ve never met a client who has been happy that their marriage failed.  This article recognizes that there is life beyond the divorce process (whether collaborative or litigation), and that life does include happiness. With the right information and team in place, a divorcing spouse can find emotional and financial security, and a future of opportunity and reward.

If you are considering a divorce, are in the midst of the process, or are recently divorced, take some time to consider your vision for your post-divorce life.  Understanding your options when choosing the right team of professionals and friends to surround you and assist with the process may be as important as the process itself.  If you are interested in learning more about different process choices for divorce take some time to look into collaborative divorce.  It is not the correct choice for everyone but, depending on your circumstances, it is an option that you may wish to consider.

 Julie Miller is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Dickinson School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Collaborative Law and traditional Family Law.

Cost of Gas Down, Reimbursement Rate Up

Posted in Business Law, Taxation

If you have filled up your gas tank recently, turned on the news, listened to the radio, or read a newspaper you’ve probably noticed gas prices are steadily dropping and in a big way.  This time last year the national average price for a gallon of regular gas according to AAA’s gas price tracker was $3.259 and Lancaster County’s average was slightly higher at $3.395 per gallon.  This year, according to AAA’s gas price tracker the national average is $2.082 per gallon of regular gas with Lancaster County again coming in slightly higher at $2.403 per gallon. As other costs of living continue to increase this is welcome news. But wait, there is more good news for those of you who claim your business mileage. Continue Reading

What Is a Privacy Policy and What Does It Do?

Posted in Business Law

Titles can be misleading.  There are many lists and articles online pointing out how audiences can be misled  by movie titles, book titles, headlines and even short titles for legislation.  Which brings me to privacy policies.  According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 52% of polled internet users responded incorrectly to the following:

True or False: When a company posts a privacy policy, it ensures that the company keeps confidential all the information it collects on users.

The correct response to this statement is “False”.

A privacy policy is a statement that notifies users about the website operator’s practices concerning the collection, storage, use and disclosure of information, including personal information. While a privacy policy may state that the company keeps all of a user’s information confidential, the language of the policy itself will govern what an entity may or may not do with the collected information.

In Pennsylvania, there could be criminal repercussions for entities that publish false or misleading statements in their privacy policies. 18 Pa.C.S. Section 4107(a)(10) makes it a crime when an entity in the course of business “knowingly makes a false or misleading statement in a privacy policy, published on the Internet or otherwise distributed or published, regarding the use of personal information submitted by members of the public” with certain limited exceptions.

Depending on the type of business or its target audience, certain federal laws could require certain privacy notices, restrictions and requirements in addition to typical privacy policy terms. For example:

  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) requires certain health care and related organizations to include specific privacy notices for online services.
  • The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act governs certain financial institutions regarding their information-sharing practices.
  • The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) imposes certain requirements upon websites that knowingly collect information about or target children under the age of 13.

Continue Reading

BYOD Language – Smartphones, Tablets and the Workplace

Posted in Business Law

The holidays are coming up and your employees may be getting that coveted new tablet, smartphone, or other mobile device from their Christmas list. Employees increasingly wish to use their own devices, whether it be to use their preferred hardware, operating system, or merely to avoid carrying two or more devices for work and personal use. Does your company have a policy in place to govern the use of such devices for work purposes?

A carefully drafted Bring Your Own Device (“BYOD”) policy can help address the concerns and risks to employers and employees implicated by use of mobile devices at work or outside of the workplace. Below are some of the common issues that can be addressed by a BYOD policy:

  •  rules and expectations regarding the types of information that may be stored or accessed on the device
  • privacy expectations for employee information and business information
  • implementing appropriate security safeguards to protect confidential information
  • employer liability for an employee’s wrongful use of a device
  • financial reimbursement and technical support
  • issues with the device and data when an employee leaves or is terminated
  • potential wage and hour issues for nonexempt employees
  • consequences for noncompliance with the policy and interaction with an employee handbook, a social media policy, or an information technology and communications systems policy

When considering drafting a BYOD policy, it is important to identify the key concerns and expectations of management, employees, and customers or clients of your business. After identifying those concerns, a BYOD policy should be drafted in a clear, concise manner so that everyone involved understands their rights and obligations under the policy.

Continue Reading

Wills for Heroes Poised to Serve Their 1000th Hero

Posted in Estate Planning

On December 6, 2014, the Lancaster County Bar Association will hold another Wills for Heroes event.  The Wills for Heroes program provides estate planning documents to first responders and their spouses.  The program started after September 11, 2001, when it became clear that many first responders did not have basic estate planning documents in place.  Anthony Hayes, an attorney from South Carolina, realized that he could provide these brave people, who put their lives on the line by running into situations most people run from, some peace of mind by helping ensure that loved ones were taken care of in the event something happens to them.  

In 2007, the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division made the Wills for Heroes Program their 2007-2008 service project.  The program has grown tremendously over the years and has spread across the country.  Lancaster County Bar Association started the local program in 2010 and is poised to serve its 1000th Hero at its next event.  I have been fortunate to participate for the last four years as a volunteer and I am always amazed at how grateful the Heroes are to those of us working the event.  But as I’ve heard it said countless times, it is us, the volunteers and community that are grateful to the first responders for all that they do to keep us safe.  If you are interested in learning more about the Wills for the Heroes program or want to see how you can help, go to www.willsforheroes.org for the national website, or for Pennsylvania’s site visit: www.pabar.org/public/yld/Projects/willsforheroesyld.asp.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning and Estate Administration.
Matthew Landis will also participate in the event on December 6, 2014.

Say ‘Ello’ to Public Benefit Corporations

Posted in Business Law

On October 23, 2014, Ello, the burgeoning social network, announced that it converted to a Public Benefit Corporation. Ello describes itself as “a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers.” Ello’s business model appears to fly in the face of the current market trend of monetizing social networks – through the sales of advertising and user data.

In its press release, the founders and investors of Ello said “[t]o assure in the strongest possible way that Ello stays focused on its mission to be a different kind of social network, Ello has converted to a State of Delaware Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). A PBC is a special for-profit company in the USA that operates to produce a benefit for society as a whole. As a PBC, Ello is legally obligated to take its impact on society into account in every decision it makes.”

While Ello used Delaware law to convert to a Public Benefit Corporation, Pennsylvania amended its Business Corporation Law to provide the Benefit Corporation option for local companies effective as of January 23, 2013. In Pennsylvania, a Benefit Corporation shall have a purpose of creating a general public benefit, which means a “material positive impact on society and the environment, taken as a whole and assessed against a third-party standard, from the business and operations of a benefit corporation.” 15 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3302. A Benefit Corporation may also commit to specific public benefit purposes, including:

(1) providing low-income or underserved individuals or communities with beneficial products or services;

(2) promoting economic opportunity for individuals or communities beyond the creation of jobs in the normal course of business;

(3) preserving the environment;

(4) improving human health;

(5) promoting the arts, sciences or advancement of knowledge;

(6) promoting economic development through support of initiatives that increase access to capital for emerging and growing technology enterprises, facilitate the transfer and commercial adoption of new technologies, provide technical and business support to emerging and growing technology enterprises or form support partnerships that support those objectives;

(7) increasing the flow of capital to entities with a public benefit purpose; and

(8) the accomplishment of any other particular benefit for society or the environment.

Pennsylvania Benefit Corporations may be formed as a new entity, or an existing business corporation may convert to a Benefit Corporation.  The Benefit Corporation bridges the gap between nonprofit corporations and domestic business corporations and is a way to publicly display a for-profit business entity’s commitment to one or more of the above public benefits. Although there are no tax benefits as there would be with a nonprofit, a for-profit Benefit Corporation has a publicly-stated, legally-binding commitment to providing one or more benefits to society and does not solely consider maximizing value for shareholders as its sole purpose.  It enables the corporation to ensure it holds itself accountable to its desire to make a positive impact on society and it could play an important role in branding the company for marketing purposes. 

 
Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas.

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